Friday, 23 August 2013

Customer Service Takes a Back Seat

Most Bank Holidays start with the thought of trips to the seaside, or getting the lawnmower out and finally tackling the wasteland that used to be the garden, or wielding paintbrush and paint and finally finishing decorating the spare room. For the retailers of this country it is yet another opportunity to fill the television screens with tempting offers of new sofas, wall to wall carpeting along with coordinating furniture all at a reduced price or special offer. Or are they? Just as thousands of people had checked this weekend weather forecast and decided to forgo the bucket and spade in favour of a trip to the nearest retail park, there comes the news that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are investigating several companies who have allegedly misled many consumers into thinking they had found a bargain.

Retailers sitting pretty

Buying a new sofa or carpet is not a spur of the moment purchase. In fact many of us have to make do and mend whilst we save up to replace this type of home furnishing. Usually once the children have grown up and stopped using the settee as a substitute trampoline, horse, playpen or spare table, then it is safe to get out the bank book and decide to splash out on the two seater in pale cream that would complement your d├ęcor, rather than keep buying yet another washable cover for the saggy brown chairs inherited from your parents. Once lured down to the bright lights of the furniture stores, then the opportunity to track down a bargain with amazing reductions, plus the managers 5% discount every Saturday and Sunday lunchtime, is irresistible. However as the Bard once wrote and is famously misquoted ever since, “all that glisters is not gold”, and sadly this would seem to be the case for some of the sales prices.

We didn’t bargain for that!

Just as you think you have spotted an authentic bargain then think again, as six High Street stores are being investigated for advertising reductions, from previous higher prices, which are not genuine. Perhaps many of us are so busy checking out the interest free credit offers that we do not question the somewhat amazing reductions available and indeed why should we? The advertisements appear on the television and newspapers usually before the start of a long weekend, pictures of happy families having nothing better to do than to spend half a day trying out a range of settees. Flyers shoot through the letter box promoting a multitude of carpeting to choose from and we set off, tape measure and credit card in hand, to try to find a good deal.

Not any more, as we await the findings from the OFT with somewhat bated breath. We should also be questioning the validity of other “bargains” that we have picked up over the years and clarity on the practice of “inflating” the reference prices of goods which has to stop.

The word “settee” comes from the Old English word, “setl” which referred to long benches with high backs and arms. In the future I will be checking carefully to see exactly what the pricing of reduced goods refers to, and will definitely not “settle” for second best. Once I get a decent bargain, then it will be time to roll out the carpet, providing it is at a reasonable cost of course. I await your comments with interest.

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