A most unforgiving shopper

I haven’t been in a Sears store in 17 years.  I’ve only been in WalMart once or twice in the past ten years.  I am a very unforgiving shopper.


In 1989 my son was a new-borne, and I bought some cloths at Sears – little “baby stuff”.  I spent about $300.  After getting the clothes home I found one outfit, that cost less than $7.00 didn’t fit.  I needed to pick up some tools from Sears the next day, so I brought the outfit and receipt back to get a refund/exchange.  They didn’t have the outfit in the right size, so I asked for a refund and they kept me waiting 15 minutes before finally telling me I needed to go up to the third floor to the Cashier’s Office and get a company receipt – since I had written a check the day before they wouldn’t give me a cash – I’ve been in retail, and I understand this — if the customer is trying to get a huge cash refund.  But if someone was returning $6.00 of a $300 purchase – we gave them cash.  It took me over 45 minutes to get the check in process (it was mailed to me).  I’ve never been back to Sears again.  What did that $6.00 cost them?  Tens of thousands, probably.

While living in Hawaii in 1995-1998 I bought four ceiling fans at the same time from the then new to Hawaii WalMart.  They were cheap (it was for Military Housing- no reason to spend big).  I put three fans up, opened the fourth box (a re-tape job) and it had a completely different and VERY WELL USED fan in it.  I took my receipt and the fan back to WalMart.  Long story short – they accused me of swapping the fan out in hopes of getting a “new fan for free”.  Which was crazy, since I had already put the other three up.  They refused to give me a refund.  I drove home, took all three of the other fans down, took them back to WalMart, got my refund for three of the four fans, and they lost me as a customer forever.  It cost me $29.95 for the fan WalMart stole from me.  WalMart’s loss – who knows – between groceries and clothes and stuff – it could easily be 50K.

I’m not a forgiving shopper because I have choices, and I am not afraid of a little inconvenience if that is what it takes to avoid rewarding a company I have had a bad experience with.  Sure – sometimes your choices are very limited (like mine with my cable TV company).  But in general there are choices.

I bring this up because I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who got a new laptop for Christmas.  It’s a name brand laptop, and it just wouldn’t boot – at all.  It was “dead on arrival”.  He’ll get a replacement in about three weeks.  (Three weeks!?).  But his last computer was from this exact same company – and he bitched about it for three years!  Why did he go back to Dell.com and order another one?  Well, it was “just easier” to do it online than go deal with the stores this time of year.  Right.

I don’t buy expensive electronics anymore without having them open the box, show me everything is in there, and show me that it works.  I won’t buy anything repacked unless they throw in the extended warranty for free (you’ll be amazed how easy it is to get them to do this – I even did it with my current car, because it was bought and returned within 24 hours due to a financing issue with the other buyer — but it had 114 miles on it when I bought it, and I got the $1300 extended warranty thrown in for free.)

Another tip here – once the salesperson opens the box and shows you it all works – when you take the item to the checkout, make sure the cashier notes on the receipt that the package was previously opened – this should help you avoid those “non-refundable if opened” issues.  And it’s not dishonest – it was opened before you purchased it!

The moral of the story is that every time a shopper settles for a bad experience they are setting a new, and lower standard.  Don’t be guilty of encouraging lower standards – demand proper treatment, or shop elsewhere.