Ok here's the background of this amazing eCommerce anecdote. My sister had ordered a barbie set from BabyOye.com, one of the online toy retailers, for our niece's birthday some time back. Since she couldn't personally attend the birthday (she stays in the US), this gift was supposed to get delivered to me in Gurgaon. Now a couple of days before the actual delivery happened, I was woken up from my afternoon slumber by a phone call from a Mumbai land line number (might be the distribution centre) asking for my contact details. With half-closed eyes I confirmed that it was indeed me who was supposed to receive the package on the given address. I couldn't give him any more attention than a customary confirmation call would require. But that was before he said something that made me turn around in bed and asked him to 'come again?' The guy on the other side repeated himself. This is not verbatim, but it is effectively more-or-less what transpired between me and him.
'Sir, it's very unfortunate that I've to make this call.The company has had some issues with our product vendors.'
'Since the date you ordered the Barbie Set, our vendors have increased the prices from their end.'
"So, Sir the set you bought for Rs. 1250/- is now Rs 1500/-..."
''Oh..Kay....but I've already paid for it, haven't I?'
'Yes Sir, but it's a rare case where the prices increased immediately after you placed the order.'
'So, shouldn't it apply to those who buy from your site after the prices are refreshed online?'
'Sir, you've a point..but the company is helpless in this situation because of the sudden upping of prices by the product vendors.'
'So, what exactly is your point now?'
'Sir, it is requested that when you receive the package at your house, can you please pay the remaining amount to the delivery guy?'
"Hmmm....Ok, here's a thing. I don't mind paying you another 250 bucks. When I can buy 1200/- rupee toy, I can buy a 1500/- one too. It's not that I can't pay you. It's just that I dont want to pay you. I am just not convinced why I should.'
'Sir, I understand your point, but as I told you the company is bound by the prices it buys from its vendors....and moreover..'
"Ok, tell me something.... have you ever gone to a vegetable market to buy vegetables for yourself?'
'I am asking you if you've ever gone to a vegetable market to buy vegetables?'
'Yes Sir, I've have'
'Has the vegetable vendor ever followed you back to your house and asked for another 50 rupees, just because from the time you actually bought the vegetables till the time you reached home, prices of onions, cauliflower and tomatoes had tripled - and you happen to buy two of those three? Has it ever happened?"
'You know why? Because the Sabjiwala is a smart guy, who knows that he'll not just lose his customer for good but also not get paid anything for putting up this moronic argument.Therefore...', I told him in short, succinct manner, 'I too will pay the price I placed the order at. And NOT a penny more.'
He very obediently sought permission to discuss the matter further with his boss and revert at the earliest. He called me back in another 10 mins and told me that the team has decided to forgo the extra money I ‘owed’ to them and that I don’t have to pay anything more than I already have. I told him that it is indeed the right decision and hung up.
By now, I was wide awake and thinking how less a margin do these guys play with. All this talk of paying extra was nothing but horseshit - they just needed a few gullible customers to cover up for the guy who made this mess by not updating the online prices on time. May be they operated on a Marketplace model and didn't keep an inventory. But that doesn't mean you transfer your additional costs arising out of operational lapses over to your customers, AFTER they've made the purchase. But more importantly, WHY would an impressive e-Commerce site in a niche area (mind you, they're one of the decent ones in toy industry) have to stoop to such a level? WHO's the brainchild behind setting your customer care guys on calling spree to retrieve as much lost booty as possible? And WHY would you want to lose a customer (my sister was a first timer there) forever and inflict an irreparable brand damage to yourself for a petty 250 bucks?? WHY??
e-Commerce is not just about a swanky, trendy website offering the coolest stuff around at the best prices. It's also about delivery, trust and a good after taste of shopping.