DIY

Shrink-wrapped aggravation, part I


The absence of shrink wrap nearly cost me $30. I didn't realize it at the time, and naturally became upset when I learned about it. Fortunately, though, I believe I will resolve the matter successfully.

My first week of classes of the fall semester at Temple University Beasley School of Law just finished, and I'm still standing. I just started my third year, which normally would be the last. However, because I'm studying in the evenings, I still have one more year to go.

Like most university book stores, the one for the law school allows returns during the drop/add period. Also, the books have to be in the same condition as when they were bought. Before classes began, I had gone to the book store and bought some textbooks I needed. On Thursday (one day prior to the deadline for returns) I went back to the book store to return two books, neither of which I had written in, and both of which were in pristine condition.

The first book, Solove's Information Privacy, posed no problems. However, the second book, Lowenstein's Election Law, caused the clerk to look at his existing inventory of that book. Returning to the front of the store after a few moments, he apologized and told me that he could not accept the returned book as "new," but only as "used"--a difference of about $30. The reason? The editions of that textbook on his shelves are all individually shrink wrapped. Mine wasn't.

Despite my protests, the clerk refused to give me the full refund. He did, however, write a note to the store manager (who was away at the time) explaining the situation, and said that any decision would be up to that manager.

Ridiculous, yes? I (and I'm sure many others as well) have returned books in the past for full refund, even though the book was missing shrink wrap. In addition, what about the situation in which a customer inadvertently buys a non-shrink-wrapped copy of the book? Suppose that before I arrived, another customer had removed the shrink wrap, looked at the book but then simply returned it to the shelf? What about the fact that other "new" books are sold without any shrink wrap to begin with?

True, the store does have a sign stating the requirements for returns and refunds. The sign DOES say that the books have to be in their original condition. But why not be explicit, and address the issue of shrink wrap? Adding such a statement shouldn't involve that much trouble or expense. However, the aggravation and misunderstanding it would save would be enormous.

Once again, a principle of customer service makes itself plain: the more you do to set customer expectations, the less chance an unhappy customer will result.

Comments or questions? I can be reached at csun@calvinsun.com.

About

Calvin Sun is an attorney who writes about technology and legal issues for TechRepublic.

8 comments
Joe_R
Joe_R

than the rest of the retail world, or so it seems. Especially when it comes to course textbooks, there's often no competition, so they can charge higher prices and deal with lower customer satisfaction.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

Sometimes - no, actually the great majority of times - it pays the reseller to swallow a bit of their own pride. For the sake of a shrink-wrap machine, or around a dollar at the local Kinkos - the issue is solved. But now they have a customer telling lots of other potential customers about their bad experience. I wonder which of those options will cost them more in the longer run? It can be a fine line as to what degree of flexibility is allowed - that comes with experience - but erring towards the customer, as a rule, pays dividends. Even when the client is a clown and simply should have known better. :)

Genera-nation
Genera-nation

Why were you returning the book?????

Calvin T Sun
Calvin T Sun

Hi, I'm unclear why the reason for my return is relevant. At any rate, most universities allow returns during the first week or two ("drop/add"), under the theory that students may change courses, and therefore no longer need the book. Having received this information, how does your view of the situation change? It sounds like you're OK with the store policy as is, and that I was wrong in asking for the full refund. I'm interested in your point of view. Thanks.

Genera-nation
Genera-nation

to see if you did in fact 'use' the book before returning. Hence it becomes a 'used' book. Shoes - I walked around in them for a couple off days but decided they were not my style. To my surprise I was not allowed a full refund!!!! Laptop - Used it for a couple off days, installed a few Apps but decided I did not want this model as my needs had suddenly changed. To my surprise I was not offered a refund!!!! Book - You tell me.....?

Calvin T Sun
Calvin T Sun

Yes, you're right. I should have made clear that what I bought was ONLY a book. That is, my purchase DID NOT include either a CD or any kind of online access code. If I had, then yes I would agree that I should not have received ANY refund at all, much less a partial refund. However, this was not the case. Thanks for pointing out the distinction. My original point remains: do you agree that the small incremental cost of including a notice that removal of shrink wrap renders the book as "used" would have been worth it, to save aggravation and misunderstanding? Thanks.

DadsPad
DadsPad

In the real world :) things like shinkwrap are a known return problem. Software that has it's shrink wrap or other sealer removed are not refundable. This is a result of being able to copy software/music or other media, then return. Hope this puts more light on the situation. Glad you had your problem resolved.

Calvin T Sun
Calvin T Sun

What about this hypo? I buy the book, relying on the professor's syllabus, take it to class, and before class starts, remove the shrink wrap. Professor comes in and says, "sorry, I put the wrong edition on the syllabus." I go back to bookstore, and I run into the shrink wrap issue again. Should I be allowed a full refund? By the way, I DID get a full refund in my "real" situation.

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