In my newsletter this month I ask this question and then share a shopping experience I had with a big box retailer over the holidays. I was returning two, unopened DVDs for a store credit. I already owned the DVDs and wanted to pick out something different.
The scenario went something like this:
The sign behind the Customer Service desk boldly informed me that without a receipt I was out of luck.
“These were gifts,” I explained.
“But you need a receipt,” the clerk informed me.
“I didn’t purchase them and so I don’t have the receipt,” I explained.
“No receipt, no refund,” she said.
“I would just like to exchange them. I’m not looking for cash and they haven’t been opened,” I insisted, pointing to the two, unopened DVDs.
A manager had to be called to settle the matter.
“Oh, yeah. Joe said this would happen,” she told the clerk. (Joe must have been a District Manager.) “Just give her a gift card.”
The manager never looked at me, never acknowledged my presence.
The clerk huffed and puffed and struggled with the cash register until the manager had to be called again.
I was a distraction. I was a trouble maker. I was being difficult. Or so I felt.
As it happened, I had additional purchases to make and in fact spent more than the gift card with my two replacement movies and WII game for my brother’s birthday.
However, I didn’t feel good about my purchase.
They didn’t give me the benefit of doubt.
I had to work to exchange the product.
I had to work to be a paying customer.
I won’t be back.
My newsletter goes out to about 500+ and even though it arrive in e-mail boxes on January 1st, people started responding. The most common question was “did you send the newsletter to the manager of the store?”
I haven’t but I’m considering it. However, I also received a couple other comments that I’d like to share with you:
WOW!! Good one. I could identify. Received a pink roller clock as a gift from Brookstone’s. It did not work. Took it back, told them it was a gift. I had no receipt, but it did not work. They say “Okay. I’m sorry. Did not open the box to check it. Did ask if I had taken out my batteries, which I had. They got me another pink one, but I said, “oh, by the way, could I have a black one instead?” “Yes you can, no problem”, and swooped up a black one, put it in a bag for me and said, “hope this one works great for you”. I WILL DEFINITELY GO BACK TO THAT STORE AGAIN!!
The sales associate at Brookstone’s made it easy to return a product. No questions.
Remember calling in sick when you really weren’t? You worked up a great, detailed story, made your voice sound a little scratchy and prepared for the on-slaught of questions. Did you boss ever give you the benefit of the doubt and say “not a problem, just take care of yourself.” Here’s a thought – if they were the kind of boss who would give you the benefit of the doubt – I bet you didn’t feel the need to call in “sick.”
Here’s another comment that was sent to me – a different perspective that perhaps shines a negative light:
Your newsletter/emails are really nice and obviously targeted at “sellers”.
Now I’m going to get cynical and you probably already know this.
Most people are not good customers. For all their complaining about poor service, all they really care about is price.
Lower prices usually force lower paid and less motivated workers.
Your gift giver didn’t go to a specialty shop, maybe because the only job they could find was low paying (see above).
Interesting perspective. The lower the wage the lower the motivation. What do you think? Are larger retailers burdened by their workforce and destined to never give great service because of the pay scale? Is wage-an-hour the only motivator?
I disagree. I believe you can have someone working at minimum wage who is trained and motivated to provide superior customer service. However, I believe it begins with the company culture. If the employees are given the benefit of the doubt and treated as valuable assets – that will translate to how the customer is treated.
Lots here to think about. Do your employees give their customers the benefit of the doubt? Do you give your employees the benefit of the doubt?