How Sleazy Have You Become?
Has The Recession Taken Its Toll On Honesty, Integrity And The Way We Do Business?
Before you think this is going to be an X-rated article, it’s not. It is about retailers’ policies and practices that are going to hurt all of us if they continue. Over the last three days I have experienced retail policies that outraged me. Let me share my experiences.
Four years ago I bought a Breitling watch from a first class 110-year old Boston jeweler. I was thrilled with the service and I remembered something about an additional service they had-- in a few years you could bring your watch back and it could become totally cleaned and basically returned to a brand new condition. It was a service that is offered from Breitling itself and the jewelry store simply sends it back to the factory. The cost for the service, including freight back and forth, was $345.
A year ago I had chipped and scratched the watch and considering it was an investment that I hoped to pass on to my son someday, I thought it might be worth sending the watch out and I did in August of 2010. It took 7 weeks for the watch to return and it was just as they had promised in superb condition. However, a week later one of the stems that controls one of the functions of the watch fell off, but I was able to quickly screw it back on. I called the store and asked when would be a good time to bring it in for them to look at. I was told that the factory service was covered for a year and I could bring it in anytime. They assured me that everything would be taken care of to my satisfaction.
I went to Florida and wore the watch all winter and a couple of times the stem fell off again. When I returned to Boston I brought it in and I explained what had happened and that I wanted it to be sent back. The customer service representative said, “That is going to cost you extra because we don’t guarantee anything on the outside of the watch and that it might be very costly.” I was fit to be tied and asked to see the manager who quickly and professionally informed me that everything would be taken care of and I shouldn’t worry.
As the manager walked away, the customer service person felt obligated to tell me how she was making an exception for me and that I should appreciate it. Then she continued to say “I take in watches all the time for repair, and we never guarantee the outside of the watch.” In other words, she had to prove the point that she was correct. Hopefully the manager will read this article and do some personal training.
My next example of the Sleaze Factor came when I went shopping for a pair of jeans. I love to shop at a chain of casual clothing stores in the New England area called Bob’s that was once owned by TJX, the owners of Marshall’s, Home Goods, and TJ Maxx. But they sold it off in 2008.
When I found my Wrangler jeans, there was a Sale Sign that just said $34.99. Something didn’t seem right. I remember buying the jeans for around $30 but there was something that triggered my curiosity-- a not so common price sticker that was put on the Wrangler label. The sticker only read $34.99 with no other bar codes or description at all, just the price. I then noticed that on the Wrangler label that had the suggested retail price printed on it was torn off (removed) from all of the jeans. That is EXCEPT FOR MY SIZE which showed a suggested retail price printed from Wrangler at $34. In other words, not only were these jeans not on sale, they were being sold at a price higher than the suggested retail price of the manufacturer.
It got worse because I now looked at another pair of jeans that had an individual sticker of $42 with the suggested retail price ripped off, but I looked to see if I could find one that someone forgot to rip off. Sure enough I did and the suggested retail price was $38. Not much of a sale was found there either. I decided to purchase the $34.99 pair of jeans, went to the counter, and asked the cashier why were these jeans on sale for $34.99? Her response was that they were regularly $50. I responded with “That’s strange since the suggested retail price is $34.” I then asked, “Does that mean you sell them for $16 more per pair than the manufacturer suggests?” She was smart enough to call the manager to adjust the price.
The manager was pleasant and professional and informed me that she would sell me the jeans for $34 which would save me 99 cents. I then said, “I guess it’s not on sale” and she started to say “yes it is” but caught herself and then she informed me the classic “I was only doing what I was told to do.” I then said, “You did it to the wrong person because I like this store and I care enough to write about it so that policies like this don’t continue.” I said that because if a store gets a reputation of doing things like that it will kill their business. And that is why I am writing this article.
My last sleazy experience is from an industry that has been practicing bait and switch and all sorts of misleading advertising which can only be construed as sleaze. Of course you know the industry I am talking about and that is the retail automobile dealer. I own a 2006 small SUV with 78,000 miles which is front wheel drive. Needless to say a front wheel drive SUV north of Boston is not the most popular selling SUV. Most people want 4 wheel of all-wheel drive because of the snow.
I went to the dealership that services my car when I am in Boston and they have always done a first class professional job. Again they impressed me because when I spoke with a sales rep and asked about trading it in, he suggested that it would be to my advantage to purchase the vehicle in Florida where front wheel drive vehicles are more popular. It made sense to me and I decided to wait until I return to Florida in October. No sleaze here so far until 2 days later when I received a mailing piece from the general manager of the dealership telling me that they had a real shortage of pre-owned vehicles to sell and that my car, which by the way they mentioned by style and year, was in great demand. He then quoted the value of my car at $19,500 and even shared the source where that price came from which was blackbook.com. Then they added the line however, where these cars are in such demand we will be very aggressive with our appraisals.
My first reaction was it was either professional and they were telling the truth or the sleaziest manipulation I had ever seen. I quickly called the dealership to speak to the general manager because he signed the letter. I explained to him that I had been in this dealership 3 days earlier and explained what took place and why the salesperson didn’t even feel it was necessary to appraise my car. He seemed outraged at his salesperson’s behavior and made an appointment with me to personally take care of my needs.
I showed up for my appointment and they appraised my car which is in excellent condition, never been in any type of accident and I was positive that I would be receiving an appraisal above the $19,500 that was quoted. However, that was not the case. I was handed an appraisal form stating that my car was only worth $18,000. Following that I was informed that it is front wheel drive and everyone in this area wants four-wheel drive. Needless to say I will never return to that dealership for any service and I don’t even want to buy that brand anymore.
In each case I left with a bad taste in my mouth for the retailer. I realize that conditions are tough and I know we have to be aggressive, but these tactics and policies will only serve to hurt the brick and mortar retailer. My question to you would be is it worth it especially when I could go on line and buy the same jeans for less money without the hassle of the store and I have already received better offers online for trading and purchasing my car? We don’t have a captive audience anymore. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer – we all have more choices than ever before. If you’re trying to fool some of the people some of the time, trust me you won’t be around a long time and you could hurt the rest of us. This is just something to think about.
Have a great week.