Why it pays to read the small print
Sometimes it really pays to read the fine print.
During the month of May, Joshua Bate Trading Company offered a $500 cash prize, or $750 in store credit, to potential customers who read the fine print in their terms of sale agreement. If they read to the end, they’d find notice of the competition, and information on how to claim the prize.
“Customers did not have to buy anything to qualify, they simply needed to receive a quotation from us,” said Matthew Gerardo, vice-president of sales of the Marsh Lane, Devonshire store.
“Quotes are free. That quotation could be anything from appliance parts, furniture, flooring, lighting, or appliances. The terms of sale gets attached to any quotation for anything we sell, which is essentially everything and anything except for cabinets and countertops.”
He thinks he gave out about 400 quotations that month, but only one person responded on the very last day.
“The customer’s e-mail was hilarious,” Mr Gerardo said. “She said: ‘I know it is probably too late. I am sure someone has already done this’. I called her to let her know no one else had and she was really surprised.”
In fact, even Mr Gerardo was surprised when she first e-mailed him; it was the first he knew of the promotion. He’d read the sales terms so many times he didn’t think he needed to read it any more.
“I missed the last line of it,” he said. “I called our operations manager, Jill Hanson, and said, do you know anything about this?”
As it turned out, Ms Hanson had organised the promotion, partly out of frustration.
“I wanted to stress the importance of reading what we send people,” she said. “We felt this promotion was very interesting, to see if our customers actually read our terms of sale, which we include with all quotations and acknowledgments.
“We work very hard to provide the most excellent service to our customers, making sure we communicate all details from start to finish, yet we constantly have customers who complain and say, ‘you never told me that’.”
She felt that people are reading less and less these days.
“It is a weekly battle to receive replies from vendors after we send an e-mail more than three sentences long,” she said. “I simply believe that attention spans are getting smaller and smaller.”
Ms Hanson said people not reading their documentation caused all sorts of problems.
For example, it says in the terms of sale agreement that Joshua Bate can hold an order if the customer is not yet ready for it just yet. Customers just have to let them know. Still, when they send out e-mails confirming the eminent arrival of an order, they often get panicked responses saying the client isn’t ready yet.
“We are constantly following up on details,” Mr Gerardo said. “This is not only with individual consumers, but architects and contractors and people doing massive projects. If people read what we give them the amount of mistakes it would save customers and ourselves would be incredible. I spend half the day dealing with issues like this.”
Mr Gerardo said the winning customer, who did not wish to be named, chose to accept a $750 store credit.
“She’s putting that towards furniture,” Mr Gerardo said.
The store credit also comes with a $250 donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. The winner was still picking the charity.
Ms Hanson said it says on the Joshua Bate website ‘It’s all about the details’.
“We work hard to give our customers exemplary service, but when they don’t provide us with the details, after reading all the information we provide, or answer our questions, we get upset when they are not pleased with our service, even though we did all we could,” she said. “It took almost a month for someone to find that sentence, even though we have multiple sales per day. People just don’t seem to read, which causes disappointment, on both sides.”