Aug 10, 2011 by Lindsay Gower
One of my favorite clothing stores had their big summer sale recently. They posted signs in their windows and throughout the store: End of Summer! Final Sale! 45% Off! Lucky me, I found a snazzy orange top which I was 90% sure would look great with my floral print skirt.
10% of uncertainty didn’t worry me, because the store has a decent return policy. I’ve often taken a garment home, found that it did not work with my wardrobe, and then brought it back. In fact, the salespeople often suggest doing so.
But as the sales clerk rang up my purchase, I saw again that phrase “Final Sale” flash on the cash register LCD. Does Final Sale mean this is the final sale for the summer, or does it mean All Sales are Final? Startled, I asked “Can I return this?” No: All sales are final.
Hmmm….maybe that’s what the signs should say.
This store has always let customers return clothes. Suddenly they changed the rules, without explaining the change. They posted a sign, but used ambiguous wording. The sales clerk rang up my sale, without asking if I understood “no returns” on this merchandise.
It’s as if they were trying to irritate customers.
I’ve spent hundreds, nay, thousands, of dollars in this store over twenty-some years. So chances are high that I will spend more in the years to come, unless something changes my mind about the merchandise or the quality of service.
They risked my continued patronage over a $30 top.
Don’t try this at your business. Instead, say what you mean.
- If you have a policy, be straightforward about it to your customers.
- If you change a policy, clarity and disclosure become even more important.
- If you’re reluctant to explain your business policies, examine what about them embarrasses you. Fix them or be frank about them. (You’ll never please everyone. If you don’t work on weekends or don’t allow dogs in the bakers or don’t accept credit cards, say so and don’t apologize about it.)
What will you accomplish by evasion or equivocation?
- You’ll look shifty, untrustworthy.
- You’ll erode custom confidence in your business. Less customers = less revenue.
- Your reputation will suffer when customers repeat their unhappy experiences to others (as I am, here, repeating a story about my experience at Talbots).
It’s all about truth in advertising and customer service. Truth and service. You’ll never regret offering both.