Monday, September 14, 2009

Lifetime Warranty

Just like most stores, we have our own line of products with our company's logo branded onto them. Of course, we don't manufacture them ourselves; an outside company does that and we slap our name on it. Quite a common business practice these days.

We have staplers with our logos on them. Early in 08, we had a line of staplers with different designs all over them like zebra print or polka dots or whatever. They came with a lifetime warranty on them, and like most products, the warranty was handled by the company that manufactured them. NOT the store in which it was purchased.

On top of that, it covered mechanical failures due to manufacturing defects. NOT wear and tear or customer abuse.

That having been said, a guy comes into the store with one of those staplers - a blue one with black zebra stripes on it. He says it's jammed and won't work. No receipt, and obviously, over a year old due to our not having carried them in about that amount of time. When my cashier attempts to try the thing out herself, the customer screws himself over.

He picks it up, points to the front slot where the staples normally come out, and says, "There's glue in there."

I explained that the glue was probably what had jammed it up. He says, "Well, whatever, I need a new one," and wanders off into the stapler aisle. I had a feeling it wasn't done here, so I stuck around. Sure enough, he comes back with the new one expecting us to give him the new one for free.

"Sir, we can't give you credit for a stapler that you clearly broke. On top of that, we don't carry that particular stapler anymore. And the one you brought up is far superior, capable of stapling through many more pages at once with an easy pressure push top. I can't do that kind of exchange."

"This thing has a lifetime warranty on it," he says, tossing the broken stapler on the counter. "You have to give me another one."

Don't tell me what to do. Most of us in retail are far more willing to help people who are understanding and polite long before we make exceptions for jerks.

"Sir, the lifetime warranty is covered through the manufacturer. Although this has our logo on it, we did not manufacture it. Much like CVS has their own version of Tylenol, we have-"

"It's got your name right on it!" he says, again throwing the stapler on the counter. He fails to realize that he's only hardening my stance with his attitude.

"As I was saying, we don't manufacture anything. We're a retail business. Another company manufactures these and we put our name on it. It's common practice. Your lifetime guarantee is through that manufacturer, not us."

Now he's flailing his arms around like an idiot. "And how am I supposed to get in contact with them?!"

I know full-well that he doesn't have that information, and that makes my next statement quite enjoyable for me given his attitude. "All products with lifetime warranties come with the warranty information in the package. All you have to do is contact the company listed in that paperwork, and they'll fulfull their obligations under the warranty."

He starts shaking his head and shrugging, standard body language for, "I threw all that stuff out because I didn't want to be bothered with even the most minimal effort to ensure my protection under the warranty."

"No!" he says, "You're supposed to replace it. You're supposed to give me a new one because it's got your name on it. It's YOUR lifetime warranty."

I almost laughed. "Sir, a lifetime warranty is not a license to just continue bringing back staplers you break with expectations that we'll replace them for free every time. That's not how it works. We're not a manufacturing company, we're a sales organization. You warranty is with the manufacturing company."

Finally, he picks up the stapler and drops it on the counter again. "Then this is my gift to you!" He heads for the door, and I take the stapler and toss it in with the damage returns. Silly me, I thought he was done.

"You aren't honoring your warranty!" he yells. I turn around and he's back at the counter again. "You're supposed to give me a replacement!"

I shook my head. "I'm not denying you the right to take advantage of the lifetime warranty, Sir. I'm simply explaining how you go about doing that, and you're refusing to follow the instructions."

"I'm not coming back here," he said as he left. Did he think I cared? It's funny how some customers think that just because they're customers, we MUST HAVE their business. The guy looked vaguely familiar only because I seemed to remember him giving us trouble about something before. Meanwhile the amount of money we would've lost if we'd consented to giving him free products everytime he broke his would've hurt us more than help us.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/14/09: The question "Do you have a rewards card?" is NOT the same as "May I have your phone number so I can look up your rewards card?" Answer the question, don't just start spitting out a string of numbers. And when I do ask for your number, understand that I have to type it in as you say it, so rather than mashing it all into an unintelligible single syllable word, try saying each number clearly so that I don't have to have you repeat it twice.

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