Beware “Oops! Sorry” Pricing

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I am not giant on conspiracy theories.  I tend to think that most of what happens that is bad is the organic result of humans being part of the process.  As a matter of fact there are times that I would find a grand, global conspiracy a bit comforting, because it might mean someone knows how to keep the whole “thing” from melting down, falling apart or just not reaching the worst case.

However, I am a firm believer in watching for patterns.  Is is possible that 90% of the programmers writing computer systems that manage inventory and pricing them accidentally only put in bugs that charge me more?  Could be, but I doubt it.  How often do you get a better price at the check-out scanner than was posted on the shelf?  How often does an error save you money on your utility bill, vs charge overcharge you?

The 5 stages of “Oops! Sorry” Pricing

This week, between “accidental” over-rings and billing errors with Frontier FIOS and grocery stores, I have have saved $80 that I would have spent if I didn’t pay attention. 

There are the four stages to “Oops! Sorry Pricing”

  1. “Are you sure you read the price right?”
  2. “That is the correct price sir”
  3. “I can’t really do anything about it”
  4. “OK, I can get my supervisor”
  5. “We are so sorry I, have credited your account.”

It happens over and over.  I am also not big on government over regulation.  However, I am pretty sure that if there were a law that said the customer always gets back TWICE the error when an item is billed or rung-up over the advertised or promised price, there would be a lot more precision in the software and price entry at the store.

Sometimes you regulate incompetence by taking your business elsewhere

The free market solution is to walk away, for good if getting the correct price gets to be too much of a hassle.  Then tell them why you are walking away for good.  We in our family did this last week.  We had a $10 Papa John’s Pizza Gift Card.  We tried to order a pizza online with it, but the ordering system had an error after it charged the card and when I re-logged on, my Pizza was still in my shopping cart, but the gift card was empty.

Papa Johns never called back.

I called them and we started with #3, “Sorry sir, your card should refill in 20 minutes. There is nothing I can do”  After 3o minutes, this is when we had planned to be eating the pizza, I tried again and still no go.  So I called again. This was a variation of #4 “Can I get your phone number and the zip code where you order your pizza and someone will call you.”  Papa Johns never called back. 

I don’t know if there is $10 on my card, because after an hour it was still empty and so I drove to McDonald’s since it was easy fast food night at our house.  I will at some point try to use that $10 and if it is there it will buy our VERY LAST Papa Johns pizza EVER.  Support and dealing with system failures is part of the product and for me the poor handeling of the web site software error was like getting a pizza with rat droppings on it, I don’t want that at dinner time.  BTW in my frustration, I tweeted to the @papajohns twitter account, several times.  No response, so they aren’t even savvy enough to have someone watching that during dinner time for problems. 

There is only so much incompetence I can stand before I decide I do not trust the company anymore. Papa Johns Pizza reached the level on April 1st, 2011.

At least Safeway and Frontier communations fix the problem when they finaly understand there is a problem.  Papa Johns has people on the phone, but no process to make sure a customer is not ripped off by the bad programming of website.

This all comes down to one classic warning: “Buyer Beware!”  Blaming the skimming on the computer seems, in my opinion, to be part of the calculated margin in too many companies these days.  At the very least, saving on good support is clearly part of American business, and we need to vote with our dollars.  Pizza Hut here we come!

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