Saturday, March 29, 2008

“No returns…Exchange only” policies = BAD customer service!!
Some time ago I bought my wife some very expensive French undergarments at a nice local shop. I had guessed at her sizes and when she inevitably went back to the store to look at some other sets, she was told about the “no returns, exchanges only policy”. Today my wife bought some clothes for our 6 year old daughter at a retail shop near us that is part of a chain, and when she went back because the clothes didn’t fit, she was told “no returns…only exchanges.”

So my first piece of advice is to shoppers (caveat emptor and all that) ASK about these policies. Since the undergarments thing my wife and I almost always ask, but she was in a hurry and did not think for a minute that a chain store would have such a policy, but lo and behold, they do.

My next piece of advice is to the retailers to tell them that this is a very bad customer service policy. I think too often stores that sell tangible goods don’t consider themselves as a service business, but let me tell you this…if you sell ANYTHING to customers, you ARE a service business, and service is what keeps people coming back.

I was speaking to a small business owner one day about this topic, and this person said “Well a lot of small retailers cannot afford to have people returning things.” Hmmm, maybe a valid point, but my answer to that is “What can they afford more, someone returning something or someone NEVER coming to their store again?”

In the case of the French undergarments, the product was a very high quality and overall my wife was pleased with it, however I (we) will never shop there again. In my opinion (and I am a customer, therefore I am ALWAYS right J) if I buy something I should have a reasonable amount of time to return it for a full refund if I so choose. I understand if retailers do not want people coming in after 6 months to return things, but how about a 2-week or 1 month policy?

In speaking with some of these retailers, the mind set seems to be that once a sale is made, this policy ensures they keep the sale, but I guarantee in the end it is costing repeat customers. As anyone who works in sales knows, repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, and for a small business the loss of even one customer can be significant.

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