Mother's Day Lessons

Mauree Miller

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. I received great cards and gifts. Despite all of the retail hype for this holiday, sometimes the smallest gifts and gestures are the most treasured. Yes, I love the standards—perfume, jewelry, etc.—and I have my share of those. Better yet, my daughter finally found the Phantom of the Opera refrigerator magnet that I wanted. In addition to that, my son told me about “doing a Mauree.” Made my day!

My son is finishing graduate school and, for a final project, he needed CD holders. At the big box office supply store, there were many stacks to choose from that all pretty much looked the same. My son found a package on sale with a sign that said $10.99 for 10 holders with $5 off. Good deal, especially for a graduate student on a budget. The cashier rang up the purchase—$10.99. Where was the $5 off? My son directed her to the sale sign. She looked and looked and looked again. The ones that my son had chosen right by the sign were not the ones on sale. My son looked at the sign again, then again. Finally, he saw that she was right, but the sign was misleading. It took the two of them a little time to figure it out. The sign had been placed in front of the stack of CD cases where he found his pack. If the customer is in a hurry (and my son always is) it’s easy to scan the sign and make the appropriate assumption that it referred to the items behind it. Complicating matters further, the sign was written in such a way that the buyer (and the cashier) had difficulty telling which ones were on sale.

What to do, pay the full price or hold the store responsible for its misleading advertised special? Yeah, my son chose the latter! He politely pointed out the reasons the sign was misleading and asked the cashier to honor the sale price. She agreed with his argument and did the right thing in taking the $5 off. This is a small issue and purchase, but the $5 is better in my son’s pocket. And maybe the store will fix the sign or similar signs for future. 

I find it annoying when stores do this misleading advertising thing and they do it all of the time. Are they doing it to confuse the customer—thinking when a customer reaches the cash register with the non-sale item thinking it’s on sale and finds out it isn’t, the customer takes the line of least resistance and just pays the full price? (The paranoid way of looking at this, but possibly a valid one.) Or, is it more similar to when P.T. Barnum had a sign showing circus visitors to the “Egress,” leading them to believe that there was something new and exciting to see, when “Egress” simply means exit. Or, maybe it’s just non-thinking on the retail end? 

Supermarkets are notorious for this practice. The sign will be in front of the 18 ounce box of cereal, but when checking out I find that it applied to the 26 ounce box. (Small print on details, wrong sign placement.) What do I do? Depending on the situation, I either change the item or push them to honor the sale price. 

The most important piece of this story is that I taught my son to speak up, not to be embarrassed and that it matters, not just on the issue of $5, but on business practice in general. There is nothing that matters more in the world than teaching a child all of the things that will make him/her successful and reach full potential. In this situation, I can see that I am passing on something of value that my son appreciates and can practice himself. If we do this with our children, maybe we’ll change the world—sometimes in small ways, but maybe on to bigger issues.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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