Monday, April 17, 2006

The Cashier Con

SO...the 500th Post to this disaster comes from my weekly Monday Morning Memo email from Roy H. Williams, marketing guru and all-around swell-fellah. The Wizard Of Ads.

It's being reprinted without his permission, so I strongly urge all three of you who read this to check out his website, for he is mighty.

The Cashier Con

I've noticed a disturbing trend. Maybe you have, too: Cashiers have become the new pitchmen.

The old pitchman came to your door and knocked. He sold encyclopedias or vacuum cleaners or miracle soap. Whatever. But you were trapped by your own politeness. You couldn't think of a way to get rid of him without being offensive. So you gave him your time. And often, your money.

The new pitchman traps you at the cash register, saying effectively, "You're not leaving here with that merchandise until you listen to my pitch and answer a few questions." I'm not talking about suggestive selling. This is much more annoying than that.

The first time I was cashier conned was at the Apple Computer Store in the mall. My laptop needed repair so I decided to buy a new one, upload my data into it, repair the old one and give it to Barry. I had to have the new laptop immediately so I went to the Apple Store. I love Apple. If I was ever going to get a tattoo, it would probably be of that multicolored Apple logo. Is that nuts? Okay then, guilty.

I stood at the cash register, credit card in my hand, as the cashier asked, "Would you like a copy of Microsoft Office for an extra fifty bucks?"

"Fifty bucks? Sure." So he stuck the software in the bag with my new computer, ran my credit card and had me sign the dealie. Then he slipped my receipt into the bag with a curious looking folder. On impulse, I pulled the folder out. It was a long and complicated application for a $150 rebate. The little rat bastard had charged me $200 for the software and silently slipped me a rebate application."

Am I supposed to fill this out?"

Eye roll. "Yes, sir.""

Did you say to me, and I quote, "Would you like a copy of Microsoft Office for an extra fifty bucks?"

Self-righteous now. "Yes, sir." The little RB was acting like I was out of line for being annoyed by this."

Sorry, but I don't fill out rebate forms. Here's your software. Give me back my money." I'll never visit another Apple Store. Future purchases will be strictly online where I can read all the fine print before I say yes. I'm glad I didn't get the tattoo.

A couple of weeks later my Dodge pickup needed a safety inspection. The outdated little sticker in its windshield screamed to the police that I was driving an illegal vehicle. I pulled in at Jiffy Lube.

"Do you do safety inspections?"

"Yes, sir. We sure do."

I had them change the oil, replace the air filter and install new windshield wipers. As they handed me my keys, I said, "You forgot the new safety sticker."

"Oh, we don't do official safety inspections, sir. We do Jiffy Lube inspections."

This time the con was so outrageous that I got tickled. "Oh, so you looked everything over and it seems oky-doky to you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Great. Now I can sleep at night." I beamed a big smile and left.

Small people complain. I just never go back. Is there a chance the little jiffy weasel honestly misunderstood my safety inspection inquiry? Zero. His response was trained. Every day, thousands of Texans have to get their vehicles safety inspected. Jiffy Lube doesn't want the hassle but they obviously want the traffic. They're hoping we'll chalk it up as honest miscommunication. And most of us probably will. Once. The jiffy weasel knew that if he told me the truth, that they don't do safety inspections, I would have taken my truck somewhere else. Jiffy Lube used to be another of my favorite companies. Now I feel violated by them, a little bit raped. Sorry for the language, but that's how I feel.

Somehow, I'm betting I'm not the only one.

The most recent cashier con happened at Best Buy. "Your purchase today qualifies you for 8 free issues of Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly. Which do you prefer?" I firmly declined both.

Do you think maybe I was just being paranoid? The thought definitely flickered across my mind.

Fearful that I might be seeing con men where none existed, I went online and found that
the cashier con at Best Buy was perhaps the oiliest of them all.

I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.In the short run, these cashier cons are likely to elevate profits. But can you think of a faster way to grind away brand image and erode brand loyalty? I traded with these companies because I believed in them. And now I don't anymore. I let them keep my money. But I did not let them keep my heart.

I share these stories with you only to alert you to the dangers of shallow, short-sighted marketing. Quicky-tricky profits often come at a terrible long-term price.

Roy H. Williams


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