Saturday, September 29, 2007

"I know my rights!"

Oh, I really should never get going about this type of customer. You know them, the kind that, upon failing to get their own way by kicking and screaming, will resort to inventing their own consumer protection laws.

It's a subject that can arise at any time. We often get customers who will attempt to play the legal card for the smallest of problems.

Wrong Price, Wrong Label
A very good example of this occurred last week. A gentleman had picked up a bottle of wine - one of the more expensive ones we sell - and taken it to the till. It scanned at £10.99, which resulted in a huge tantrum.

"The shelf said £6.99!" he protested.

Cue supervisor calls and checks being made. We located the item on the wines section and it was merchandised next to a price label that clearly stated the name of the wine in question and said £10.99. It wasn't long before the man came stomping up the aisle, pointed at an empty space, three shelves along, and insisted: "This is where I got it from. Look. The ticket says £6.99!"

"Yes, but that space is for the Hardy's Stamp variety, as it says on the label there. I can only guess that somebody has picked up the bottle you took and put it back in the wrong place. The price for the bottle you have is stated over here where it belongs - £10.99," I explained patiently.

I wasn't being a jobsworth. If there had been a whole case of this particular wine merchandised against the wrong price tag, I would usually admit that it had been a replenishment error and refund the difference in price. But when there clearly hasn't been a mistake made by the staff, I won't give refunds willy nilly.

"BUT IT WAS NEXT TO A TAG THAT SAID £6.99!" the gentleman roared in my face.

I calmly explained that the name of the wine that is £6.99 is stated on the label - and it wasn't the one he'd picked up.

"But you have it on the shelf at that price, therefore you are legally obliged to give it to me at that price!"

Oh my bloody God, not this again. You may recall I was reduced to tears by an evil customer whilst having the exact same conversation some months ago (here). As soon as somebody gets it into their head that they're legally entitled to something, they won't budge. Never mind the fact that they're completely wrong.

I remained as diplomatic as I could be: "If the ticket next to the wine you picked up bore the name of that wine, I would refund the difference. But it doesn't. The ticket says that £6.99 is the price for another wine. This one is £10.99. Would you like to chose a different one?"

He continued protesting that I was breaking the law and promised to call Trading Standards about it. I don't really know why I bothered putting up such a defense, because if it gets back to Food Place HQ, they'll only back down and shower him with gift vouchers to apologise for his trauma.

Electrical Goods
This post is being written thanks to an incident today that involved an electrical appliance.

This is, by a long way, the worst product category for producing angry, refund-demanding customers. I've seen it all - people demanding that they're legally entitled to a refund on a product despite having absolutely no proof of purchase, people demanding refunds for toasters that broke when they 'fell off' their worktops. Yes, I'm sure your toaster jumped onto the tiled floor! One man, upon being refused a refund for a DVD because it wasn't faulty, proceeded to remove it from it's box, right in front of us, and run a scratch down it with his car key! He actually thought that would help his case?

Today's incident was less dramatic, however. A lady brought back a small kettle, not boxed, and informed us that it had stopped working. OK, I thought, this should be nice and straight-forward.

"Do you have your receipt with you?"

"Yes, it's just here," she said, pulling out a slip of paper. As soon as I saw it, my heart sank. It was a yellowed, tatty slip of paper that had clearly been printed on our old impact-receipt-printers - when the store was operated by its previous owner. Knowing that we'd had thermal printers for at least three years, I knew right away that this product was far too old to be refunded as faulty.

"OK, when was this purchased?"

"Er, will it have the date on the receipt? I can't see, you look." She handed it to me.

"Right. You bought this kettle on the 6th October. Two thousand and one. Six years ago."

She looked at me, waiting for the refund. That she certainly wasn't getting.

"I'm afraid we only guarantee electrical goods for one year from the date of purchase."


"We will only refund items in store that were bought less than a year ago. Any faults that develop beyond that are covered by the manufacturers guarantee - which is usually just two years as standard."

"But I've paid you for this kettle! It doesn't work! I want my money back!"

"Well I'm not arguing that it doesn't work.." - it didn't look too healthy - "...but it has been in working order for six years. That's a bloomin' good life for a kettle in my experience." Particularly one that only cost you four pounds and ninety-nine-bloody-pence!

She wasn't amused: "Get me the manager! Trading Standards need to know about this!"

Terry was called. He told the woman exactly what I'd just told her. The product had clearly reached the end of its working life and needed replacing. He even offered to show her the ones we have in now. But no. She continued to demand her money back. By the time she'd finished ranting I was ready to grab a new kettle, throw it in her face and scream "THERE! Take it you tight-fisted old vulture!"

Once again, she promised, Trading Standards would be hearing about us!

Personal Property
We've had a lot of cases of customers telling us we're liable for damage to their property. None more unpleasant than the lady who had her bicycle stolen from the racks outside the store (which are on the street and have nothing to do with the store). She ranted at us for about twenty minutes whilst waiting for the police to arrive, insisting we pay her £300 immediately. She tripped herself up, in mid-rant, by admitting that she hadn't put a chain on the bloody thing!

Once again, though, she was absolutely convinced that we were liable for any damage to her property. We're not. There are signs all over the exterior of the store and around the car park, that vehicles are left there at the risk of the owner. Now I can't be sure of the legality of these notices, but I'm pretty certain Food Place wouldn't put them up if we were in fact liable for such theft or damage.

You Can't Throw me out!
A lot of people seem to be under the impression that they have an automatic Human Right to enter Food Place and do whatever they like. A few years ago, a middle-aged woman was heard, by several people, making racist remarks about one of our cashiers. A few people complained to the duty-manager and the woman was asked to leave the store.

"You can't tell me to leave! This is public property! Make me!"

What? Public property my arse!

In the end, the police were called, the woman was escorted to the office and issued with a life-long ban on entering any of Food Place's stores. She continued protesting, and began repeating her racist insults, in front of the police, and ended up being prosecuted. Turns out she was a council worker and ended up losing her job, as well as being plastered over the local newspaper.

Bet she wishes she'd kept her big mouth shut now.


James UK said...

"Yes, but that space is for the Hardy's Stamp variety, as it says on the label there. I can only guess that somebody has picked up the bottle you took and put it back in the wrong place."

Guilty as charged, M'Lud... I've done exactly that when I've been too lazy to walk all the way back to where I got something from.

"they'll only back down and shower him with gift vouchers to apologise for his trauma."

I think I've touched on this before, but I hate this practice, which seems more and more "the norm" now... doesn't matter what the customer has done / thinks, even if they are completely wrong, let's give them loads of crap to make them go away as quickly as possible.

"That's a bloomin' good life for a kettle in my experience."

Mind, it still surprises me now that things like Hard drives, and expensive kit like TV's costing £1000's often have only a 12 month guarantee.

"You Can't Throw me out!"

I reckon this is down to our worstening "nanny state" where everyone thinks they have the right to do anything they damn well want. These days no organisation or shop etc. will do anything drastic, fearing backlash and accusations of racsim / ageism / disabled-ism etc. etc. And I think some of this is responsible too for the "bend over backwards" to please you mentality we touched on above.

Al said...

Most of the supposed pricing errors we come across in store are a result of the customer not reading the SELs properly if at all. Recently a customer complained that she had bought two items which were on offer at 2 for a certain price but had been charged full price. I went to check for her and found that she had bought one of the items on offer and one that was a different variety not included. It took ages to convice her that she was wrong and of course I got the usual "It's not very clear". No, it's perfectly clear, you just have read what's included in the offer, we don't deliberately set out to decieve people. Of course, as you said, had it been our error then it would have been rectified.

I also have no idea where they get the idea that they're legally entitled to an item at the price on the label it's above. If the label describes that item then fair enough but when it's something completely different...

I had to laugh at the customer who brought back the six year old kettle for a refund. Good for her for keeping the receipt however, I've come across customers who lose receipts in less than an hour. Who knows why she thought she would be entitled to a refund though.

James, perhaps the 12 month warranty thing is just a pact with the sellers to make you shell out for extended warranty packages. Usually when you do you'll never have a problem but if you don't then on the 366th day it will break :)

We also have signs stating that we're not responsible for any damages or losses that are caused on our property, as do most supermarkets. I suspect therefore that they are perfectly legal. Of course if the company caused damage, such as a trolley collector damaging a customer's car, they would probably compensate even though they wouldn't legally be obliged to.

Also the woman who thought the store was public property made me laugh. Just because the public are allowed in doesn't make it public property! I agree with James though, too many people these days think they have the right to do whatever they like with little consequence. This is further reinforced by the fact that they will effectively be rewarded for their bad behaviour if they complain long enough.

Like the new layout for the blog.

Wow, that was some extensive commenting!

D said...

I dislike people who think that you are responsible for their property while it's onsite. There are signs everywhere saying:-

"The owners accept no liability for damage or losses caused to property. Car park users do so at their own risk"

I had a guest at the hotel complain that someone had scraped alongside her car and that the hotel now had to pay for repairs... since when?!

In the end, I checked the CCTV footage and passed on our findings to the police. Can't really do anymore.

Anonymous said...

I used to work for Debenhams who were horrendous for giving in to all customers whims. One woman talked her mate into trying on a dress which was a size smaller than she was, and as she breathed out the zip teeth bent and she was unable to get out of the dress. Her mate physically ripped the dress off her back and they calmly walked out of the store. A 120 quid dress ruined.

Discount Till Rolls Ltd said...

I was in marks and sparks one christmas. i was buying a laptop case as a present and to my surprise when it was scaned it came out at £12 instead od the £82 it should of cost. Thinking the checkout girl would get in trouble or have to pay the difference herself , i informed her of the correct price of £82, she told me it would take to long to sort out , and of the scanner says £12 thats all she can charge me. I wasnt going to argue with her, why would i. but then not everyone would mention the true price, would they .

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