Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are Pagans Businesses Exempt from Personal Responsibility?

I just had a most unpleasant experience with a seller of books related to paganism and magic of some renown; Fields Books in San Francisco.

It turns out that I ordered a hardcover book from them today, dutifully gave them my credit card, and figured I'd be reading it in a couple of weeks once it wound its way through the pathetically slow US Postal Service. Not so!

About six hours after placing my order, I get an email stating that the price on the website was in error, and would I mind either accepting a paperback version of the book, or coughing up an additional $55.

Well, the lunacy of charging $75 for a book that is just now in print aside (it is not, I must point out, some rare out of print item), I am gobsmacked at the complete and utter lack of customer service awareness that this incident reveals.

Consider this. If I had walked into a brick-and-mortar store, found a copy of a hardcover book and paid for it, walked out the door, and then gotten a call six hours later, asking me to return to the store and either pay $55 more, or trade in the book in my possession for a paperback, no one on this earth would have considered that a right and proper thing for them to do.

Why, then, is it considered acceptable just because it's a website? If this had happened on Amazon.com, they would have swallowed their gum and given me what I bought at the price for which I bought it. I thought it was a law someplace. Are pagan businesses somehow not to be held accountable for their own mistakes? Any normal business would have swallowed the cost of their own mistake, changed the price on the website right away, and sent me the item I purchased at the price I was quoted. Not Fields Books, though. They are apparently some sort of charity, or think that I am (rather than a customer), and asked me to return my book or send them more money, despite the fact that it was they who screwed up and not me. In their reply email, they thanked me not to "trouble them" with my business again. No problem!

This is endemic in our society today. No one is willing to take responsibility for their own mistakes (or even to admit that they made one!) any more. One of the risks of operating a business is that sometimes, one will screw up and need to pay the price for doing so. For some reason, Fields Books thinks they are immune to that principle, and think that I should pay to make up for their mistake. I happen to disagree.

I have, of course, canceled the order, and will not only not be ordering any books from these people in the future, but I certainly will make a point of relating my own experience to anyone who happens to inquire about them specifically, pagan/magic booksellers in general. They need to man up and take responsibility for their own screw-up, and not expect it to be swept under the rug just because they're pagan.

Any other business would be expected to pay for their mistake. Why not them?

4 comments:

  1. It’s a common misconception, but there is no law requiring a business to honor an erroneous price in an advertisement. Many businesses will, just to keep their customers happy, but they are not required to do so.

    “If I had walked into a brick-and-mortar store,…”

    This is not quite the same situation, however. This is more analogous to you walking up to the register, getting your $75 out of your wallet, and then having the clerk tell you the price is incorrect. In this case, while many stores will still honor the erroneous price, many will not. In this instance, Field Books is not all that unusual.

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  2. Have a care, Eric. One of these days you'll actually post a positive comment, and I will drop dead from the shock.

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  3. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be PO'ed at them, just that their actions in this case weren’t unusual.

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  4. Actually, in Massachusetts, a seller has to honor the marked price- regardless if it was marked in error.

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