Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?

April 23rd, 2018

Categories: Cheating, Children, Games, Winning

 

Photo: atlantaparent.com

Five years ago I wrote about toys and board games “light,” called “snack toys” by the industry because they are rigged to take less time for parents to play with their children than traditional Monopoly, Parcheesi and other games. Time continues to be a premium along with patience.

Today some parents cheat so their kids will win quickly or turn to technology to accelerate the process. Greg Bensinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal that parents “are palming cards, strategically adding pieces when the children aren’t looking and sometimes outright lying. Not without irony, some parents have used technology to make games go faster.”

In “Parents Rig Board Games To Lose Faster,” Bensinger reported that “Sales of games and puzzles in the U.S. grew 27% between 2015 and last year, hitting $2.09 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., far outpacing sales growth for all toys.”

Photo: poki.com

Data analyst Ethan Markowitz’s son can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders. He “says there are nine ladders and 10 chutes, ‘which means a bias toward losing.’ So he programmed a simulation of 10,000 two-player games, which showed the dreariness could last as many as 146 turns. His solution was to tape a new ladder to the board between space 47 and 72. That lowered the longest game to 110 moves.”

Another father, Barry Wise, president of a data analytics company, “suggests eliminating the longest chute, spanning square 87 to 24.” He “ran his own simulations of the popular games 200,000 times.” Wise recommends “avoiding Candy Land, with its 3.4% chance of running longer than 75 moves (compared with 0.76% for Chutes and Ladders), or eliminating the rule of sending pieces backward.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

One mother in the article hesitates to let her daughter win all the time as it doesn’t prepare her for life, though she admits to “miscounting spaces” to her daughter’s advantage to get the game to end sooner. Another told her teenage kids that she’d cheated when they were small, hiding the best cards and giving them to each during the game. She resorted to this because otherwise the “one quick game before bed” lasted endlessly so she felt forced to find a shortcut. Her kids don’t let her forget it.

“Hasbro Inc. plans this June to release a Cheaters Edition of Monopoly….The new edition will reward players who can, say, move a rival’s piece without notice or collect rent for an opponent’s property.” The impetus for this version wrote the reporter: More than half of respondents to a survey admitted to cheating at the game.

According to Bensinger, Candy Land “stands apart as the patron saint of board-game monotony.” Hasbro encourages people to change the rules as they see fit.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games? Did you play mostly with your parents, siblings or friends? Do you think adults have always cheated to end games faster or to let a child win? Did you cheat when playing with kids? Do you think you should always let a kid win or only sometimes? Are you surprised at the resurgence of popularity of traditional games?

Photo: pinterest.com

Service of Marketing Tone Deafness in a Global Economy

April 19th, 2018

Categories: Offensive, Sensitivity, Tone Deaf

Photo: Twitter.com

There are some things that seem so clearly offensive, at least to me, that I can’t understand why manufacturers need diversity, cultural-awareness and sensitivity committees and training to prevent them from producing distasteful products. They do need something: Common sense and a team of educated, aware marketers, design employees and independent contractors.

Photo: Crate & Barrel

Take the H&M hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” modeled by an African American child. In South African stores customers knocked over manikins and clothing racks where it was sold. You don’t need to be South African to find fault with hat hoodie. The same with Zara’s tee shirt: you don’t need to be Jewish to question the yellow star and its placement on the shirt, reminiscent of what Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. I wrote about a similar embellishment faux pas on a top in a post, “Service of What Were They Thinking?” in April, 2012.

Tiffany Hsu, in her New York Times article, “How to Prevent a Racist Hoodie,” listed these and more items such as shirts in which women were compared to dogs and other tops decorated with words like slut and slave.

With corporations selling to countries worldwide, I can see the necessity of knowledgeable people weeding out images and words that are benign in some places but not in others. But often the bad taste is glaring and obvious.

Photo: steemit.com

The major excuse manufacturers give for the blunders is lack of time to approve designs because so many are introduced at once and so quickly these days. One website introduces 4,500 a week wrote Hsu. An industry supply chain expert observed that it’s easy to overlook mistakes when you have two hours, not two months to approve a line. The hoodie and star, slut and slave should have been flagged in two seconds. Zara is using an algorithm to scan designs for offensive motifs. Good luck with that.

Another simple solution: stop introducing so many products that you don’t have time to vet them. H&M isn’t finding the model works that well for them. According to Hsu, it is currently “sitting on $4.3 billion in unsold goods…”

Photo: childhoodtraumarecovery.com

Let’s admit it: We can be too SENSITIVE these days. Some things are bound to slip by regardless of well-meaning measures. One example Hsu shared would have flown right over my head. She wrote: “Heineken pulled a series of commercials for light beer with the tagline ‘sometimes lighter is better,’ after an ad sparked criticism for being racist.” Before I finished reading to the end of the sentence I guessed the injured parties might have been people trying to lose weight. Wrong.

There was an image of a frog on a skirt that reminded some of a “cartoon character called Pepe, which was designated a hate symbol of the alt-right by the Anti-Defamation League,” wrote Hsu. I have seen neither cartoon but why would a Spanish artist who lives in London and is responsible for the frog in question design such a reptile for a skirt with hate and violence in mind? Wouldn’t he look for a more prominent object?

Waiting to pay at Trader Joe’s the other month someone left behind on a table just before checkout a carton of “Arrogant Bastard Ale.” I took a picture [below] because I thought it was such a stupid name for a drink, the result of a bad case of “aren’t we hip?” at the brewery. The marketers no doubt  hoped the carton filled with cold ones would stand out from the well known brands and appeal to would-be cool customers. I’ll take the Coors, Brooklyn Larger, Blue Moon or Rolling Rock.

How would you suggest companies determine the funny and hip from the nasty, offensive and cruel for their product designs and advertising campaigns? Have any offended you? Do you think some consumers can be too thin-skinned?

Service of a Newspaper’s Reporter Hemorrhage

April 16th, 2018

Categories: Firing, Greed, Newspapers

Photo: keithedwards.com

I’ve nibbled around the edges of this topic—the impact of the loss of local news delivered by newspapers—and the obvious major reasons for it: decreasing readership and advertising as well as advertising dollars moving elsewhere. A segment of “CBS This Morning” on Saturday covered the daring move by the Denver Post’s editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett.

“In the defiant and desperate editorial, Plunkett and a host of other writers criticized the paper’s hedge fund owners, Alden Global Capital, for slashing staff, and they warned Denver it may lose its century-and-a-half-old newspaper,” according to CBS’ Barry Peterson.

Barry Peterson. Photo: cbsnews.com

Said Plunkett: “We call out other people who we feel like [sic] aren’t doing their job or living up to their obligations. We should be able to call out our own owners, and that’s why I did it.” The impetus: another giant layoff at the paper, this time of 30 reporters. Photojournalist John Leyba was one: He’d worked at the paper for 30 years, since his first job in the photo lab at 19.

Aside: I’ve written here before that I’m alarmed by the few if any people to approach at major regional papers with news pitches. Syndicated stories are often the norm and the fact it’s harder for PR people to get out a client’s information is unimportant—we find ways. The resulting paucity of oversight of local businesses, government or organizations and the people who work for them is critical. Plunkett called it a paper’s watchdog role. Plus, it’s nice to know what’s going on where you live.

Photo: uft.org

Back to Peterson: “The striking editorial includes a photo filled with silhouettes of the journalists who were laid off or have left since the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. The various articles said the paper’s ranks have shriveled to around 60, placing blame squarely on what one writer called the ‘vulture capitalists’ at the hedge fund.”

Plunkett is looking to the Denver community and its civic leaders to “step in to save the flagship local newspaper.”

The CBS report continued: “Alden Global Capital is the primary equity holder in Digital First Media, which owns 97 newspapers. According to the NewsGuild union, some papers have lost more than 70 percent their workforce. A recent lawsuit alleges Alden mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars from the news chain.”

The dynamic at this paper does not seem to match what’s happening at many others where the wolf is at the door. “Media experts nationally and locally have reported that Alden is making a profit of around 20 percent.”

Do you feel that newspapers are so “last year” that they serve little purpose in today’s world? What, if anything, has taken their place—is drive time radio making a comeback or are online news resources and websites filling the gap? Where do you get local news? Do you think communities will suffer without the fourth estate’s role as a watchdog?

 

Photo: pinterest.com

 

Service of Learning Whatever You Do: Info About Pets You May Not Know

April 12th, 2018

Categories: Animals, Information, Pets

Ultimate Air Dogs competition @ Super Pet Expo

A college student in a PR class asked me “How can you represent something that’s boring?” My answer was “the more you know about a product or organization, the more interesting it becomes.” I’ve advised countless students and others to at least consider jobs that didn’t appeal at first. Why? You might surprise yourself.

Photo: Pig Placement Network

I knew it would be fun to publicize Super Pet Expo, coming up tomorrow at 3 pm and running through the weekend at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, because I love animals. I’ve owned and loved a few and have been a neighbor or relative to many. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn when I interviewed some of the people exhibiting or producing special events–a happy bonus.

For example, Did You Know……

  • How many wolves there are in the wild of New Jersey? Answer: None. They live mostly in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
  • The difference between a pot belly pig and a farm hog? Answer: As much as 920 lbs. Pot belly pigs grow from between 80-150 lbs.; farm hogs as much as 1,000 lbs.
  • What you can teach a pig to do? Answer: Sit, give a hoof, go through a tunnel and teeter-totter, just to name a few tricks. There are therapy pigs who visit schools and assisted living homes too.
  • What lure coursing is? Answer: It’s the sport for dogs that are born to chase.
  • How long cats remember? Answer: Cats learn quickly and have a long short-term environmental memory—16 hours—vs. 10 minutes for dogs.
  • Which reptiles make a good first pet? Answer: Several species of snakes’ feeding requirements are not demanding, requiring a meal once a week, and the upkeep of their habitats is fairly easy.
  • The Ultimate Air Dogs jumping record? Answer: A whippet jumped 30 feet 7 inches.

Cat agility

What do Ultimate Air Dogs do? Vic Sparano the trainer and judge said that visitors will see four-legged athletes soar through the air into a four-foot deep pool vying to win at four games: jumping the farthest; knocking down a “Fetch-It”  bumper; “Catch It,” and being fastest in the “Chase-It” swimming contest to win a coveted ribbon at the finals on Sunday.

The answers to the other questions came from Super Pet Expo founder/producer Eric Udler; Sheryl Rotondi, special events coordinator at the Pig Placement Network; Roeann Fulkerson, Director of Marketing and Business Development, The International Cat Association; Vinnie Reo, owner of Wolf Visions and Billy Healy, Repticon’s COO. The latter is a showcase of hundreds of reptiles and amphibians from around the world such as boas, pythons, bearded dragons, monitor lizards, skinks, turtles, tortoises and dart frogs, to name a few. Experts are on hand to tell prospective reptile owners about care and feeding.

At the show you’ll also see a pig who can paint. You can buy one of her “Pig-Cassos.” Friends Ruth, Jim and Ken lived for years with George, a smart marmalade colored cat who, on command, shook your hand. Have you known pets that did extraordinary things? Did you know most of the answers about pets in Q and A above? Have you had a job or client that you hesitated working for or representing but when you did, surprised you in a good way?

New pet bought at Super Pet Expo

Service of Goofy Things Kids Do: Overnight Challenges in Stores & Restaurants

April 9th, 2018

Categories: Adventure, Big Box Stores, Children, Goofing Off, Kids, Restaurant, Retail

Photo: guff.com

We made silly phone calls and tossed paper bags filled with water out the window into a courtyard to make a crashing sound to scare the neighbors. One Christmas Eve, kids–I assume it was kids–broke windows on the sidewalk side of every car parked outside the Brooklyn Museum. Ours was one. Kids who have no financial constraints steal candy and small items from stores for sport.

Photo: flickr.com

Jennifer Levitz, in “Where’s Your Teen Sleeping?” wrote about what some kids are up to these days. According to the sub-head of her Wall Street Journal story, they are “Adventure seekers hiding overnight in stores for ‘24-hour challenge’—and are really, really bored.” They hide in fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that close at night or hang out for 24 hours or more in those that stay open.

She wrote about the adventures of a few teens at a McDonald’s: “After the initial thrill of escaping detection, they passed the time by going down the small slide, flipping water bottles and filming themselves whispering in the dark.” Sleeping was hard. One tried to do so in a toy car.

“Young people boast of holding the overnight challenges in trampoline parks, bowling alleys, home improvement stores and supermarkets, too. Companies mostly seem perplexed,” Levitz reported.

What nutty things did you do when you were a kid and what wacky things do your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren do today?

Photo: tripadvisor.com

Service of Zoom Zoom: Benefits and Casualties

April 5th, 2018

Categories: Medical Care, Speed, Sports, Technology

Photo: zoomzoommag.com

Speed provides many benefits along with some casualties.

Photo: visionware.org

I’m grateful for advancements in medicine starting with glaucoma tests. I was very young when I had the first one when my father was diagnosed with glaucoma. It took forever, was uncomfortable and horrifying. Today’s test [photo right] is over in a flash. Thank goodness for dentists’ high speed drills. In another field, I’m grateful to see  links to articles shortly after they’ve been posted, as a result of pitches I’ve made on behalf of my clients. Thank you Google Alerts.

In “Service of Cooking Under Pressure” I wrote about the Instant Pot that works for many but blows up and intimidates others.

I heard about another casualty of our zoom-zoom expectations on the Len Berman and Michael Riedel morning show when they interviewed legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus earlier this week. Golf is losing players and followers among the young because it takes so long to play or watch on TV: 4 hours vs. 3 hours-and-change for most other sports. Nicklaus admitted that the golf pundits must figure out ways to speed things up.

Speaking of speed, do people still speed read today? It used to be a big thing that never caught on with me.

What do you appreciate that takes less time today than before? Are there some things that should be slow or shouldn’t–or simply can’t–be revved up?

Photo: golfdigest.com

Service of Civility II: BookTV Panel & Some Surprise Assessments

April 2nd, 2018

Categories: Civility, Fear, Hope

Photo: benice.org

 

A day after I heard about Laura Ingraham’s bullying one of the Parkland student survivor/spokespeople, hitting him below the belt on a very touchy subject –taunting him about four college rejections—I saw a fitting panel on BookTV covering the topic of why civility is important. With Geoffrey Cowan as moderator—USC Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership—panelists were Jon Meacham, author, presidential historian and executive editor at Random House; Tim Miller, Definers Public Affairs partner and Amie Parnes, reporter and co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”

Miller started. He’d been Jeb Bush’s 2016 communications director. While calling out the current president’s attacks on his then boss’s wife, he asked where do we draw the lines while pointing out that DT wasn’t the first in politics to step over some. He didn’t offer examples of but Meacham did when it was his turn to speak. He reminded us that one reason George Washington didn’t serve a third term was because he didn’t care for the incivility in politics and the attacks on him.

Meacham observed that civility is when “things are going my way;” that currently we are in a state of “strife and nature” and that in December, according to reporting in The New York Times, the current president told his transition staff to think of each day he is president as a TV show in which “I vanquish my enemies.” Meacham added that discord and disagreement are the oxygen of democracy. “We’re in the political equivalent of climate change: Some days hot, some cold.”

Jon Meacham Photo: Wikipedia.com

The president sets the political tone and those who reached out with hope have been the most successful, said Meacham. As examples he called out Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklyn D. Roosevelt and more recently, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan whom he called the architect of optimism. The Reagan anecdote he shared was the President’s description of a kid who finds a pile of manure in the living room and says, “There must be a pony in there somewhere.” The opposite were presidents who ran on a fist clenched in fear. This one thrives on a rhetoric of fear.

Parnes spoke of being an object of personal attack about her Hillary Clinton book and earlier when she was a journalist, with people threatening her and even attacking what she looks like. She observed that social media has made it worse. In this regard, Meacham said he’d told his kids, ages 15, 13 and nine, “don’t write on a computer what you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.” He added that keyboards have been much quieter in his house as a result. Miller blames social media less than tribalism. The common culture of the 50s and 60s was for white people, he said. Cowan chimed in that politics is determined by zip code these days.

Meacham observed that the press is far less ideologically driven than people think. “Give us a fight and that’s ideal.” The president takes advantage of this.

Photo: indianexpress.com

Back to Ingraham, who reminded me of a now well-regarded New York Times columnist who wrote a nasty piece in that paper’s Magazine section about Chelsea Clinton, all of 11, whom he called unattractive and awkward among other things. Bullying is dreadful dished out by anyone but worse when it’s adult vs. child. The Parkland student wasn’t passive—he reached out to Ingram’s advertisers and more than a dozen of them have dropped her show at this writing.

Meacham’s “civility is when things are going my way” may answer why so many feel we are in a period of incivility on steroids, sensed in politics since the 18th century.  Where do you stand?

Photo: aplacecalledhope.com

Service of Too Big and Too Powerful

March 29th, 2018

Categories: Advertising, Commercials, Health, Health Screening, PR, Public Relations, Publicity

In my line of work, I’m thrilled by the stories I bring to media that they embrace. I’m critical of some I read, see or hear when I think of a few appropriate leads I’ve proposed that were rejected by key players. The most glaring example of “how did this get past the editor/producer?” is the constant coverage by legitimate media that gave credibility to the shenanigans of the current chief of state when he started his campaign.

Photo: boldomatic.com

But PR, with its constraints, is the game I’m in and when I hit pay dirt I still get a thrill; when I don’t I try harder.

Richard Whitman’s commentary on Mediapost.com struck a nerve because he wrote about the advertising world that unlike PR pays for its communications and if what it sells is legitimate, gets in. The commentary dealt with an uncooperative gatekeeper setting up a roadblock for dissemination of essential information that could save young lives.

In “Cancer Awareness Campaign Supported by Google, But Apple Won’t Play Ball,” he wrote about an advertising campaign for the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation to “raise money and awareness to fight the disease via a set of testicle emojis that consumers can download for $3.99.”

Photo: emel.com

Whitman reports the foundation’s findings: There’s a 95 percent survival rate when the disease is detected early. Also, it is the leading cancer for boys/men 15 to 24.

The ad agency, Oberland, prepared the sticker packs to launch with April, Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Oberland reported that Apple’s reason for declining was: “Your sticker pack is not in compliance with the App Store Review guidelines.” Whitman commented: “Whatever that means.”

Photo: emojiisland.com

He wrote: “Oberland appealed, even sharing a note from the founder of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation — Kim Jones — which included a personal story of the passing of her son Jordan from the disease at the tragically early age of 22. But the appeal was denied.”

He concluded: “And Apple seems to be going out of its way to prevent that message from being heard by more people than it otherwise might. That’s a head scratcher.  What gives, Apple?”

Photo: psychmechanics.com

I once reported to an editor who would wrinkle her nose, hand copy back to me and say, “I don’t like it.” I’d ask what she didn’t like—the topic? the headline? the lead? It was my first magazine job and I was flummoxed when her only response was the look of disgust. Apple acted just the same. Someone could have said to Oberland, “this is what you must do for the app to be accepted.” Nobody did.

Advertising is a different game than PR. It’s more costly and those doing it have control of the message and where/when it plays. Or do they these days—when the gatekeeper to a crucial target audience is a giant corporation that carries a lot of weight? Is this a healthy precedent?

Photo: everydayinterviewtips.com

Service of the Last Straw, Bar None

March 26th, 2018

Categories: Health, Plastic, Pollution

Photo: the nibble.com

I love sipping from a straw: Always have. Straws are associated with happy drinks and times. On hot summer nights my mother made scrumptious ice cream sodas for dessert which we’d sip through straws. A whiskey sour with a straw makes a celebration of an ordinary Saturday night.

To read they may be an endangered species because they are considered a “‘gateway plastic’ in understanding the pollution problem,” makes me sad. They come in cheery colors. The paper ones, in mostly stripes, cost a fortune and disintegrate. Bars that use metal straws claim customers take them. One company makes biodegradable plastic straws. Wonder how much they cost.

Photo: hanfordsentinel.com

The gateway plastic quote above, by actor Adrian Grenier, was in Cara Lombardo’s Wall Street Journal article, “The War on Straws Is Coming to a Bar Near You.” Given the years since I first heard plastic bags were to be banned in NYC and still they are not, I may not have to say “bye-bye” to straws anytime soon.

Grenier started a #stopsucking social media campaign and “The Scotch Whisky Association and the makers of Absolut vodka and Tanqueray gin have announced plans to ban plastic straws and stirrers from their events.” Bacardi also nixes swizzle sticks. Pernod has deleted them from images, according to Lombardo.

She also reports that they are banned in some cities and in some bars you have to ask to get one like during the NYC water shortage when wait staff would confirm that you wanted a glass before automatically bringing one.

Photo: pinterest.com

One source estimated that we use 20 billion plastic straws annually. “Mia Freis Quinn, a spokeswoman for the [Plastics Industry] association, says the plastic straw’s detractors should focus on finding ways to recycle and recover them. Plastic straws, she says, play vital roles in everything from her children’s class projects to personal hygiene. ‘My dentist says if you’re not drinking water, you better be using a straw.’ The American Dental Association suggests using straws to prevent tooth erosion, recommending using a straw ‘palatally,’ placing the end behind the teeth.”

One straw proponent, fearing all the communicable diseases around, won’t drink from a glass in a restaurant if he’s not given a straw because he doesn’t want to touch a rim “other mouths have touched.” Another wondered how we’d drink milkshakes [a favorite food group] without them. To be able to drink a strawless frozen margarita a third “learned to tilt the glass to prevent blended ice from spilling on her face.”

Straws are nothing new. Lombardo wrote that the Sumerians used metal ones as early as 2,500 B.C. When I was a kid I was puzzled by the ones you’d get in bars in Europe that were actually made of straw. They were so thin and delicate you had to concentrate to extricate liquid from them.

Would you miss plastic straws if they were prohibited? Considering the huge amount of plastic used in packaging and bottles alone, do you think that barring straws is little more than a symbolic gesture in the face of the gigantic pollution issues we face? What do you like—or dislike—about them?

Paper straws. Photo: ebay.com

Service of Being Painted By the Same Brush

March 22nd, 2018

Categories: Aggressive sales, Cost Cuts, Customer Care, E-tailing, Retail, Service

Photo: brushesandmore.com

There are some companies set up so you can’t reach them and others you can contact but that don’t listen to sense: They see all customers as offenders. A grouchy or nutty customer or employee writes a terrible online review and the words glare back from the top of every Google search about you or your business. Just try to get rid of it even if insane and untrue. Same if a competitor trashes your restaurant or business on Yelp. Nightmare.

And now, a company you can reach but can’t reason with—Retail Equation—can forbid you from returning purchases or exchanging them to a particular store for a year according to its calculations, even if you’re innocent.

Khadeeja Safdar wrote “Retailers Crack Down on Serial Returners,” in The Wall Street Journal. I’m all for that: Cheaters and unreasonable customers are not my favorites. I recently wrote about 106 year old L.L. Bean’s tightening its generous return policy after too many abuses hurt their bottom line in “Service of Going Too Far: L.L. Bean Puts its Boot Down.” But with Retail Equation keeping track of returns and more for retailers, reasonable shoppers can be swept up in the fray and painted by the same brush as serial returners.

One Best Buy customer bought a bunch of cellphone cases as gifts for his kids, let his sons choose among the colors, planning to return the three they didn’t select. When he did his salesperson warned him that the returns would jeopardize future ones–and even exchanges–for a year even though he was well within the designated 15 day after purchase period.

Photo: videoblocks.com

He contacted Retail Equation that tracks returns for large corporations. His entire record showed returns of the three cellphone cases worth, in all, less than $90. The company refused to change its decision. According to Safdar the customer said: “I’m being made to feel like I committed a crime. When you say habitual returner, I’m thinking 27 videogames and 14 TVs.”

Safdar reported: “Stores have long used generous return guidelines to lure more customers, but such policies also invite abuse. Retailers estimate 11% of their sales are returned, and of those, 11% are likely fraudulent returns, according to a 2017 survey of 63 retailers by the National Retail Federation. Return fraud or abuse occurs when customers exploit the return process, such as requesting a refund for items they have used, stolen or bought somewhere else.”

WARNING: You could be on the Retail Equation’s black list if you return in store or online:

  • an expensive item
  • a significant percentage of purchases
  • something without a receipt
  • after the accepted period
  • things that are often stolen at that store
  • just as the store closes or
  • too many items at once

Photo: cartoonstock.com

In addition to Best Buy, other stores that use Retail Equation to track returns are Home Depot, J.C. Penney, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. If you want to protest your ban, you can call Best Buy at 1-866-764-6979 the Journal discovered when researching the story.

“It isn’t easy for shoppers to learn their standing before receiving a warning. Retailers typically don’t publicize their relationship with Retail Equation. And even if a customer tracks down his or her return report, it doesn’t include purchase history or other information used to generate a score. The report also doesn’t disclose the actual score or the thresholds for getting barred.”

I understand the reason for such a policy, but think it should be used judiciously and not be directed by a company that seems to treat every customer like a sleazy thief. Safdar didn’t say if the policy referred to gifts. What if you give your Aunt Millie a portable heater from Home Depot and her son had already bought her one? Who will be dunned and subsequently penalized for the return? Are customers supposed to keep unwanted items instead?  Have you been confronted with such a punishment? Does it make you think twice about using a vendor that resorts to such measures?

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