Verizon’s Arbitrary Pricing Leads to Customer Confusion

There are three schools of thought on product pricing:

  1. Set it and forget it
  2. Set it and haggle
  3. Leave it open for interpretation

We are used to the price being the price and unless there is a coupon or special, the marked price is what you are expected to pay.  Conversely, if you have traveled to Mexico or other countries where pricing is a bidding war; you are also familiar with this entertaining debate where pricing becomes more of a game of “chicken.” Who ever blinks first is the loser.

But this last mode of pricing was new to me and I recently experienced it at the local Verizon store. Both of my children’s phones were up for a new phone. It had been two years and so I knew that I would be offered a significant discount on the purchase of a new model.  I went first to replace my son’s phone, knowing he didn’t care what it looked like so long as he could text and take pictures. He was still in the hospital so I went on a lunch break to replace his phone.

I was shown three models that met his needs and chose the middle model, one with a touch screen and nice camera feature. The price on the example was for those that weren’t due an upgrade so I looked for the sales person to tell me the price.  $99 before rebate, he told me. And the phone was eligible for a $50 rebate.  Cool.

We processed the paperwork, he transferred the data from old to new and bada bing bada boom, I was back at the hospital with a new phone. $106 and change with tax.

My daughter is more selective so I knew I would need to take her with me. Two days later we went to the same store but a different sales person was on duty. She was offered the same three choices and selected the same phone as my son’s. Unlike the first sales person, this one didn’t engage us in conversation as he went about typing in the information and so I took that moment to pull out my checkbook. The last check I’d written was the one for the other phone and so I said “So that will be $106 and change, right?”

He stopped typing, looked at me with a strange look and said, “Where did you get that price?”

“I bought the same exact phone two days ago, has the price changed?”

“No.”

“So it is $106 with tax, right?”

“No, it isn’t.”

“So, how much is it?”

“$150.”

Imagine my confusion. I explained that I just bought the same exact phone under the same exact conditions and didn’t understand the pricing difference. He told me, quite hacked off, that I was obviously given a special price.

I said that was a surprise to me as I hadn’t asked for a special price. I just asked for the price. I said, perhaps you aren’t familiar with the pricing of your inventory.

Well, that led to more indignation. Finally he looked at me and said “I can charge what ever I want for this phone. I can charge you ten cents if I want but I’d be out of business in a month, now wouldn’t I? Clearly the other person decided to give you a different price which I will honor but just so you know, that isn’t the price of the phone.”

Wow.

Here is a case, where a company has given their employees some freedom with discounts but forgot to teach them the benefit of making sure the customer knows up front that they are receiving a discount. Not to mention, teaching employees how to be gracious.

I still don’t know why I got the better deal the first time around (the second person did match that price) but I left feeling like I was cheating them out of their due. I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. In the end I took the new phone before all of my daughter’s data was downloaded from her old phone because I felt so uncomfortable. I left with a bad feeling. I left feeling like I was a bad person. 

Now some of that may be my own personal issues 🙂 – but the bottom line is that when companies allow their employees to price willy nilly, it can back fire.

Today I am filling out the rebate forms and I notice that the first guy filled out the form for me so all I have to do is sign it while the second guy didn’t.  The bad taste continues.

Has this happened to you? Have you found yourself in a situation where there is pricing confusion and the employee makes you feel at fault? Did you go back?  Would you refer them?

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