Just in time for this holiday season comes the latest tale of retail negotiation success.
I've been lusting after a new TV for awhile. Since our move, my old big-screen just hasn't been right. Could be the five flights of stairs it traveled in the move. Could be the two years of storage about a year into its life. Could be the massive amount of evening TV I watch. Whatever. In any event, the TV repair folks told me that the cost to repair substantially outweighs the value. Lucky (sorta') for me, the deterioration causes visible problems that are driving Tina batty. Hence my ability to actually look for a new TV.
The actual TV I'm interested in is irrelevant, so rather than bore you with the specifics, let's just call it X. X has been on sale recently, down about 45% from it's suggested retail price. I've been watching it on Amazon and at Best Buy and Amazon has beat BB by about $200. So I was still debating the merits of X with Tina when I looked online this morning and saw it for another $150 off - essentially 50% from its MSRP. Woo hoo! Time to buy!
But I had to get final approval so I couldn't click through quite yet.
A few minutes later and I was ready to go. I clicked 'Add to Cart' and just before I clicked Buy, I noticed that we were back to the pre-Black Friday price. Woah.
So rather than Buy, I called Amazon's customer service line. Invariably, I found "Peggy" (a person of obvious foreign persuasion, pretending to be in the US "for my comfort"). It only took her 10 minutes to verify my account because she couldn't spell, couldn't validate my physical address and for whatever reason, would ask me the same question over and over. But hey, once we got through that, I was confident that I would be able to explain my complicated issue to her and get resolution.
As Wayne Campbell might say "shah - and monkey's might fly outta' my butt!" But hey, I'm nothing if not patient. So I tried.
Twenty-five minutes later, we were no closer to resolution and nearly half that time had been spent with me on hold while Peggy tried to work things out on her end. Her eventual response? That I needed to talk with the folks in the "large items" area. But, of course, they were closed (it was only 8am ET, so I was agreeable). Peggy offered to take my phone number and have them call me back in an hour.
Perfect. No problem.
Five hours later (after we were back in the car, having spent the day at the Zoo), I still hadn't received a call, so I called back. [Now, what I didn't tell you was that I periodically called and after being on hold for 20-30 minutes at a time, decided to simply try later.] This time, I almost immediately got through. This support person was a native English speaker so we quickly got to the large item desk.
They explained that Amazon doesn't guaranty prices until you actually Buy. They also checked and told me that what I saw earlier in the day was "Sold by Amazon" and the one that was now in my cart was "Sold by" someone else, so Amazon had no power to make any changes. If I wanted X, I was going to have to pay the higher price. Grrrrr. No deal (at least not yet).
I finished driving home and checked my e-mail. Waiting for me was a "how'd we do" e-mail from Amazon. Ahhh... revenge. Only, I didn't want revenge, I simply wanted to say how things were for me. And, in my opinion, it wasn't great. So I gave the experience a bad grade. Amazon's automated process then asked me if I would be willing to let them take another chance to make it right - enter my phone number and let them call me. So I did.
A few seconds later, I get a call from Mike at Amazon. I explain the situation and he reiterates the earlier explanation of why they really can't do anything. So while he's considering what he might be able to do, Cameron is yammering in the background. This gives Mike the ability to be friendly... and for me to connect with Mike on a personal level. He's a dad, a grandfather and has been at Amazon for awhile. He was able to see that I've been an Amazon customer for more than a decade (they keep the entire history). We commiserated over the advances in technology and retail.
In between, however, I hear an opportunity - that if there's a TV that *Amazon* sells, Amazon can budge on price. I quickly locate the model of X that Amazon does sell - one model more advanced (this one has 3D, even though I don't need/want it), let's call it X+. Unfortunately, it's also a little more expensive. I give Mike the updated model number and he pulls it up on his end. I ask him if he can "work with me".
While he's checking (as he realizes I've asked for a pretty significant discount), we keep chatting. A few minutes elapses. He tells me that no one has responded to his inquiry, so he's going to go ahead and do it. A few seconds later, I get X+ for the earlier advertised price of X. Schweet.
Effective savings: >$300 off retail. >$1000 off MSRP.
Cost: 3 phone calls and some schmoozing.
Totally worth it.