It’s been awhile since I tried to take a Blu-ray or DVD purchase back to the store. I remember a time when it was possible to return or exchange an unopened DVD, even without a receipt, for at least store credit. If a disc was opened and damaged, I could swap it out for a new copy. Merchants were accommodating and nice, making sure we got a good product and they got the sale. It made everyone happy, and produced loyal return business.
Sometime over the years, this has changed. I discovered this the ugly way last week when trying to swap out a Blu-ray combo pack I had received as a gift for the 3D version. Although I did not have a receipt, I didn’t think exchanging a mint-condition, unopened package, still in the plastic wrap, would be a problem.
Boy was I wrong!
First, I went to Best Buy, but without a receipt, I was turned away immediately. I was surprised, assuming that my local brick-and-mortar store would be the go-to place for excellent customer service. On this day, there was no apologies or well wishes, just a firm “No.”
Assuming this an anomaly, as, after all, big chains have lots of locations and employees, I called another location. This clerk was much friendlier, but again I was told that it would not be possible to exchange without a receipt. I trudged on.
But I had the same experience at Walmart. The customer service lady at Meijer was super nice and even brought a 3D copy to the counter, but before the transaction was completed, a manager stepped in and cut it off, telling me that store policy required a receipt. Target said they would exchange it, but didn’t have any 3D copies available at this time. I really didn’t want to wait the two weeks.
The more stores I contacted, the more I realized that this has become an industry-wide practice. I was completely confused and shocked. Why couldn’t they take my perfectly good, unused copy and put it back on the shelf? I was certainly willing to pay the price difference for a 3D version, but was not willing to drop $35 on a new copy of a film I already owned (albeit not in 3D).
Wanting to understand, I finally talked to a couple of friends who work at retailers not mentioned here. Both informed me that stores cannot resell a returned copy, no matter how pristine it is. It has to go back to the manufacturer, but that cannot be done with a disc not originally in a retailer’s inventory. And not having a receipt, I couldn’t prove which retailer my disc it came from.
In an age where viewers are increasingly shifting their focus to digital versions, and buying fewer physical copies than ever, why make things so much more restrictive for purchasers? I would certainly understand if a store declined to exchange an opened package, but when the one in my hand looks exactly the same as the one on the shelf, why can’t an exchange be made? To me, it is simply a case of bad customer service, and a policy that makes life more difficult for consumers, at a time when people can easily obtain the video without leaving their home, either legally or illegally, there will be little reason for people to return to stores.
In 2013, it feels like customer service is slipping in a great many areas. I just didn’t think it had reached these levels of ridiculous yet. All the more reason to stay home and find another, more practical use for your money.
At least, don’t accept the status quo. If you’re a customer and you can’t get what you want, don’t buy anything at all. I didn’t happen to spend money personally on this title, but I do purchase plenty of other releases. Now, I will think twice about which ones I buy, and from where I buy them. If you run store chain, push back against such terrible policies; they will cost you business. And if you happen to be an industry decision maker, think carefully about the direction in which the industry is heading, and don’t make dumb moves that will hurt everyone involved.