In July 2013 an article was published in these columns exploring price guarantees, particularly in one of the Wesfarmers brands. The guarantee proved to be suspect if not fraudulent. I received an aggressive and angry response from the CEO who phoned me to ask why I had not contacted him. I had in fact gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that I was reporting accurately and when I spelt this out in a letter to the CEO, an apology was forthcoming. I decided to let the matter rest.
The issue arose again this week this time relating to Officeworks, another Wesfarmers brand. On this occasion I chose to speak to a store at least twice and then Officeworks head office asking for Mark Ward, the CEO.
The item in question is an iPad 2017 selling for $458 at Officeworks but less at several other retailers including Kogan where it is offered at $429. Officeworks “offers” a 5 per cent discount off matching articles sold at lower prices.
The first reason provided for not honouring the price guarantee was that Officeworks excludes Kogan from their price guarantee. I pointed out to the team member that this is not stated in the Officeworks terms and conditions. The team member put me on hold.
The second reason then given was that Kogan does not offer a manufacturer’s warranty.
Not true I said and I quoted from the Kogan warranty as follows – “1 year Worldwide Apple Warranty (included)”.
In desperation the third reason was that Kogan parallel import. How do they know and more importantly how does the customer know? Can this be proven?
Unfazed head office supplied a fourth reason! “Kogan take international chargers out and put generic chargers in the box”.
I would have thought that this was very decent of Kogan.
Conclusion: This price guarantee like so many others is false and misleading. One may even call it a rort or a scam. See reason one above.
What these retailers fail to understand is that they cannot rely on 7,000 team members to handle what is a complex and sensitive area. Also they cannot cover every circumstance in their policy. What this means is that Officeworks and the like need to understand the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.
For the sake of (in this case) $50, would it not have been prudent to keep the customer happy with a one off ex gratia discount? Taking a moderate approach, how much would this cost the company and what goodwill would be generated?
Some of these price guarantees have been around for 20 years and are emblazoned on the side of shop buildings. We are now embarking on a mission at federal government level to have these price guarantees monitored so that there is a level playing field for all retailers. It may be opportune for retailers to a) either review their price guarantee policy or b) buy a can of paint and start painting.
Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing www.impactretailing.com.au and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0414 631 702