Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Red and Blue Light Special
Another day, another article from the Wall Street Journal. This one is about a reporter who accidentally switched prices on some things she bought from K Mart. It wasn't intentional - they didn't have any shoe boxes for their shoes, so she picked one that was the same size and as she walked out the door, they accosted her with a security guard who promptly detained her for an hour and told her in no uncertain terms to never shop there again. She, of course, complied with that request and also decided not to shop at any other K Mart.
Wasn't that the most self-destructive behavior K Mart could have shown? It's not like they're that great of a store to begin with, but to harass someone who just put down $800 for all kinds of clothing and other items (which, if I'm not mistaken, was probably about half of the store at that price) when they were charged $16.50 for shoes that were $24.50 is a bit ridiculous. While I know that there's all kinds of shoplifting in stores nowadays, I think the proper way to treat a customer would have been a conversation along these lines:
Store guy: "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but the shoes that you just paid $16.50 for are actually $24.50"
WSJ Reporter: "Oh? I just put them in whatever box had the size on them, I couldn't find one that would work."
SG: "Really? I'm terribly sorry about the inconvenience then. We could refund you the cost of the shoes since you thought they were the lower price or we could run your credit card for another $8. Which option might work better for you?"
WR: "Please charge me the $8. I am sorry again for the misunderstanding."
SG: "As am I. Thank you for your understanding and for shopping at K Mart. Have a wonderful day!"
By treating a customer like a criminal from the beginning, they committed a sin that caused problems all around for the company. One is that in this day and age of the internet rant, you have to assume that if you don't treat a customer well, it will be published. This was on the nation's most prestigious paper, but it easily could have been here or on someone else's blog. That kind of bad press is never helpful, especially when you're seen as an aging dump like K Mart is. Second problem is that they lost that individual. She's a fashion columnist for the paper, so perhaps she doesn't shop there often, but she did drop $800 in a single trip. Perhaps Wal Mart would prefer that money. There are a lot of shoplifters out there and they do cost a lot of money. However, the security guards, rent-a-cops that they might be, should have some rudimentary training in the difference between a legitimate thief and someone who was just a victim of circumstances. By doing so, perhaps they wouldn't end up with over 1 million people reading why they suck on Thursday morning.