On Christmas Eve 2010, I was pleased to find that the hhgregg store in Manassas, Virginia, was open for business. I had failed to find a gift for an employee and friend, Ken, and the open store gave me the opportunity to do so. The fact that Ken had told me his video cassette recorder recently died made the choice easy.
Soon after entering the store I was approached by employee Austin Rickard who assisted me throughout the transaction. I selected a DVD/VCR player but was told it was out of stock. I was offered the floor model, which I would normally not be willing to accept, but since the store was about to close and I needed to buy a gift, I agreed to take it. Austin grabbed the remote control and told me that the box and paperwork associated with the machine were not available.
I purchased the DVD/VCR player and a phone for business use and left the store. I gave the player to Ken who had been waiting in my car. (I was taking Ken home because he has seizures and does not qualify for a driver’s license. I reside in Front Royal and he lives in Falls Church, which are about 60 miles apart. Manassas is about 45 minutes from Front Royal and we go through the city when travelling to Falls Church.) Ken was happy to receive the gift and seemed unconcerned about the missing box and paperwork.
Ken returned to his part-time job on January 10. (As usual, I had to pick him up on the Sunday evening before the work day.) During the trip to Front Royal he told me that the remote control I had given to him was not the right one. Consequently, the DVD/VCR player was useless during his time off. I asked him to return it to me and I would take it back to the store. As you might expect, I felt rather bad because my gift to Ken, which he was excited to receive, could not be used, so I stopped at a 24-hour Wal-Mart and purchased a new DVD/VCR player.
When I took Ken home on January 14, he gave to me the DVD/VCR player and remote control that I had purchased at hhgregg. Upon returning home I found the receipt and, the following week, I asked another employee who had volunteered to take Ken home to return the items to hhgregg in Manassas. Later that afternoon I received a phone call from Ken who said the store would not accept the return because of a 14 day return policy. They had explained to Sam, a manager, that we had been given the wrong remote and he eventually agreed to waive the 14 day rule since I had the receipt at my home and Ken could not have returned the item himself, but a 20 percent restocking fee would be charged.
I worked in retail for much of my life and understand the rationale for a restocking fee. It is to prevent people from “borrowing” the item for and returning it when they no longer had the need. We often experienced this problem with video cameras, which people would take on vacation and bring back to the store upon their return. But this is obviously not what happened here. I told Ken and my other associate to hang tight while I called the hhgregg customer service toll-free number.
While the person with whom I spoke on the phone was quite pleasant, he was unable to convince the manager to waive the restocking fee. In the meantime, Sam told my employees that he would exchange the DVD/VCR player for an even better (more expensive) model. (How this offer meshes with the aforementioned policies is beyond me.) Seeing no alternative they made the exchange. Sam had told them it was the only thing he was willing to do.
I was not asking Sam to do something unreasonable. In fact, having been in the field I understand and even back store policies--but only when they are applied and take into account special situations. After all, it was not me who picked up the wrong remote. It is not as though we were trying to take advantage of or cheat the store.