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Dear Customer - Come Back ONLY if You're Buying!


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There is a cable in the back of my car that cost about $37, with tax.

I bought it because I thought I needed it as an Internet connection, but as it turned out, I didn’t.

It has been dwelling in my car, nestled deep in the rumples of the beach blanket, or half-squeezed into the netherworld between the hatch and the back seat, for better than a year.

Why don’t I return it to the retailer and get a refund or at least a credit toward something else?

I’m not lazy. Heck, I’ll drive a half a mile out of my way to save a dime on a gallon of gas.

My problem is when I imagine returning it, I ANTICIPATE DISSATISFACTION, in the form of poor treatment, having to do verbal combat, and possibly wasting my time by being told to get lost.

I envision walking into the store, being shuttled from one clerk to the next, standing in lines, explaining my rationale more than once for returning the cable, and then being told that the policy prevents them from giving me what I want.

Or, some bozo will tell me with pursed lips, “We’ll only do this ONCE, ” which has become somewhat of a mantra of CSR’s at Citibank.

So, there is an unconscious calculus that I do as I am reminded the cable is still residing in the shadows. If it takes me an hour to return the cable, given drive time, parking time, and transaction time, and it puts me into a negative frame of mind so subsequent hours become tainted, I’m losing money, and more important, peace of mind, even if they hand me my cash back.

I’m interested in this because it is an under-reported phenomenon.

ANTICIPATORY DISSATISFACTION isn’t on the radar at all of customer service people and the consultants and pollsters that serve them.

But this sort of dread keeps us from coming back. It eats away at customer retention and loyalty, and of course, it diminishes profits.

Retailers jump through hoops and invest fortunes in advertising to bring us into stores, but then they virtually tell us to stay away if we have an item to return.

“Come back ONLY if you’re buying, ” seems to be their lopsided offer.

But it isn’t a good deal, for us, or for them.

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books and more than a thousand articles. A frequent expert commentator on radio and TV, he is quoted often in prominent publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Business Week. His seminars and training programs are sponsored internationally and he is a top-rated faculty member at more than 40 universities. Dynamic, experienced, and lots of fun, Gary brings more than two decades of solid management and consulting experience to the table, along with the best academic preparation and credentials in the speaking and training industry. Holder of a Ph. D. from the Annenberg School For Communication at USC, an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, and a law degree from Loyola, his clients include several Fortune 1000 companies along with successful family owned and operated firms. Much more than a “talking head, ” Gary is a top mind that you'll enjoy working with and putting to use. He can be reached at:


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