The Customer Experience: It’s the Little Things that Count the Most

My wife picked up an inexpensive bedding set (sheets, shams, comforter — the whole nine yards) from a Macy’s store last week that wasn’t suited to the bed in question. She gambled — as she often does when she finds a price that “can’t be beat, but only for a limited time” — that she could find the correct size at another store and simply exchange the item.

My wife found the set in the correct size (Happy, happy! Joy, joy!) but the process of exchanging was far too lengthy and complicated, in her estimation. Mine, too. I don’t have a quarrel with the sales associate. She did her job in accordance with the retailer’s standard operating procedure. “Following procedure” is a good practice, up to a point.

Here’s what happened: the associate scanned the receipt, a “return tag” (bar code) that’d been pasted to the original package, and my wife “swiped” the credit card to complete the return. (I’m sure the associate pressed a key or entered a code to indicate “exchange”, as well.)

Next, the associate scanned the tag on the correct bedding set, stuck another return tag on that package, and had my wife swipe her card through the card reader again. Finished? No, not quite.

Because we’d purchased the too-large item at a Macy’s store in an unincorporated part of St. Louis county and exchanged it at a store in an incorporated suburb, we had to pay an additional 75-cent sales tax. I asked why it wasn’t automatically added to the receipt; the associate said she didn’t know (which, I’m sure, is the truth). My wife handed over three quarters, and we were finally done with the store.

This process is plenty convenient for the retailer but it does nothing whatsoever to enhance the customer experience. It also brought to mind how the process was handled not all that long ago.

Everything was run at the store level.  If you produced the store receipt with the unused goods, usually within 30 days of purchase, the store clerk would ask you why you were returning the item and let you get the correct item. They’d make a note on the receipt that the item was exchanged (and on what date) , give you the correct item (usually in a new bag), and off you’d go.

Terrifically inefficient from the store’s standpoint, I’m sure. But I’m just as sure that customers back in the days when we’d get on the Broadway bus with Grandma to head for Famous-Barr downtown were much more satisfied with the purchase and with the store.

What do you think? If a retailer went back to the old way of handling exchanges, would you be more likely to patronize them? Do you prefer to shop locally for that reason?

Thanks so much for your time.

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