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The Magic Words Mean That, Legally, You’re No Longer My Problem

, , , , , | Right | CREDIT: Rhewin | September 9, 2023

This happened back in 2012 at a now-dead big box chain that anchored malls. The company was in decline, but it was still the largest retailer in large home appliances. Our store was in a more affluent area, and out of all of the stores I worked in, this one had the most entitled customers. I was a commissioned salesperson, but I was senior enough that I had an approval card and would handle general customer service issues.

A customer and his wife buy a [Store Brand] side-by-side refrigerator for $1800. It arrives, and unfortunately, it’s a lemon. The compressor won’t engage at all. Normally in these cases, the delivery team would automatically set up a next-day delivery for a working one. NOPE. The customers refuse. [Store Brand] has insulted their very existence! They will never buy [Store Brand] again!

They come to the store and tell me their tragic tale. Their lives have been turned absolutely upside down by this horrible tragedy. They have picked out a new fridge, a [Name Brand], which retailed for $2,000. A friend recommended it to them, and all of the reviews and industry ratings look great. But here’s the catch: it’s the exact same fridge. [Name Brand] makes the [Store Brand] side-by-sides, and this happened to be the exact twin model.

I try to avoid taking a $200 hit.

Me: “Sure, we could do that exchange, but I wanted to make sure that you’re aware that [Name Brand] actually makes our [Store Brand] side-by-sides. They have the exact same compressor. You’d save $200 if you kept the [Store Brand], and you’d still end up with the same fridge.”

Customer: “I know that! I don’t care; I am never having another [Store Brand] in my home ever again. And we’re not paying that $200. It’s not our fault that you sent us a faulty product! Now we have to wait, and it’s frankly insulting that you’d even imply I should pay the difference.”

I know the [Name Brand] often goes on sale for $1,800, so I am safe to give it for the same price. As I’m double-checking that I have the margin to make the discount, I notice something: it’s backordered. It will be over two weeks before [Name Brand] can deliver.

Me: “While normally you would need to pay the price difference, I understand how upsetting this is. For your inconvenience, I can offer an even exchange. I did notice that [Name Brand] is currently out of stock on this model, so it will be another week or two before we can deliver. Does that work for you?”

You would think I had kicked their freaking dog. The wife gasps and covers her mouth. The customer turns an interesting shade of red.

Customer: “That… that is outrageous! That will absolutely not work! You expect us to live without a fridge for a week?”

I will point out now that they still have their old fridge, which is in working condition.

Me: “Sorry, but I really don’t have a way to get one faster. The manufacturer doesn’t have any at all until the next batch is ready.”

Customer’s Wife: “But [Customer], we neeeeeed it now!”

Customer: “Do you see that? My wife is about to cry. We need to find another solution.”

Me: “Well, we do have more fridges available across multiple brands. I’d be happy to show you other options in the same range.”

This is where I think they are trying to rip us off: they immediately go for [Other Brand]’s top-of-the-line French-door refrigerator. It’s not even in the same category. The thing is $3,500 ON SALE.

Customer: “I think this one got good reviews.”

In fact, it has some of the best reviews.

Customer: “Is it available?”

Me: “It looks like it is. We’re still early enough that I could have it delivered tomorrow. The difference comes to $1,700. Did you want to put that on your [Store] card?”

The wife’s jaw drops to the floor.

Customer’s Wife: “What do you mean, ‘the difference’?”

Customer: “You said you’d do an even exchange!”

Me: “Well, yes, on the [Name Brand] side-by-side. This is a completely different brand, and it’s not even the same type of fridge. I can’t do an even exchange, but we will waive the 15% restocking fee and refund the delivery fee for the trouble.”

Customer: “I want a manager now!”

I call the department manager, who is equally confused by the demand. He offers to take off the same $200 we would have for the [Name Brand]. Of course, that’s rejected with prejudice. He takes it up to 15%. That’s $525! But no, they demand an even exchange. He’s now at the point where he has to flat-out refuse.

Manager: “That’s not something I can do. You can get the [Store Brand] tomorrow, you can wait two weeks for the [Name Brand], or you can get the [Other Brand] tomorrow after paying the $1,175 difference. What works best for you?”

Customer’s Wife: *With tears in her eyes* “You… you… This is bait and switch! Bait and switch!

She literally screams this next bit to the point that it echoes into the mall entrance.

Customer’s Wife:BAIT AND SWITCH!

As she does this, the manager is calmly doing something on his tablet. I will never forget this: once she’s done screaming, he hands her the tablet with a dictionary definition of bait and switch.

Manager: “Ma’am, you seem confused. A bait and switch would be us advertising one product that isn’t actually available for us to sell, and then trying to get you to buy something else. I can get you that [Store Brand] any time you want.”

The woman is visibly confused for a second, and then she shoves the tablet back into the manager’s hands. She takes her phone out of her purse, hands shaking.

Customer’s Wife: “You know what? I’m calling my lawyer! I’m going to tell my lawyer about your bait and switch!”

Aaaaaand that is it. [Manager] and I look at each other. I swear he is holding back a smile.

Manager: “I’m sorry, but since you have decided to pursue legal channels, we can no longer assist you at the store level. I can get you the number for our corporate legal team. You’ll need to direct any further questions to them directly.”

Customer’s Wife: “No, you’re going to talk to my lawyer right now, and—”

Manager: “I can’t continue this conversation. I’ll notify the delivery team to cancel your order. You’ll get a refund on your original card. It might take three or four business days for your provider to show the refund.”

Customer: *Looking mildly concerned* “Now, hold on. My wife jumped the gun a little. We—”

Customer’s Wife: “No! I am calling our lawyer. We are not going to be taken advantage of.”

Manager: “I’m sorry, but we can’t keep interacting with you.”

Customer: “But—”

At this point, my manager and I walked away. The lady sat over in the mattress department, apparently waiting for her lawyer to answer, for a few minutes. Her lawyer must not have cared too much for her business because he apparently never answered. Her husband awkwardly paced small appliances before he walked back to her. He wildly gesticulated while yell-whispering at her until they left. The transaction was refunded, and I never saw them again.

Remember this, fellow retail travelers: a customer threatening legal action is always the fastest excuse to get out of an annoying situation.

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