By Kim Vaughan
While visiting a local market, I couldn’t help but notice the 5-foot tall sign that screamed value at me:
“4.5” Vinca: 5 for $5!”
That was a deal I couldn’t resist, so I selected my plants and after picking up a few additional items, I proceeded to the checkout. Pleased with my botanical “find,” I was surprised and a little frustrated when I noticed that the flowers rang up to $12.95, more than twice the amount I was expecting to pay.
Even though the line of folks behind me had grown, I still felt compelled to point out the error to the Manager, who was helping the clerk with the transaction. Instead of taking the time to research my dilemma, he basically told me the register price was correct and asked if I’d like the plants to be removed from the purchase transaction. Feeling a bit of discomfort with the ever-increasing line of folks waiting, I simply said, “No, just go ahead and ring them up, I’ll take them anyway.”
After the transaction was complete, instead of rushing to unload in the car (as I usually would), I took the time to review the promotion against what I had been charged and re-affirmed that I was, in fact, not a recipient of the deal that was front-and-center when I approached the store. Frustrated, but persistent, I headed back into the store to find the Manager on the phone (apparently he was trying to phone the florist)…he fed me a line that there were different types of Vinca, that you could tell by the different leaves, and I asked him to follow me to the huge sign and the table full of flowers from which I gathered my blooms. At that point, he understood that I was correct and he refunded me the overcharge of $7.88.
I understand that promotional mistakes can occur, but in this situation, I was a victim of not being “heard”. Instead of listening to my case and trying to rectify it, the Manager chose to take the easy route and put the decision back on me. Ironically the motto of this company touts “the customer is always right”. Not only did the Manager not live out the store’s motto, but he didn’t do his part of making sure that I, the consumer, was treated fairly.
I believe that situations like this are exactly what spurs on the popularity of social and consumer generated media. People are tired of not being “heard”. In this day and time, consumers have found their voice and new technologies have provided numerous outlets from which to be heard.
Alterian’s Brands at Risk Report, referenced in the site below, reveals that “consumers are deeply cynical about companies: 58% say companies are only interested in selling products, without regard for what’s right for consumers.”
“When asked if they trust companies to act with their best interests in mind, 60% of consumers say they do sometimes, while 26% say they do rarely, and just 9% say they always trust companies to act in their best interest.”
In the rush of that afternoon for me, there was an 8-month old at home waiting to be fed, a 5 year old and a 3 year old that needed to be picked up from their grandparents’ house, and dinner for the family that needed to be planned and prepared. Because of these other priorities, I typically wouldn’t have taken the time to rectify the situation. But sometimes it comes down to principle, and yesterday, the principle won out and the rest of my responsibilities were going to have to wait a few more minutes.
My next step as an empowered consumer is to take the time to share my experience with my social network of friends and family. After all, shouldn’t I alert my Facebook friends and Tweeps, possibly helping them sidestep an undesirable consumer experience?
In this age of social media, store clerks and their managers would serve themselves well to remember consumers have a strong and impactful voice and that poor customer service can result in making them the real “big loser”.