How much should a company spend to retain a loyal customer? I a recent case, Sears Canada Inc. lost a long-term customer over a dollar—and all because company policy ties managers’ hands, restricting them from making even a $1 adjustment on a shoppers’ bill.
Two weeks ago, Christine Hildred called 1-800-26-SEARS to order a Nevada posture bra, listed in the catalogue at $22.99. She planned to pay for the item when she picked it up at the Sears flooring center near her house. The order clerk (Sears calls them “Associates”) gave her the total: $27.74. “That sounded a bit high, so I asked her about it,” says Ms. Hildred. “She said it included a $1 handling fee if I paid C.O.D., so I said, ‘All right, put it on my Sears card.’”
Ms. Hildred opened a seniors’ companion business in Victoria. She has been a Sears customer for “years and years,” and recently bought mattresses from the store, as well as a washer, dishwasher, drier, fridge and range.
When Ms.Hildred went to the Sears to pick up her order, she discovered the $1 handling charge on her bill. She told the clerk she’d asked the item be billed to her Sears card. The clerk made a call while she waited for 15 minutes. She asked to see the manager. He told her he had no authority to remove the $1 charge and directed her to call the 800 number.
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‘It was an eye-opener Sears could be so petty and rigid’
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“I looked at the manager like he was from Mars,” says Ms. Hildred. “What the hell does he have the authority to do? I expected that someone would say, ‘We’ll work out the problem.’ Does nobody care? I’ve been a good customer of theirs for years and years. It was an eye-opener that Sears could be so petty and rigid.”
Sears Canada, which celebrates its 50th anniversaries this year, is one of Canada’s best-known retailers. Across the country the company has 123 stores, plus 2,200 catalogue locations where customers pick up goods.
Its 2,371-page catalogue offers everything from leatherette jackets to juice extractors and contains, on page 1,182, this note in tiny print: “A $1,00 handling charge applies to C.O.D. orders.”
Ms. Hildred says Sears had always treated her well. When the rings on her new range rattled, the store came and brought her a new range. When a coil poked through her son’s mattress, she says, “a new bed appeared.”
“We have had good experiences and that is why I was just floored,” she says. “You want to lose a customer over a dollar?”
Vince Power, a spokesman at Sears head office in Toronto, confirms that the Victoria staff followed Sears policy.
“They don’t have the mechanism at the point of sale in then catalogue pickup location to reverse that charge,” he says. “The customer has to recall Sears to reorder the item on their account and get the $1 taken off.”
But he adds: “We’d like to call back and rectify it. I wouldn’t want any of our customers to go through a long wait for customer satisfaction. It’s not common for our customers to be dissatisfied in this way.”
Ms. Hildred never did buy the bra. She stormed out and. at home, called the 800 numbers. Right away, a clerk in Regina said she could remove the charge. “Why couldn’t they do that at the store?” she wonders. Now she no longer wants the bra. Still, she called head office in Toronto. The person in the president’s office, she says, was “very cool, not at all interested.”
Rather than an apology, she says, that person offered her a dollar. “I wanted her to be a bit sympathetic, but she said, ‘Do you want the dollar or don’t you?” She said she’d put $1 through on my Sears card account.”
She doubts she’ll go back to Sears. “This is ridiculous,” she says. “All over a dollar.”
西尔蕾德小姐说西尔斯给她的服务一直很好。当她新橱柜上的护环松动作响时, 商店会来人，带给她一个新橱柜. 当她儿子床垫的弹簧刺破露出时，她说，“一张新床垫很快就送来了。”
Peter Kuitenbrouwer 文 万豫刚译