A Ballooning Lie

, , , , , | Legal | September 6, 2018

(At the store I work for, none of our items are scanned in; instead, cashiers key in prices by hand and automatically apply discounts to items that are on sale for the week. Because of this method, anytime a return is requested without a receipt, there are things that must be done before beginning to process the return. The first thing is to explain to the customer our no-receipt return policy, which is also on display next to EVERY register, not just the return registers. I am running a return register on this day, and a customer comes to my register to do a return. However, I am already suspicious of this as she has come from the back of the store holding several items, none of which are in bags.)

Customer: “Hey, I want to exchange these balloons for these shirts.”

(The customer is holding about 15 of our reusable number-shape balloons that are 20” tall and cost roughly $5 a piece.)

Me: “Okay, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Do you have your receipt with you?”

Customer: “Nah, I threw it away.”

Me: “Okay, well, there are two different things I can do. First, if you paid for those with a credit or debit card, and as long as you have that card on you, I can do a transaction lookup and process the return that way. The second–”

Customer: “No, I don’t have any of that; I paid in cash.”

Me: “That’s understandable; in that case, we can do a no-receipt return and you will get an exchange card. In cases of no-receipt returns, you will get the lowest selling price in the last 60 days. Lucky for you, though, you seem to have items that don’t ever go on sale, so you will get full price back for them. Before I start the process, though, I must verify that we still carry these exact balloons in the store, and also verify that their price has not changed recently; if they have gone on clearance then I have to give you the clearance price.”

Customer: “Oh, you guys still have them; I was just back there and saw them, and they’re the same price.”

(Again, this makes me suspicious, as the balloons and the shirts are in completely separate areas. In order to go past the balloons, you would have to go in the opposite direction of the shirts.)

Me: “While that may be true, ma’am, the company policy is that I must verify with the department manager. If they randomly choose this transaction to review during daily reports and don’t see me verify over the phone then I get in serious trouble. I hope you understand.”

Customer: “Oh, yeah, I understand.”

(I page my coworker to verify the balloons for me.)

Me: “Hey, I just need to verify for no-receipt purposes that we still have the 20” balloons and that they’re the same price.”

Coworker: “Is this person a short, [Ethnicity] lady with long hair and wearing a baseball cap?”

Me: “Um, no, it’s not that one.”

Coworker: “Okay. I was just making sure. A woman of that description just grabbed about 10 or 15 balloons from over here and walked off towards the front really quickly.”

(As she is saying this, the woman she has described has walked up to stand next to the customer I have been talking to. Her hands are empty.)

Me: “Oh, yeah, I see what you were talking about now. That is definitely the one. Would you mind checking on that for me?”

Coworker: “Go ahead and page [Manager] and get him up there.”

Me: *to customer* “Sorry about the wait. It happens to be our truck day today, and that manager is unpacking a box. She asked me to check with another manager, as she isn’t sure how much longer she will be.”

(I see my customer service manager, walk over to her, and explain the issue that we have a possible fraud return attempt, and then I page the store manager from the phone near her so I can explain the situation to him. He comes to the front very quickly.)

Manager: “Here, let me see those balloons. I’m getting on up in age and want to make sure I locate the correct item.”

Customer: “Why is this taking so long? We just want to do an exchange for this stuff.”

Me: “I know, ma’am. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience; because we have to type everything in by hand, it makes no-receipt returns a real annoyance to process. I wish the system was more streamlined, but sadly that’s for corporate to decide. My manager is just going to verify the item and the price for us; as I said it is our truck day today which always makes things move even a little more slowly. Please be patient, though, and I’m sure we can get this sorted out in just a couple more minutes.”

(The customers step a few feet away and start whispering to each other. At about the same time, my store manager and customer service manager both walk back up to my register together.)

Manager: “So, did my cashier here ask you if you guys paid for this with a credit or debit card? If you did, we can do a lookup and give you the actual amount back. We’ve got a memo in the back talking about items moving to clearance in our party department, so sadly it’s going to take a few more minutes to verify the price on these balloons before we can return them.”

(I can tell he is stalling for time, as clearance adjustments are done at the beginning of the week and it’s the end of the week now. At this point the women have caught on that we know what they are attempting to do.)

Customer: “I don’t understand this at all. We were just wanting to buy the shirts, and we were asking if we would be able to return something if we didn’t have a receipt so that we could get the balloons. I think your cashier here just doesn’t understand.”

Me: “Oh, gosh. I’m so sorry! You’re right; I must have completely misunderstood you guys. You wanted to return something else and get the balloons with it. Well, yes, as you have witnessed, as long as we can verify we still carry it, we can return it for the lowest selling price in the last 60 days. Let me just go ahead and ring these shirts up for you now. And did you guys have the thing that you wanted to return with you?”

Customer: “Uh, yeah, it’s in the car, but, um… We actually have an appointment we need to get to, so we will just come back later to get those balloons.”

Me: “Okay, that sounds like a good idea. Just don’t forget to bring your item in with you the next time you come in.”

(The customers paid for their shirts and quickly left the store. We had actually been aware of these ladies for a while, but had never been able to catch them in the act. It wasn’t just by chance that my department manager witnessed the woman grabbing the balloons and heading to the front with them. She had forgotten to put her work vest on that morning, so the woman thought she was just another customer.)


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