Re Tales – Part Three – ” I Saw It On A Website. “

In the good old days ( Elvis, dinosaurs) the potential customer would have come in and said ” I saw it in the newspaper. ” or ” I saw it in a magazine. “. Occasionally the special ones fronted the counter and said ” I saw it written in letters of fire in the sky. “. It paid to not doubt them.

Now it is  ” I saw it on the internet. ” What they saw may have been an announcement of a new product or the discontinuation of an old one. Or a recall of exploding bed socks. Whatever, they’ve come into the shop with knowledge of something. The knowledge is valuable to them and it might be so for the shop assistant as well.

If the thing they saw was on the website of the shop where they are, the shop assistant can pray silently that the website had the correct price, image, and stock level for the goods. And that the thing that was shown is still somewhere on the premises.  Even if it is holding the loo door open, at least it exists. Unfortunately there is a gap between what the best IT department can show and what can be plonked on the counter.

If the thing they saw was on another shop’s site all hell could break loose – particularly if the ” shop ” is some vague web address in Kowloon. The customer has taken the internet information as the word of God and any attempt on the part of the shop assistant to explain that it is unrealistic here in Australia will fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately deaf ears are sometimes attached to loud mouths and angry tempers. These are fine, as long as they can be confined within the head of the customer. Like road rage, let someone else experience it.

No shop assistant is required by any law – of God, the land, economics, or thermodynamics – to match any price that is waved at them from a mobile phone screen. That may or may not be a real offer from a real seller, but it is not a seller who is paying rent on the premises, wages to the staff, or buying paper for the shop loo. The shop price should be fair and calculated to give adequate return to the proprietor for the effort of business – it is most often just that, and any attempt to oyster-knife discounts based on a badly-spelled website can best be referred back to Kowloon.

Or Wuhan.

Chisel, Chisel, Chisel…BOOM!

Haggling and bargaining is more common in Australia than it was 30 years ago. I won’t say from whence came the practice, nor to where I wish the practitioners would go, but let me record my admiration for Japanese commercial culture – the price stated on their retail goods is the price that is paid. Would that this were the norm for other people.

Haggling is also known in Canada as chiselling – and it has a bad connotation for many of us. We put up with it when necessary, but it is the sort of behaviour that causes us to reconsider whether or not the sale itself is necessary.

I recently put some items up for sale on the Gumtree site. A couple of items sold, a couple of them did not – one piece was offered as a trade or swap and it resulted in a very pleasing bargain for both myself and the other party. I’m delighted with the model airplane I got in the swap.

This cycle of ads brought what I can only describe as an onslaught from another would-be buyer. The price asked in the advertisement was routinely halved by him. And then on each refusal he upped it by $ 5. A final price given from me was underbid by – you guessed it – $ 5. All the while urgent messages came that he would call in in half an hour, etc.

Upon reflection, I went back and scrubbed the price from the advertisements and substituted an offer to trade the goods for unbuilt model airplane kits. It worked a treat before, and it might work again – and no more $ 5 haggling. I added more goods into the offer.

Today I got a message from the chiseller. Was I still interested? He was figuring that I was under some sort of pressure and would cave in overnight. I’m actually curious to see if he reacts at all to the new terms of engagement or whether he realises that he chiselled himself out of a good deal by being greedy for $ 5.

Bumtree

I have made use of the free selling site and app called Gumtree on several occasions in the past and have been delighted with the results.

While not everything has sold quickly, in most cases something has gone within a three week period, and if I have priced things fairly, it has all been good. But I am wondering about the thing lately.

I accept that there are some items that cannot be sold over this medium. I do not seek to sell them. Yet, when the rulemakers start to be arbitrary about the things – accepting one item and rejecting its brother – you wonder whether they are really smart enough to understand the difference between legal and illegal.

Further, while the listings are easy enough to put up, the first response to many of the careful prices is a flat 30% offer. That’s desultory and predatory at the same time, though not illegal in itself. I always thank the responder for the offer and if I can make any accommodation, I will do so…but the accommodation is a final thing.

Then it starts to get interesting. As soon as the accommodation is suggested, a series of barriers or extra demands are raised. Can the item be sent to the other side of the country at the accommodation price ( ignoring shipping costs ) and is there a vast range of accessories included free with it? Can a friend pick it up and pay by cheque? The odour of fish grows stronger with each text message.

The only saving grace with this is the fact that the advertisement is free in the first place and no goods ever have to be handed over without cash being exchanged on the spot. On all occasions when this has been the case, the deal has been good.

Well caveat emptor et vendor. It is the sort of activity that can be carried out while other things are going on, and no-one can force a sale either way. But if the buyers really do want to do business, they’ll have to do it with dignity. It ain’t a verge collection.