Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 13- Sometimes you have to break the rules

A little explaination before I talk about my give for Day 13.  My business is not like traditional retail.  Where else would you hear "I know it's after the return date but my book hasn't come in from (choose your other retailer here) yet so can't I just buy one from you today and return it after my test?"  or "Can you write down all of the information for me so I can go buy from so and so?"  We hear a million and two reasons why, despite having worked hard to make sure we have the right book at the right time and selling our products in good faith, we should either take the product back beyond the returns period or help someone buy it from another vendor.  It can be very frustrating not only for me but also for my staff who work so hard to get everything in and on the shelves and to the customer and then 8 or so weeks after school starts, have to pack up everything that is left and return it to the publisher or wholesaler. 

Another issue we have that most retailers don't is with "packages" or "bundles".  Software and access codes are becoming more and more prevalent and the latest "money saver" being touted by publishers is to pack up looseleaf versions of the books.  The problems lies when the student opens up the looseleaf book or the access code and then wants to return it.  We do not have the time and manpower it would require to page through every page of a looseleaf book to make sure that every page is there.  If we were to spend that time- our returns lines (which already look like the day after Christmas in most retail establishments) would take 3x as long.  Can you imagine the complaints that would come out of that?  If the access codes are open- there is no way for us to know or verify if that access code has been registered.  If we took either of these products back we could not just (as with traditional books) put them on the shelf and hope that someone purchased them.  We would have to write them off- and that loss is not small.  Because this has become such a big issue, we not only have added to our return policy and tell each customer verbally that they should not open the package until they are positive that they will use it- they now have to sign an agreement acknowledging that if they DO open the package- they forfeit the right to return the product.  Since instituting this agreement it has cut down signficantly on the "Well, no one told me!" as reasons why we should give a refund on an access code that has been opened and registered and therefore can never be used by anyone else. 

So yesterday my staff sent a gentleman to me who had a return request.  The gentleman's son had withdrawn from school and though my staff had taken back most of the books that he had purchased- there was the issue of a looseleaf package that had been opened.  I talked to the gentleman for a bit and got the backstory.  I am not going to lay it out here because it's not my place to share but I will say this- as a parent, I would hope that if I were in the same situation that someone would show compassion.  And so I broke the rules.  That is my gift for day 13.  They may not ever know that this was my "gift" for the day- but I know that afterward I felt that I had done what I would want done for me had the situation been reversed.  I hope that someday- given the opportunity- they will pass this one on. 

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