Friday, 22 August 2008

Sneaky Debenhams

Debenhams eyecatching reductions - the lesson today - don't change your mind

I was with my partner today when she returned a dress she'd brought her mother from Debenhams. It was reduced by 70% but still cost £22.50. At the desk the assistant puzzlingly pointed out the discount shown on the sales tag. Then her explanation became clear. 'We can't give refunds on items reduced by more than 50%' she announced 'only an exchange'.

I intervened and pointed out that on the front of the receipt was printed the legend:

Please note your last day for a full refund is 07 September 2008.
Exclusions apply.

Of course as with so much in modern life it was the words 'exclusions apply' not 'full refund' which carried most meaning. The assistant turned the receipt over and pointed to a box headed 'About Returns' then followed a whole host of minuscule print - which even now I can't read with the naked eye.

On items reduced by 50% or more we offer an exchange only for product or onto a giftcard.

So unreadable and not great English either. Unable to read this at the time, and taking the assistant's word, my partner began to ask about a credit note instead of an exchange. 'No we can't do that'.

You'd better call your manager I said. 'It's too sneaky for words to disqualify the big print - individual to this transaction - with teeny weeny print on the back'. The manager was summoned - and agreed to issue a gift card. Which, now I have my reading glasses, I can see was a valid option from the outset.

Shops are getting less and less generous with discretionary refunds. Clearly more and more of us are taking back the purchases we later regret. It's not only shoppers feeling the squeeze. But trying to mislead shoppers won't win Debenhams repeat business - especially at sale time when they're anxious to shift all that unsold stock.

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