Saturday, May 5, 2012

Consumer Responsibility

Ok, I have a question for the scant few that actually follow this Blog. Is a store responsible for your choices? The line of personal responsibility seems to be getting further and further away from the individual these days and it concerns me. Am I wrong to think that I am responsible for my choices and to feel that other people should be held accountable for theirs? This somewhat one sided conversation was instigated by a customer trying to return something the other day. As anyone who deals with us regularly will know we have a no return policy, we allow exceptions on a case by case basis but in for some things we just don’t. Let me fill you in on the scenario, a customer comes in and tries to return an item, the Item is a consumable and we have no way of knowing off hand how much or little she has used. She claims that it does not work as advertised. The Staff Member apologizes but says we don’t accept returns. The Customer storms off obviously upset. The staff member moves on to other business, while doing this she notices the customer returns and is now trying to return the item to a different staff member, obviously hoping for a different result. The first Staff Member approaches the customer and again tells her we are sorry but we don’t accept returns. The customer is even more upset now and claims the product does not work as it should. Staff member #1 takes the product and tests it, showing that it does indeed function as it is supposed to. The Customer now leaves even more upset that she was initially. Now, there are several things in hindsight which are pretty obvious here, the first is the customers approach to the return was handled very poorly. Untruths and misleading statements about a product is NOT the correct way to return an item. Be honest, I have found from being on both sides of the fence on this that this will more often assist your cause than hinder it. Secondly, our staff member should have tried to determine the root cause of the customers unhappiness with the product, the product obviously worked, so why is the customer trying to claim it does not. Perhaps it is NOT applicable to the customer’s needs, perhaps the statement made by the customer "It does not work.” should be interpreted as "It does not work for what I am trying to do."? In the moment it is often hard to think of these things, it requires a Zen like outlook which is very difficult to maintain. The third item about this scenario is the customers attempt to circumvent staff #1 and go to staff #2. Was this the correct thing to do? Short answer is no, if the customer honestly felt that she was not being given a fair shake or not being listened to she should have asked to speak to a manager, thing may have turned out differently for the customer. This brings me to my question, should a store accept returned merchandise no questions asked? Is it fair to the store? We have a no return policy to protect our store from the abusers, not because we honestly feel it’s the best policy for the store. By having a no returns policy we can, when circumstances are not "right" fall back on the no returns policy. For those stores that just accept returns is it the "right" thing to do? Where does it stop, should we return product that the customer purchased in error? How about the guy that returns a pair of shoes after wearing them for a year, claiming that they are defective. In Some cases where it’s clear there was a mistake I think it’s in the store best interest to do so, it is one the main reasons I would encourage all of our customers to have themselves in our POS system, it protects us, but it also protects you. You can honestly say, I bought this by mistake, I already have one of these... we can see that on your account you may have purchased an item twice. We all make mistakes, including us, being able to with confidence correct such mistakes are the hallmark of good customer service. What do you think about return policies? How do you feel a store should deal with customers who are obviously trying to do something questionable, like returning a pattern they took home and copied, a book they have obviously used, a sewing machine they bought and now claim doesn’t work even though they never called for help, never came to class, have had for a year? What do you feel is the “BEST” solution fair for all concerned? Let Me know by emailing me at

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