Working in the Best Interests of the Customer

Many companies promise “We work in the best interests of the customer”. But when the time comes to follow through, it’s very difficult to keep up the promise. What does this statement mean? There could be many interpretations and one of them could be “When there is a conflict between the business and the customer, act in a way that’s beneficial to both the customer and the business”. Let me explain a few incidents that I faced.

Recently I got an email from a store: Spend $100 and get $25 off. I was looking for a printer and found one for $99. I looked for a filler item and found something for $4 (a set of pens) to satisfy the requirements for the offer. I got the $25 off as advertised. I chose to pickup the printer in store. The set of pens were not available for pick up on the same day. The store gave an option to ship them to my home or pick up at a later day. I didn’t want a set of pens to be delivered in a big package, it’s a waste of resources, so I chose to pick it up in store at a later date.

After 4–5 days I got an email saying the pens are ready for pick up and will need to be picked up in the next 7 days. I got busy at work and forgot about this. After 7 days, they cancelled the order for the pens as I did not pick them up. This caused my original order to fall below the $100 limit. So they charged my credit card for the additional $25 (the discount that they gave me as part of the deal).

Now what could this company/store have done to work in the best interests of the customer? Since the $25 is much larger sum compared to the $4, they could have asked me if they can throw away the pens or donate them or in fact keep the pens with them but charge me the $4. Instead of doing any of this, they simply charged me back the whole discount. Typically companies give the offers so they can lure the customers to spend more in the store. But there was a filler item for $4, so I would not have to spend any more than this amount to get the deal. They could have even asked me “Do you want to donate that $4 so you can satisfy the offer requirements”

After a few more days, I got a similar offer from another store. This time the item that I wanted to buy was at similar price of $99 available for store pick up. I found a pen for $1.50 as a filler item. Again the same story: the pen was not available in the store and they gave me an option to ship it to my home. This time without any hesitation I chose the option to ship. They shipped the pen in office sized envelopes. Some one had to pack the item in that envelope, ship it, transport on road and a mail person has to deliver. (I don’t remember where this item got shipped from). What would be the cost of the logistics to handle this entire shipment? Again they could have given me choice: “Do just want to donate $1.50 to us so you can still get the deal we gave you?”. It may not be feasible to provide such an option, but I am sure they can find better alternatives, instead of shipping a pen to my home. They could have figured out that I am using this as a filler item to get the deal.

This is the size of the package the pens got shipped

I felt sad by looking at the size of the package, the amount of resources wasted to get this deal. Companies could give a choice to the users in such situations. I don’t think the store would have made any money from the $1.50 pen by shipping it to me. Instead they could have gotten the full $1.50 into their books by giving me another choice to pay them $1.50. This would be beneficial to both the customer and the business.

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