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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

A Tale of Two Returns

I was at Shopper's Drug Mart near my house earlier this week to pick up some medication when I gleefully noticed two things:

1. My PC Optimum app was offering me a special points bonus where I would earn 30,000 PC Points (equal to $30) if I spent $90 in-store that day.

2. Several brands of boxed chocolate were 50-70% off their regular price.

At this point, let me be clear about something: I'm not "cheap", I'm frugal.

I'm happy to spend money on quality products, services, and experiences, I just don't like paying more for them than absolutely necessary. I usually won't bother with price-matching, because I place a value on my time, and generally find the savings to be minimal and not worth the effort. But when it's relatively easy for me to get the best price, I do it.

So in addition to purchasing my medication, I also bought 12 boxes of chocolate. (Don't judge me: when you have four kids, it's very easy to give out 12 boxes of chocolate during the holidays.) The total came to $93.18. Mission accomplished.

Or so I thought.

When I got home, I read the fine-print of the offer, and was horrified to discover the bonus points were only awarded when you purchased $90 of goods before tax. My purchase, which was only $82.46 before HST, didn't qualify.

I mentioned I was frugal, right?

And so later that evening, I went back to the store with my receipt. I picked up another $10 worth of products, then walked over to the customer service desk, explained my mistake in not buying enough earlier in the day to qualify for the 30,000 point bonus offer, and said I would like to return all of the products I purchased (using just my receipt) and then immediately repurchase everything along with the new items.

I thought this would be really easy to do.


The cashier went to speak to her supervisor, an elderly lady who did not seem to be having a good day even before I arrived. After a few moments, the cashier returned and informed me I needed to physically have the products with me in order to return them. Wait... so I was expected to bring a 19-inch tower of chocolate from my home to the store, just to immediately bring it back home again? That seemed like wasted effort to me, which is why I hadn't brought anything with me but the receipt.

Anyone who knows me well already knows exactly what happened next.

But for those who don't, here's what I said: "Fine, no problem. I'm going to repurchase every product on that list right now, and then immediately return everything I don't need."

The cashier looked at me and asked, "Can you do that?"

I replied, "Of course! I'm allowed to buy stuff, and I'm allowed to return stuff. What's the problem?"

The supervisor, who was watching the interaction with a distinct scowl on her face, nodded to the cashier.

So that's what I did. I left my place in line, and went to collect all of the items on my original receipt. I waited until there was nobody else waiting to cash-out -- I'm not a monster! -- repurchased everything, and then used my old receipt -- the one from earlier in the day, without the new items on it -- to return everything I already had sitting at home from my previous visit.

In the end, I got exactly what I wanted... but with far more trouble both for me and for the store than what should have been necessary.*

But I wasn't done for the evening; I had another return to make.


Last week -- in an attempt to better equip my home gym after learning my CrossFit gym was permanently closing at the end of this month -- I purchased a set of gymnastic rings from Amazon.

Yesterday, my wife sent me a text to let me know that the rings were now 47% less expensive, and suggested I contact the company to ask if they would refund me the difference. (Again, frugal...)

I knew there was an easy way to get the lower cost: I could simply repurchase the item (at the new price), and then return my original purchase online using Amazon's intuitive and hassle-free return process. But that would involve me printing up a return label and physically mailing the product back to the company. It would involve more time for me, more shipping and packaging costs for the company, more carbon emissions for the environment... it just wasn't an ideal way to get what I wanted.

So I looked up the Customer Service number for, and was soon connected (somewhat ironically) to a man named Jeff.

I explained what I wanted to happen: could the company save everybody the trouble of shipping the product back and forth, and simply credit me the difference in price from last week to this week?

"Sir," Jeff informed me, "unfortunately, we don't do price matches."

"I'm not really asking for a price match, because both prices are from you. I was just wondering if there was an easier way for me to get the lower price than having to actually send the product back and forth... is there anything you can do?"

"Sir, let me check. Do you need a refund on your credit card, or would you be okay with an Amazon credit?"

I laughed, loudly. "Jeff, we sometimes get three separate Amazon packages delivered to my house in a single day. Yes, I'd be perfectly okay with a credit."

"Okay, sir, let me put you on hold for one moment."

Less than two minutes later, Jeff came back on the phone: "Sir, I've applied the difference in price to your account. The next time you buy something from us, it will automatically be applied to your purchase. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

"That's really great, Jeff, thank you. That's everything for today."

A few minutes later, I had an email in my inbox confirming what Jeff had told me, and asking me to rate my service experience. The final line of the email read, "Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company."


Two different retailers.

Two different returns... arguably, each of them equally unreasonable.

Two very different responses.

Amazon doesn't just call itself, "Earth's most customer-centric company".

They work hard to ensure that's true.

And their approach seems to be working.

- dp

* For the record, I did offer to return all of my "duplicate items" to their proper places on the shelves, but the cashier declined my assistance.


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