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December 22, 2009

Erstwhile askings (II): Prices and promo codes

Continued from the previous post, two more from the past few days. Finally have time to catch up here:

4) An asker walks into a deli

There is a cute new deli that opened a few blocks from my house. It's tiny, with a talkative owner, and all the prices are written on little papers taped onto the shelves. I walked in the first time and salivated at the prosciutto, jamon serrano, chorizo, imported olives, sandwich offerings, and oh so many cheeses. At reasonable prices!! Adorable!!

I went back a few days later and ordered some goodies.

Dutifully devoured them.

And then: the dull thud of disappointment.

For, the third time I went back, I noticed something was amiss. Same goods, same nice employees. But the prices had nearly doubled. The prosciutto, for which I'd paid $10.45 /lb a week earlier, was more than $19/lb. More than at Whole Foods! The sandwich that previously cost $4.50 was now $7.50. The olives were almost double.

The horror.

I did the only thing I could: I asked. As nicely as I could. But I had to know.

"So, I'm wondering if this prosciutto is different from the one you were selling last week. Because it costs twice as much. Is it a different brand, or did you just raise your prices?"

(Kind of beating around the bush, but I didn't want to phrase it like an attack.)

"Um, mm, I dunno."


He was an employee, so I think I may just go back and ask the owner. I actually am curious. Of course they're figuring out their prices, having recently opened. And if they can get away with those prices, good for them.

What strikes me, though, is that the first round of prices were clearly profitable, since they wouldn't have charged an amount that left them at a loss. So why the sudden change? Maybe they talked to a consultant, or people in the neighborhood exclaimed "What a great deal!", or they just got greedy.

No problem. But now I am curious. It can be a case study. In how to alienate customers.

5) Honor the promo code you advertise your own website?

I wrapped up shopping for presents online. One merchant, Red Envelope, promised a 25 percent discount if I used paypal. "Discount applied at checkout."

I filled my 'cart,' as they say, and then I proceeded to the checkout page. No discount.

I tried again, but no go.

So I called Red Envelope and asked for help.

This wasn't a request for extra discounts or super savvy shopping. Simply an attempt to make their website work properly. And it failed. Despite the "25% off" splashed across the top of the page, she couldn't get me to the page where the discount actually kicked in, saying it's Pay Pal promotion so they're not responsible. And she couldn't honor it over the phone.

Then why was the promo advertised on their site? Why did they allow me to be enticed to fill up a virtual cart, expecting 25% off, only to discover it was a fallacious statement?

I think we call that a bait and switch, ladies and gentlemen.

Is that even legal?

Pink slip, Red Envelope.
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