Sunday, March 07, 2010

No, Na, Nein, Non - Part 2

So the last one talked about how people refused to say 'No'. This one is just the opposite, how everything led to the same answer - No. No. Not possible. Never. Non. Nein. Nyet. You get the point, right?

Now this happened to me in a retail shop.

I'd gone to buy something, but picked up something worth double the price, which had a similar packaging - the color of the bottle, the shape, the everything. And in my hurry, I picked it up, assumed a price hike and got out of there. As is my practice, I trashed the bill in the nearest bin and ran along home. After getting home, and arriving at a consumption occasion (pardon the usage, but that's how marketers measure product penetration. Did I just say consumption occasion and product penetration in one line??? Man, I need a vacation). So, when I got around to using the thing, I realized my error. After a few curses under my breath, I went back to the shop.

I said, " I am sorry, I picked up the wrong product yesterday. May I please return this?"
He said, " Bill madam"
I said, " I am sorry, I trashed it."
He said, "No madam. Bill needed madam."
I said, "But I came just yesterday late night. I was the last customer". Given the limited target area around that shop, just fewer than 600 of us shopped at that shop. And I remember my usual store guy back in Mumbai, who remembered us as regular customers, despite serving several hundreds of people each day. So, well, I used a typical statistical tool called 'extrapolation' and applied it to this situation. Note to self - Statistical tools look good only on research papers and Mickey Mouse scenarios used in research. Never in REAL LIFE.
He said, " No madam. Bill needed madam".
I said, "Oh. OK. But you have a computer system. You printed out my bill for me. So please check your past records. You have a product ID, a price paid, a date, everything."
He said, " No madam. Bill needed madam."

A gross lack of empathy. Zero customer focus, treating the customer like cattle, just like a cash register, whose hard earned money is reserved only to fill the coffers of the retailer. I was aghast. Despite being in an age of technology, which is supposed to make life easier, having databases which make searching simpler, records retrievable and preempt the reliance on shabby slips of paper, here I was, trying to convince this guy to shake off the traditional form of doing business and actually USE the technology he was happy scanning and punching numbers into. A couple of more minutes of listening to 'No madam, Bill needed madam', made me realize that my time and sanity were indeed worth a lot more, and it made no sense trying to beat sense into that poor chap on the other side of the counter.

Once bitten twice shy. This time, I went to buy something else, and after getting home, I realized that I had the exact same thing already. But discerning that I am, I had saved the bill. (In the otherwise empty wastepaper basket of my room, nevertheless). So armed with the bill off I marched to get back my money at least this time around.

I said, " Hi, I bought this yesterday. I don't need it. AND I HAVE THE BILL".
He said," Wait madam. I talk to manager".
I thought, "NOW WHAT!!!"
He came back. Looked at the bill.
I said again, " I need to return this. Please can I get a refund? Here is the bill"
He said, " No madam". Bells started shrieking in my head. I almost felt like exploding.
"Madam. Buy something else. No refund of cash."

And I wondered about the desperate attempt at making revenues. Ok, loyalty programs are good to hold on to the customer. But this is not retention, this is detention. I never liked such 'policies' which said 'No cash refund'. In fact several tiny guys use such lopsided policies to extend a vice-like grip on customers. And people who don't like pressure tactics detest such nefarious ways of holding a customer by the scruff of his neck. And I for sure would want to keep my interactions with such retailers to a minimum. Did that already with an apparel retailer. One more added to the list. For the marketing world - Customer is king. For some retailers though I am afraid 'Customer is cattle'...

No comments: