Friday, September 2, 2011

Big box and chain store retail policies, a polite rant

We bought an electronic device yesterday from London Drugs in North Vancouver, a bubble wrapped connector to recharge a cell phone. I selected one from a mobile phone accessory rack. It hung with three other like units below a sign that showed a price of $24.99. The product probably cost less than a dollar to manufacture in China but I was satisfied even though the exact same thing is available online through Amazon for $9.99

However, after we took the cable connector through the cashier with other items, I thought the total paid seemed high. Looking at the receipt in the car, I noted the little phone device had been charged at $39.99, plus almost $5 HST. That $16.80 overcharge was too much to ignore so I returned to the store.

After waiting more than five minutes, I engaged the attention of a sales clerk at the phones and camera counter. His response was that I would get a refund, they would go by the price marked on the shelf. That seemed fair to me. However, the clerk was also serving another customer so I had to wait. When he finished with the other person, he made a quick glance in my direction but departed without another word; break-time apparently.

After another five minutes of waiting, now joined by my wife who grew tired of sitting alone in the car, I gained attention of another clerk. He said, "Maybe that item was on sale yesterday and the price on the rack today is wrong." I asked what he meant, should I pay the marked price or the higher one generated by the computer. He seemed confused.

I said, "Look, either you are going to refund the difference between the price on the display and the price we were charged or not. It's a simple question."

From the famous Seattle based chain
His response was yes, he would issue a refund. But, he disappeared and returned after almost five minutes more wait time. The position had changed, "I talked to my associate and we decided we cannot make a refund because the display price should have been on a different product so it was wrong."

London Drugs doesn't want to price mark individual items. That's understandable; old fashioned retailing is no more. However, a customer should not have to decode the fine print product unit numbers and make a determination that the store has accurately priced and placed its shelf labels.

I guess I can express my displeasure by not returning. But no, I can also express displeasure by writing this article and suggesting that readers follow this advice: avoid chain stores like London Drugs and deal with local merchants who know and value their products and their customers. If you can't do that, go online and find the best price available. We don't have to support greedy merchants who penalize customers to preserve high prices.
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  1. My, My. What ever happened to, the customer is always right?

    What I do if I am unsure, of the price. I get a person working on the floor, to scan it for me first. It does save a lot of hassle. Big chains really don't care about their customers. I avoid them like the plague.

  2. You let them beat you. The lowest marked price is the price.Their automated inventory price was wrong. You should've stuck to your guns and just returned it for a full refund. Talk to the manager, let your voice rise a little so other shoppers could hear you.

    I'd try another LD store and explain what happened. Fire off an email to head office and express your dissatisfaction but by no means let them beat you. I like to remind them that the internet is a very powerful tool.

    Better luck next time.

  3. Let them beat me?

    Maybe not. I get to present my side of the story to the thousands of readers at Northern Insights

  4. The reason that London Drugs has to charge 4x what Amazon charges for the same piece is because people voted to eliminate HST. Campbell and Hansen said that HST would bring about lower prices so, no HST means higher prices. Right?

  5. Many consumers and even store employees are unaware of the 'Scanning Code of Practice', or SCOP . Most major canadian retailers , the Retail Council of Canada , The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and others , voluntarily follow this code. Readers ,look it up on Google or whatever. Quote; "If the scanned price of a non-price ticketed item is higher than the shelf price or any other displayed price ,the customer is entitled to receive the first item free, up to $10 maximum. If a Code of Practice problem cannot be resolved at the store level ,please call 1-866-499-4599 to register your complaint." and more, etc...
    In any case , this may be something of interest.

  6. If the shelf price is $29.95 and it rings through at $39.95, the merchant should be knocking $10 off the $29.95 price. Why?

    Participating merchants adhere to the Scanning Code of Practice (you should see a small white sticker at the cash register explaining it).

    If the item is less than $10 and scans incorrectly, the merchant should give it to you for free.

    Read this from the Retail Council of Canada:

    I would write to London Drugs, if I were you, and explain what happened, and mention the blurb from the Retail Council.

    It is not the consumer's fault if something scans incorrectly.

  7. I try to shop local whenever I can. Whenever I need footcare products for my diabetes I go to the local pharmacy (Davies Pharmacy) and NOT chains,especially London Drugs. I find you hardly ever get the runaround at a local business. You the customer are their bread and butter and they know it!

  8. Yes, you do get to let all of us know about this price thing Norm. You still need to either return the item for a refund, or talk with the store manager, sales people often are not trained properly to handle this and the stores count on you saying, screw it, and giving up. LD tried to charge me a $10 recording tax on top of the listed price of a stack of cdrws once,I told them to keep them and walked out and bought it elsewhere that did not add this tax ( and for cheaper I might add ).Do not let them push you around, period.

  9. This is a situation where we had left the phone's charging unit behind when we were upcoast for a few days. We needed an immediate solution to get the phone working. We stood in line and made the buy and departed although we returned to ask for an adjustment. That meant standing in line again to be served. A clerk eventually turned to me and agreed to honour the shelf marked price but first had to complete another task. I waited patiently. He finished with the other customer and, instead of returning to me, disappeared.

    That left me trying to gain the attention of another clerk. One was trying explain something esoteric to a thoroughly confused elder but turned to me in about 5 minutes. He first suggested that I wait a half hour for return of the other clerk but I demurred, suggesting it was a simple problem that required a yes or a no. As noted in the article the initial yes, after another 5 minute wait, turned into a no.

    Yes, I could have lined up again at the customer service desk and demanded a manager but my wife and I had other commitments. It was simply not desirable to invest more time waiting to save $16.50, matter of principle or not.

    As a matter of fact, some retailers do use tactics of delay and inconvenience to discourage dissatisfied customers from seeking correction of errors. The assumption is that if a business makes it too easy for customers to raise complaints, more complaints will be raised and that's a bother.

    I don't expect perfection but I do long for the days when companies like Woodwards and Eatons hired people for careers in retailing. Nordstrom, founded in 1901 and headquartered in Seattle was famous for service. Here was their listing of rules for staff:

    "Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules."



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