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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Consumer confusion: I thought I was buying from.....


Imagine walking down the street after a wonderful lunch with friends in a new neighborhood.  A beautiful Tommy Bahama bedspread in the window grabs your attention.  Your day is now complete.

You walk in and see lots of other Tommy Bahama merchandise.  In the back of your mind you wonder how you missed a new Tommy Bahama store opening so close to your home.

You check out the price on the bedspread and you buy it, knowing it would be perfect in your bedroom and knowing that you've seen it for at least $200 more elsewhere.  And it is the last one in stock!  You feel great.  In fact, you like it so much that you buy the bedspread, the pillow shams and a few accessory pillows as well.

A few weeks later, you get your credit card bill and you see a $360 charge from Boscovs and you swear that you have never ever been to a store by that name.  Muttering to yourself about credit card fraud which you've heard so much about on the news, you call your credit card company to dispute the charge.  Then you post on social media about this company called Boscovs that had somehow gotten your credit card number and done an unauthorized charge.

The next day you are driving in the neighborhood where you met your friend for lunch and there it is big as day. 

 Oops.....     You call the credit card company and have them reinstate the charge.  But you forget to do anything about your social media entry.  Ah, social media doesn't matter anyway.

Then a few days later, you get an email from TommyBahama.com and there it is.  That same bedspread for $100 less than you paid!   It is on clearance. 

You are upset, so you drive back to the store and sure enough, as you are waiting to see the store manager you see it, right at the cash register.   No cash refunds.  Exchange for store credit only.

You sheepishly walk out the door, feeling silly that you were so enamored with the bedspread that you didn't see the sign.  Actually you never imagined that you would want to return the bedspread that you love.

When you get home, still a little peeved, you pull out your receipt and you see it in large print at the bottom.  NO REFUNDS.  EXCHANGES FOR STORE CREDIT ONLY.  It doesn't really make you feel better, only foolish.   

I tell this story, because it plays out online every day.  

Someone does a search on Google or Bing and are outraged after clicking on a listing and buying a product or service that they were not on the manufacturer/brand site.  Some even go so far as swearing that someone "hijacked" their search.

Here is a clue.  If you are on the brand site, the URL will have their name prior to the ".com".  And you will see their logo once you click on their link.  Third parties are not generally allowed to use any logo other than their own.

And as the story above illustrates, if there is any reason that you may need to return or cancel a product or service (such as changing your travel plans and needing to cancel an airline ticket or a hotel room), you need to read the policy regarding returns and cancellations.

No matter whether there is a sign posted by a cash register or a notice on the checkout page or in the policy page of an online product, more often than not, customers often don't read it.  We are all desensitized and hit the Agree button on terms for everything from downloading applications on our computers and phones to buying books, electronics and travel online.

Consumers see the product that they are looking for and do not pay attention to who they are buying from.  They see the price and even a notice that there is only one left at this price and they buy.   Most of the time it works out. 

But, when they see a lower price elsewhere or less restrictive terms on the brand site, they get upset that they didn't get that deal.  Or worse, their plans change and they need to return the product or cancel the service, only to find out that they agreed to a restrictive set of terms.

The moral of this story is that whether shopping in a new neighborhood or online, you need to know who you are buying from and on what terms.   Don't say yes if you don't know who you are dealing with or whether you can change your mind tomorrow, next week or next month.

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow we'll look at how confusion occurs with consumers when they do a search on Google.





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