Get caught for doing something good.

A friend who worked for a large UK home-wares retailer was saying that the company regularly kept a line of sofas on display priced at £1,000 for two months a year solely so they could sell the sofa at a sale price of £500 for the other 10 months.

The twist to her story was describing what happened when a company-employed mystery shopper came in and enquired about the sofa when it was at the higher price point and was told by a member of staff that if they waited two weeks they may find that it was in the sale.

Afterwards, the company criticised its team at the store for their behaviour, saying they should not have drawn the lower price available two weeks away to the “customer’s” attention.

On Tuesday, the banks in England agreed to stop charging holidaymakers who pay for foreign currency with their debit cards a 2.5 per cent fee for essentially using their own cash. Foreign currency providers also agreed to better market “0 per cent” deals that are not free.

This reminded me that I had paid for some currency at an airport in September and used my debit card. Previously I had always taken the cash out a cashpoint and paid that way (possibly because I had read some advice to do it this way) but this time I used a debit card as the cashier told me there would be no charge. He did not advise me that the best thing to do was to use the cashpoint machine right next to his desk.

What connects these two stories is the way that marketing compromises the retailer’s relationship with the customer and with their staff. There is nothing wrong with being creative in how you price goods and clever pricing helps many shoppers understand the value they can receive from products and services. But the best retailers always get caught trying to find the best deal for their shoppers.


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