Monday, May 07, 2007

Pricing 101 - Don't Cheat

I wrote the other day about pricing transparency and getting your pricing models right, but it seems there is an even simpler pricing lesson some companies need to learn: don't cheat.  

The nearest place for me to buy office supplies is OfficeMax. Like all of these office superstores, they've got most every doodad for your desk you could want, reams of paper, electronics, folders, and so on - the odds and ends that you regularly need. Since it's just me in the office, it's not worth ordering a lot of stuff from a catalog; I just stop by there every couple of weeks for at most 10 items. (It's on the way to various other errand destinations, so it's very convenient.)

There's just one problem: on almost every single one of those trips, something I buy scans at a higher price that what was marked on the shelf.

When this happens once, you shrug and think, "mistakes happen." When it happens another time or two, you think, "these people are disorganized."

When it happens on almost every single trip, you start to think, "This company has a policy of fraud."

What's particularly funny is the reaction when you point this out to the cashier. Just this morning, as my $19.99 items scanned at $24.99:

Me: "That was marked $19.99 on the shelf."

Cashier: "Oh, okay." (changes price)

No price check, nothing. It's almost as if the employees know that the prices are often wrong, and actually checking is a waste of time, because the customer will be right.

And, as I noted, this happens on almost every single visit to the store.

Sure, I can have my convenience by just watching the register and correcting all the mistakes. But when I got for more than a couple of things, I don't really feel like carrying a notepad around so I can write down the correct prices as a I shop.

And besides, who wants to do business with a store that's trying to rip you off?

I tried to send a message to OfficeMax about this; I think it's good form to try to get help before writing something negative like this on a blog. But - strike 2! - they've got one of those appalling "Customers are forbidden to email us" web sites. You can call an 800 number because obviously, you've got nothing better to do. And after all, isn't it smart to make customers contact you through a high-cost channel?

My question is whether this is a problem at this particular store in Houston, or an informal company policy. Not that it matters; convenience is nice, but Office Depot is only another ten minutes down the road.

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2 comments:

Mukund Mohan said...

John
How come you dont talk about the fact that the cashier makes it easy for you to get the price you quoted without going to "check if that's really the price"? That should speak about customer trust should it not?

I dont go to Office depot, but the same thing happens at Home Depot here, if I say that's different from the price I saw on the shel, I get the new price no questions asked. Unlike Fry's Electronics, where they will stop the whole line, send someone there, get 5 verifications and still give you the wrong price.

John Whiteside said...

Because it happens far too often. If the price was wrong once, and that happened, I'd react exactly as you suggest. When prices are wrong almost every visit, it's another story.

I don't have this happen at any other store. I don't shop at Home Depot often (for most purchases I stick with my neighborhood hardware store) so I couldn't say if they have this problem too.

You're absolutely right about the process, though; a store mistake shouldn't become a headache for the customer. I suspect that in many cases, people just pay the higher price because they don't want to deal with it.