What happens when online retailers makes mistakes in their pricing and customers buy the products? Should they honor the orders or not? If they do honor the order, how will that affect their image?
A similar incident happened today with an online retailer in Malawi that sells pumps, solar equipments and inverters, BlueZone Ltd. (Malawi). I don’t know much about BlueZone, but I know they carry good brand items at fair prices, something hard to find here in Malawi. Let me tell you the story.
In 2014, someone from Austria bought us a submersible pump that we have now finally installed. The pump works great but we don’t know if it has run-dry protection or not. You see, the pump is very powerful (5,000 L/hour or 1.320 gallons per hour) and draws the water faster than the well can replenish itself. Without a run-dry protection, the pump will burn itself out if it is allowed to run when there is no water. Being deep in the ground, one cannot know for sure if water is available to the pump at any given moment, so the risks are great. We need a submersible pump with all the necessary sensors preinstalled.
Today I decided to look online and see what I can find. I knew about BlueZone from a friend and I knew they have a web shop. Scrolling through all the available submersible pumps I discovered one that was so cheap, I couldn’t say no to it. Actually, it was 0 euros. Now before you shake your head, hear me out. BlueZone may not be legally bound to honor such orders where someone made a mistake, but in the same time, who says I, as a customer, cannot press “BUY”? I mean, it is remotely possible that BlueZone wanted to leave a gem in and reward good customers who actually surf through their website, right? Right?
Anyways, long story short, I made the “purchase” and left a note: “I trust you will honor my order.” The order went through, I received the automatic emails that confirm your purchase and I was waiting for them to contact me. And contact me they did. Actually, the big boss who is a Danish citizen I believe, wrote me the following email. His name is hidden by me.
Dear Mr Ovi Cornea.
Although we appreciate your registration and high level of humor,- we unfortunately have to decline your order.
The Bluezone web-shop is now closed and until we have fixed this obvious error.
Your contact is appreciated.
K** G***** J********
In all fairness, I wasn’t joking when I placed my order, but I can understand them not willing to sell me an expensive pump for 0 euros. This is not a matter of legal rights, but of public relations. Online retailers have made these types of mistakes in the past and they chose to honor them, in order to show where their values lie: in their customers. In the same time, other retailers cancelled the orders, like in my case, and moved on.
It was an interesting experience for me and I definitely appreciate the email from the big boss. One cannot expect a small shop like this to lose so much, can we? Or maybe they should? Promises made in our loss should still be kept, right? Or maybe a confirmed order is not a promise?
At any rate, Bluezone is a great company with some great people. They stock good, quality products at very competitive prices and they even offer warranty, something very rare to happen here in Malawi. I, for one, will not cease to shop from them whenever I can, because they offer some of the best deals in the country. Nonetheless, I would’ve been extremely impressed to see them honoring this order? That would’ve spoken loads about them. Or, if they didn’t want to/couldn’t honor the full order, maybe they could’ve given me 20% discount on my next purchase or maybe even a good Danish coffee with the owner. I am sure we would’ve had a great time, laughing this thing off.
Business is important and profits are vital. All companies claim they value their customers, but do they really do it?
UPDATE Nov 25, 2016
Yesterday I received a phone call from one of the employees at BlueZone. He said the boss told them to give me a t-shirt, I guess for consolation prize :). Today, the t-shirt arrived in the mail. I must say, it is a very good quality polo shirt, probably made with hot weather in mind. Kind of like my Cool 18s. Lita is very happy with it since it is for women :).