I had a bad experience with the retailer Best Buy some time ago. My wife and I bought a digital camera there and the clerk told us - "you get a free month of Earthlink Internet services with your purchase." My wife told the woman no thank you, we use broadband. The clerk pressed and said, "it's free so you don't have to use it - just sign this." So my wife signed the receipt.
I got a bad feeling about it so I told my wife to watch her credit card statements for the next couple of months. Sure enough, after what would have been our 30 day trial of a service we didn't want or need - we started getting charged $14.95 a month. I was and am outraged.
Most people won't notice a charge this small on their card, and so may go many months without noticing. If Best Buy could trick a hundred thousand people into this shady deal - that's over a million in revenue.
What's really incredibly stupid about this sales tactic is that I will no longer buy anything from Best Buy. I am tainted - they have lost my trust. I spend maybe tens of thousands of dollars a year on computers, peripherals, and electronics. I buy tons of DVDs, CDs, and software. Best Buy blew it. And now I am blogging about it and telling everybody I know to beware.
So yesterday I was looking for a DVD of a foreign film and couldn't find it anywhere. I hesitated but then entered Best Buy. They had the DVD for a good price, so I decided to give them another chance. Sure enough, when I got to the register they told me I had qualified for 8 free issues of a magazine subscription. I absolutely declined, but I'm betting that after my 8 free issues my credit card would get a mysterious charge.
OK, strike 2 Best Buy - you're out!
This is a stupid way to do business. If I don't trust you, I don't shop with you, and most people are the same.
I had a great conversation with a small restaurant owner the other day. He's very successful and he credits that success with consistency. He changes his menu every 3 months but keeps the same quality, excellent service, and price points. Most of his diners are regulars - many of whom he knows buy name. This is loyalty, and he has worked hard to earn it. His business has been around for just over a year, and he's doing so well he's looking to expand his current location and add another. I have had one of the best meals in memory at his place recently and I recommend the place to all my friends.
You can trick people into buying from you, but when they realize it - you are going to lose their future value. You might squeeze an extra hundred dollars out of one transaction, but you'll lose thousands in future transactions. This is sheer stupidity, and it's too bad that many of the big chains get this so desperately wrong.
As a small business owner you need to maximize your relationship with every single customer or client. You must work hard to build trust. When people trust you they will continue to spend money with you, and refer new customers to you.
Shameful sales tactics are just not worth it in the long run.
-J D Moore - Marketing Comet