Consumer is no king at super malls

Usually when we enter a supermarket or a mall we expect products to be at a high price and also of good quality. However the reality lies in the fact that these products are not necessarily of standard quality and are usually over-priced. With the increasing competition among retailers, offering bogus special offers has become a way of making profits.

Though most retailers will say that they try to offer value for money and value for many, the truth is that most of their schemes are misleading and false. For instance, the other day I walked in to a supermarket which had a special offer of “Buy two and get 20 per cent off”, when I went to the counter I did not get the discount. On enquiring about it, I was told that the offer was for a specific size and I had purchased a bigger size of the same product. What struck my mind was that if I was purchasing multiple products, I might have not noticed this and many customers might probably be doing the same and getting cheated.

Many items that we are supposed to get along with purchase of a given product are not provided to us by the supermarkets. A mall where I buy most of my household items from had a special offer on a US-imported pancake mix. It was mentioned on the shelf that a packet of ‘Hide and Seek’ was free with it. When I went to bill, the assistant told me they were not aware of such an offer and consumed twenty minutes of my time in checking and with the store manager before actually handing over the product.

Usually customers buying multiple products do not keep a track of number of items purchased or if these items have any special offer. Most of us will not go back to claim the offers and gift items when we notice it after a purchase, because then again we have to pay the parking fees, wait in the long queue etc. This is what the staff takes advantage of. There are many cases of staff pretending to be ignorant about offers and later on taking the free goods home themselves. And in the multiple cases when the staff is just innocently unaware, their action cannot be justified as one cannot be ignorant about their own job and evade from their responsibility thereby pushing the burden on the consumers shoulder. Now with fierce competition and a variety of choices for the consumers, supermarkets really need to gear up and change their laid back approach towards working of the outlet.

Another way of cheating on customers is by mentioning the additional conditions under the product or in very small letters. In such a case if the customer is careless or in a hurry, he may end up buying the product believing it to be on a discount when it is not. A week back my friend went to the supermarket to buy cereals which were on discount. However after coming back home she noticed that she did not get the discount because under the product it said “only for certain varieties and flavours”. This is not it, most of the times we find that the staff at counter mistakenly over charges the product as he failsto notice the discount offer sticker on it or is ignorant about the promotional offer. Another ‘mistake’ which is very common is placing high priced products on shelves with cheap price tags or the pricesticker on the shelf is wrong. There is a dire need for supermarkets to strictly
comply with government guidelines and stop activities that may mislead customers.

My friend bought a bottle of jam from a department store at Sarjapur road.  In the bottle it is printed that Rs 20, off. She didn’t get the discount and when she noticed it at home never bothered to go back all the way again. Once I noticed a middle aged lady arguing with the assistant at the counter saying that she should get the offer displayed at the shelf. Assistant was reluctant saying the computer is not accepting that discount. She made him to go to the shelf, check the offer himself and managed to get the discout with great deal of effort. But how many of us will do it? I have seen smart shoppers coming with the weekend offer special pull outs from news papers to claim what the malls offer.

The working of the supermarkets and malls makes it seem like the ‘consumer is King’ concept is just a large hoax, but it cannot be denied that many outlets and stores are rapidly increasing their quality and level of service. In today’s dynamic world merely attractive advertising, catchy titles and well-packed products are not enough anymore as factors such as consumer service and customer satisfaction gain importance.

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