Friday, 16 January 2015

The Ellerines and Beares sale. Or was it?

How should a store deal with a breakdown in communication?

Ellerines and Beares recently advertised a special offer of 50% off certain products. As you can imagine many consumers went along to the stores to buy things at such a big discount.

However a number of these consumers later contacted us because they'd been told that they weren't going to get the item they thought they'd purchased. The reasons included:
  • the advertised products weren’t available
  • stocks were now exhausted
  • payment was accepted but they were later told that they had come on the wrong day to get the special offer
When we contacted the stores we were given a number of explanations. We were told that there was a stock control system failure, that customers were confused and that customers who bought on the "wrong” day wouldn’t be assisted, even though they paid their money and entered into some form of contract with the stores.

It seems that the core of the problem was that this offer was available only on 3rd January but a number of consumers had gone to the stores on the 2nd January and had agreed to pay in advance to reserve the item they wanted. Most importantly the store staff agreed to this and took the consumer's money. Others went on the 3rd, the correct day, and paid by cheque.

Both of these groups were unhappy later to be told that they couldn't get the item they wanted and were told to return to the store to get their money back. As you can imagine they were angry and upset.

The response of Ellerines and Beares management was simple.

Tough luck.

If you paid in advance, even though the store staff accepted your money and told you it was ok, tough luck. If you had turned up on the day and paid by cheque (which takes a couple of days to clear), tough luck.

In one email to us the senior people at Ellerines / Beares said:
"We value our customers at Beares and Ellerines Botswana and have reviewed al queries with regards to the promotion held on 14/01/2015 with the purpose to keep a good relationship with our customer base.

As clarification:
  • The promotion was advertised for the 3rd of December with the following provisions:
  1. The promotion was only scheduled for the third on a first come, first served basis: I.e. the first deal concluded on the 3rd had the first choice of the goods, once the sale is concluded the stock is reserved for that sale; NOTE: Pre-payment did not reserve stock as sale can only be concluded on the 3rd.
  2. The promotion was on all stock on floor - I.e. whilst stock last; branches had no mandate to sell on order. This was very clearly explained by the GM on the radio interview (Radio Botswana). The newspaper adverts also stated clearly - "ALL ITEMS IN STORE".
  • We are willing to assist where we can in terms of the promotion and stock availability."
We then asked how they could reverse a sale that the store staff had agreed to make. Their response was simple:
"We are not prepared to entertain this any further. We have given you the detail below. Regarding the question below - if stock is sold out then it is out.  The stores are not supermarkets where goods are picked and taken to a till - each individual that applies for credit is interviewed and screened before such an invoice can raised.  Stock quantities are only updated once invoiced, therefor with a rush as what we experienced we do not have second by second up to date stock records."
And finally.

We've now heard from one consumer who went back to get his refund. This is what he said:
"I just talked to [XXX] at Ellerines. She says the refund is not readily executable because they might not have cash.... apparently people are not paying on time. I think she is not aware of the 50% scuffle. All shes saying is stock is coming i can wait. Its so confusing."
I don't know about you but I'm not sure that this is good enough. What do you think?

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