Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's a Matter Of Trust

Experience 1: Best Buy

Last night I wandered into Best Buy to look into buying a new digital camera. I'm specifically looking for one that's really tiny so that I can use it instead of my picture phone. They had a nice selection and the prices seemed reasonable. A salesman immediately came up to me to ask me if I had questions. When I did, he pointed me to various options. So far, so good.

Then I made a crazy request: rather than handling the digital cameras with a huge security device attached to them, could I please handle the camera alone? My next request, which I didn't even ask, was if they had a memory card they could drop in the camera so that I could actually see how well it took pictures.

The salesman explained to me that he was sorry, but they aren't allowed to disconnect the cameras from the security mechanisms. It's the rules.

At the time, I didn't think much of it - just a big retailer having rules.

Experience 2: REI

Shira and I went shopping for a backpack last night. As we were checking out, I asked what the return policy was, just in case the backpack didn't work out. The clerk looked at me and explained, "we don't have a return policy." What?! I thought, how can they do that? Then I read the big sign behind here -- they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. In other words, they don't need a return policy. If you don't like what you brought, bring it back. They'll fix it. It's that simple.

So What?

I didn't tie these two experiences together till this morning. The fact is, they both boil down to one thing: trust. Best Buy simply doesn't trust me. If they let me hold the camera, I'm going to find a way to steal it. Too bad that one of the reasons that I'm buying the camera is for it's weight and size. I'll just have to eyeball it. Not to mention, I'm expected to make a $300 - $400 buying decision of a digital camera, without ever taking a photo and recording to a memory card for playback. That would be like buying a car without taking a test drive first.

And REI takes the exact opposite approach: they are all about trust. I have no doubt that if I were to go backpacking through Europe, and return the backpack in shambles saying I was not satisfied, they would take it back.

What REI gets, and Best Buy doesn't, is that money saved through not trusting your customers isn't nearly as valuable as the good will gained by trusting them.

Talk about short sighted.

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