Staff column: Return to me, I can't return it to them
Just before Christmas we learned that a friend of ours was going to visit us over the holidays. Because of her condition we thought we might need some special accommodations in our house so one of the things we bought was wockerjabber.
If you are wondering what that is, you are not alone, because it is something I made up to illustrate a point, without going into too much detail.
I purchased the wockerjabber about two days before she arrived, but after she got here, we found she didn't need it at all. So there it sat in its box in the guest room throughout her visit.
You know what the holidays are like. First Christmas came and then came New Years, she left the house to go home and soon we were almost to the middle of January when my wife and I noticed that the wockerjabber was still sitting in the guest room, box unopened.
"I know it was only a few dollars, but don't you think we should take that back," said my wife. "We aren't going to use it."
I agreed, so I hunted through my vast pile of receipts in my home office, found it and drove to the store where I had purchased it.
"I purchased this but didn't need it so I want to return it," I said to the person at the front counter.
She looked the box over.
"When did you buy it?" she asked.
"A couple of days before Christmas," I answered. Then I explained the situation.
"I will have to check because I don't think you can return it," she said, and she walked to the back of the store obviously to talk with the manager or something.
I stood there in kind of disbelief; since it was a personal item I could see that they might not take it back if it had been opened or used, but the box was still totally sealed.
She walked back up to the front.
"If you look on the back of the receipt, it says you must return any item purchased here within seven days," she said. "You can't return it."
I didn't argue or complain; she told me she was sorry. I told her it wasn't her fault if it was company policy. I had no reason to be mad at her.
Now this item only cost $25, so it wasn't like I was out my life savings. On the other hand though, as I got in the car and looked at the back of the receipt there must have been 40 lines of type giving conditions and policies the company adheres too. Who the hell would read all that stuff when they bought something that cost less than a tank of gas.
I sat there for a few minutes. This wasn't about money; it was about caring about customers and trying to give them good service. I am in the service business and I know how sometimes we fall down on something; but I always try to make it right if we can.
Now I could see 90 days or 60 days or maybe even 30 days. But seven days? For something that was made of a single piece of plastic, that had not been removed from the box?
Over the past few years return policies at many stores have tightened up. In 2005 there were a lot of complaints from customers about the new policies of a lot of the biggest chain stores in the country. With the bad economy, that has apparently relaxed a little in many places, but not apparently where I went.
I wondered if the corporation that owned that store thought much about the long term? It is a store where over the years I might do a lot more business, particularly if I was treated right. Was it worth making me mad over $25? How many other customers have faced a similar surprise when trying to return something there?
I run a business so I understand policies need to be in place; but if they are too restrictive, or they appear to just take advantage of a customers pocketbook rather than provide the service they need, there is something wrong. So always check the back of your receipt for lawyer speak.
And you can bet I will not be buying another wockerjabber or anything else at that store.