Social Proprietorship in Action

The holiday shopping season is hectic. This is a tale of how social proprietorship was able to fix something when a department store over promised and under delivered.

I am attracted to full page ads that offer large discounts. This particular department store has been offering major savings recently. The ads are very specific that the products are only available for one day at the special price.

When I saw that there was a sale on men‘s overcoats taking place this Sunday, I started to plan a shopping trip. On the way through the store, my wife and I stopped at the watch counter to pick out a watch for my son. We asked the clerk to set it aside, as it was a clearance item, and made our way to the clothing section.

We picked out an overcoat and went back to watch counter to pick up the watch. This store was advertising a one day promotion that gave an additional 25 percent discount if you used their credit card to pay for the purchase. We confirmed that the watch qualified for the discount and the clerk rang up the sale. That’s when the promise to deliver started to unravel.

The sale did not go through and the sales person was not able to sort out what the credit code failure meant. So she called the credit department while we waited and after spending ten minutes on the phone she handed it to me and said “they need you to verify some security questions”. I followed the automated prompts to supply my date of birth and heard a message that the credit department was closed on Sundays and that I should leave a message and they would call back.

Your credit department isn’t available on Sundays during the busiest shopping season of the year! You are advertising that shoppers get a 25 percent discount if they pay by credit card or that they can sign up for a card on the spot and get a 15 percent discount, but your credit department is not available to assist people. Over promised, under delivered!

You are not a social proprietorship.

We then offered to pay by cash as long as we would get the discount. Another clerk was enlisted to assist us and she was able to get a special phone number for the credit department. Although she got through, she was put on hold for 20 minutes without any live connection. At this point her social proprietorship skills went into action. She called the store manager and was given permission to process the sale with the discount and we paid in cash.

It was great to see that the sales staff work their way around an issue and satisfy a customer. However, management must take greater care in promoting something that they clearly were not ready to deliver. This is a lesson for anyone that wants to be a social proprietorship business. Deliver on what you promise!

Terry Heenan

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