Last week, I wrote about return policies from the corporate level: how businesses create return policies to best serve their customers, but ultimately to increase profits. But, how do we as customers best navigate the "policies" to both protect our purchases & advocate for ourselves?
Behind the scenes of dignify, we’ve made mistakes… PLENTY of them. But, I can’t remember any situation (even when we’ve messed up big-time) where the person on the other end of the phone or email conversation was left disgruntled or angry. In fact, I’m relieved (and tbh, a little shocked) at how cheery and delightful everyone always is, in the end.
And I think it’s because we actually, you know… treat people like human beings.
I had an experience recently (as a customer) that was a wakeup call; maybe “being treated as a person” is not always the norm for online customer service!
This is just one, small story, but I hope that I learned a little something from the experience; maybe it will be helpful to you, too.
My phone screen was broken, and being the handy, repair-inclined kind of gal that I am, I decided to order a DIY repair kit & replacement screen online. I found a shop that carried the product & brand that I needed; the store was clean-looking and easy to navigate and checkout.
I received my purchase on a Thursday morning before leaving town for the weekend. While I was away, my phone went on the fritz, and it became clear that it was not long for this world. I decided I would need to return the repair kit — no sense in repairing a dying phone.
On Wednesday, I emailed the retailer, who replied that night informing me that it would need to be returned by Sunday (impossible) or it was past the 30 day cut-off for returns. Sorry, what?!
I didn’t even consider that I might want or need to return it.
The price was fine, and the product was exactly what I needed. I’m a pretty discerning buyer, and usually don’t make a purchase without considering if I really want to buy it, so the returns I make are very minimal.
It wasn’t even on my radar that something might change the circumstance in which I would need the item. I wouldn’t make that mistake again.
I didn’t pay much attention to the return/exchange policy
If I had looked, I would have seen that they boasted “fast shipping, easy returns.”
If I had looked closer, I would have noticed that there was a 20% restocking fee on returns.
If I had looked really closely, I might have noticed the HUGE red flag of this policy:
??? I have never even seen this kind of policy before. To have a dispute resolution process in place would indicate, to me at least, that you have had some issues with resolving disputes.
I didn’t ask the internet about this store.
As I was writing this article, I typed the website into my search bar, and one of the automatic populated searches was “phoneremedies.com reviews”. When I saw the results (below the ones from their own site), several of the pages discussed whether the site was a “scam”… Whoops. Taking time from the start to research the company would have saved me some irritation later on.
Ok, so I made some mistakes, but I wasn’t about to leave $88 on the table because I would miss the arbitrary cut-off by a day. How can a customer like me turn things around when I seem to be the one without the power?
Remember — and remind — that we are all just people.
In response to my email(s), the “Customer Service” rep who contacted me kept referring objectively to the situation:
“Our return policy is outlined below:”
“Regretfully, we cannot accept a return…”
“We cannot accept a return on your order.”
A bit of googling and I was pretty confident that while his signature said “Customer Service”, he was most likely the only person behind the scenes. If it was a larger company, I would have pressed to contact a higher level staff member.
But, in this case, I knew that in such a small shop, it wasn’t a matter of “we cannot” it was a choice of “I don’t want to” accept my return.
I didn’t reply with anger, but I continued to reply to each email with the certainty & confidence that it was a choice, his choice. There was no invisible force preventing my return, and I expected that since my request was reasonable, it was not unkind or extraordinary for them to provide me a refund.
Acknowledge & Refer to the Facts
Yes, I acknowledged, your policy says 30 day returns. I understand the policy and do not want to disrespect it. But, the policy also says “fast shipping”, and you didn’t send it until 12 days after I ordered it.
I photographed the shipping label and also recorded the tracking number so that I had objective facts about the timeline.
Go for what you want, and don't feel bad.
As long as you are treating the other person/people involved with dignity (#1) and respecting the facts (#2), do not feel guilty or bad for actively, assertively pursuing what you want, or what you think is right.
It would have been easy for me to shy away, because the "customer service" person I was communicating with was confident, assertive, and clear about his "inability" (unwillingness) to provide my refund. But what was I going to do? Spend $100 on something that will clutter up my house with zero use? No, thanks.
I documented everything I needed, then sent my package back to their return address. I wrote a final message stating that the product would be arriving at the address, and his choice was to refund my purchase, or resell it for twice the money with no integrity. I also stated that if I did not receive a refund, I would pursue resolution with my payment method.
In the end, I got more or less the outcome that I wanted. But, even if I hadn't, at least I would feel satisfied that I didn't allow myself to be bullied.
We've all had bad customer experiences, but I'd love to hear your stories about a time that a business really treated you as a human, or a time you are proud of asserting yourself with dignity. Share below!
This dignify post draws from Derek Thompson's October 7th article in The Atlantic.
Thompson's article explains the practical challenges in 2021 for consumers as well as for retailers.
Here's how some of these points relate to dignify right now and in the coming months:
Mystery novels have often appealed to people with jobs that are never fully resolved (doctors, pastors, social workers). In this cultural era of many-problems-few-resolutions, reading a good mystery can be a refreshing break.
Our 12-year old daughter is the most avid, prolific reader I know! We teamed up to create a list of mysteries for all ages of independent readers. The recos below are listed with increasing age levels in mind, but no specific age parameters (as a mature, well-read, near-teen, she has read up to Agatha Christie on this list).
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When shopping for items like this, how do we choose well? How do we discern what brand/style/variety is built to last? Or, how do we determine even if “built to last” is relevant to the purchase?