The following is a true story about a shopping experience I had recently — a bad shopping experience. No, it wasn’t an online experience. It took place in the brick-and-mortar world. But since many of us these days must focus on improving interactions, regardless of where they occur, I felt it would be relevant.
I don’t know who was right and who was wrong in this interaction. What I do know is that, as a result of this experience, I will never return to this particular store.
So here’s the setup: I asked a colleague of mine recently where he bought his Hawaiian shirts because he has a rather impressive collection. He gave me the name of the store, and I made a beeline for it, purchasing three shirts on my initial visit at an average cost of about $75 per shirt.
Shortly thereafter, some friends of mine asked me where I got my shirts, and I told them about the store. They headed over there on a Friday and found that the Hawaiian shirts were on sale for half-price. Between the two of them, they bought a number of shirts. I learned about this on Friday evening.
I was unable to get to the store during the weekend. So on Tuesday, I headed over there. Here’s the dialogue that transpired with the store owner/operator:
Me: “Hey, man, I hear you have your Hawaiian shirts on sale.”
Store owner: “Not anymore. That was just a four-day sale.”
Me: “Oh, no, I just drove 30 minutes to get here.”
Store owner: “Sorry, man.”
Me: “Are you sure you can’t let me buy some shirts at the sale price?”
Store owner: “No way. The sale’s over.”
Me (trying desperately to get him to concede): “You know, I’ve sent some other folks over here to buy from you.”
Store owner: “Really. Who’s that?”
Me: “A couple of guys that came by last Friday and bought a bunch of shirts.”
Store owner: “Oh, yeah, I remember them.”
Me: “So you’re sure you can’t let me have them at the sale price?”
Store owner: “Like I said, you’re too late.”
Me: “Well, that’s the last time I refer anyone to you.”
Store owner: “That’s just fine with me. And don’t you bother coming back here, either.”
Needless to say, I was quite irate. I understand that sales are sales and that they have start dates and end dates. So for me to expect to get the shirts for half-price may well have been unreasonable. On the other hand, here I was, a returning customer, ready to buy more shirts and having gone considerably out of my way to get to the store. And not just a returning customer — a customer who had already influenced others to purchase there, too.
What should this store owner have done? Should he have sold me the shirts for half-price? Should he have offered some sort of concession — perhaps 25 percent off instead of 50 percent off — to create a win-win situation? Or should he have done exactly what he did?
Email me, and let me know what you think. I’ll be having Hawaiian-shirt withdrawals until I get your answers.