I went to Target the other day to return a pair of boys tennis shoes whose soles started separating from the bottom of the shoes after 10 days of use. The first thing out of the mouth of the Customer Service Representative AND the Store Manager was “It’s not our policy to take back used items”. Hum, good experience or bad? Were my future purchasing decisions impacted? You betcha.

I decided to check out Target’s return policy posted online. Nowhere did I see anything mentioned about a customer not being able to return used items.

This is a classic example of a company policy that was probably made with the best intention to limit abuse, but instead left a bad impression—one that reflects “We don’t stand behind our defective merchandise”.

With my receipt in hand, and a defective pair of shoes, the customer service rep behind the counter said, “If you hadn’t worn them, we’d be able to take them back.” My first reaction, “Really? Are you serious?” How could I have known the item was defective without wearing them first? Clearly the soles weren’t coming off when I had them in the box.”

When the store manager finally came out, giving me the same answer, I persisted for a solution. Her reply was, “For a ONE TIME COURTESY, you can exchange the shoes for another like pair.”

Great! I was finally offered a solution to my problem, but now I am made to feel like an “annoying customer” that the manager needed to appease to get me to go away. Why didn’t she offer me a product exchange to begin with?

Consider the same scenario played out, without the store “policy” detracting from my customer experience:

LC: Good morning, “I purchased these shoes for my son for school. I brought my receipt to show you. After 10 days of use, the soles are coming off. Is there anything you can do for me?”

Target: “I’m sorry you ended up with a defective product. A $25 pair of shoes should never have fallen apart like that after 10 days of use. Would you like to exchange the shoes for a new pair?” To create a “WOW” experience, they could have even offered to fetch the shoes for me, instead of making me get them myself.

Lost opportunity.

Little did they know, I was a raving fan of Target up until that faithful day I stepped inside their Returns Department. I shopped there at least once a week for my kids’ school supplies, birthday gifts, cards, household items, bedding, the list goes on. After that experience, I’m not a raving fan anymore. Now, I’m writing a blog post about it, and I am selective about the items I purchase there.

If your company has policies in place that adversely affect your customers, you ought to consider changing them immediately. Don’t make the same mistake Target did.