Consummate Consumerism“What part of we don’t give cash refunds don’t you understand, mate?”
The burly young bloke –whose body seemed to be bursting out of his short-sleeved shirt- placed his fat palms on the counter and leaned towards me, looking smug.
I had bought a telescope from the Army Surplus Store a few days earlier, thinking it would foster my son James’ interest in all things astronomical. I had been sure to ask the shop assistant whether the instrument would be suitable for use by a five year-old.
“Oh yeah, no worries,” he had assured me. “This is the perfect first telescope for kids.”
Alas, it was not. One of the screws for the bracket holding the barrel of the telescope to the top of the tripod had been cross-threaded during assembly and it had proved impossible to maintain a steady, level ba
I wanted my $300 back!
The simian on steroids behind the counter rummaged in a drawer and produced a screwdriver, then bent towards the offending bracket.
“I’m sorry... are you an approved Tasco repairman?” I asked, before he attempted to fix the problem. “Because if you’re not, you will void my warrantee.”
He looked at me with his lips stretched thin and tight across his teeth, eyes frozen with contempt.
“I’d like a cash refund, please.”
He slammed the screwdriver down on the counter and pointed to the sign between the shelves behind him.
“No... Cash... Refunds!” he hissed. “Is that clear enough?”
I began to repack the telescope in its box.
“OK,” I said. “I understand. But you’ll be hearing from me again soon.”
“Any time you like,” he snarled. “It won’t matter who you talk to, the answer will be the same.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A brief visit to my local library was enough to give me plenty of legal ammunition with which to defend my rights against the Army Surplus Store –and its surplus soldiers. With the help of a weighty volume on Australian Corporate and Consumer Law, I soon established that I had two solid legal grounds on which to request –and to receive- a cash refund:
The telescope was damaged when purchased and was therefore incapable of performing as described on the packaging;
It was not suitable for a five year-old to operate, contrary to the shop assistant’s assurances.
So I wrote to the store manager, quoting the appropriate statutes in support of my case and pointing out that the No Cash Refunds sign displayed behind the counter was in fact an illegal attempt to limit the rights of customers. Just displaying the sign made the store liable for a fine of up to $200 thousand.
I also promised that I would continuously picket the store during opening hours with a sign declaring Army Surplus Store Rips Off Children, until I got my money back.
A few days later, I received a phone call from the manager, telling me to bring the telescope back and he would personally refund my money.
“But you’d better come straight to my office, ‘cause the guys on the sales floor want to kill you.”
This sounded more than a hollow threat, given that the store sold guns, knives, bayonets and other weapons.
“I’m sorry?” I said. “Is that some kind of threat?”
I heard him take a hurried breath.
“No! No! Just a joke, Mr Dextrous... Tomorrow. Ten o’clock.”
On my way through the store to the manager’s office, I glanced towards the counter, where the ham-fisted man-ape, who had previously graced me with his impeccable customer relations, stood snarling. It was just a quick glance, but enough for me to notice the slightly lighter patch of wall between the shelves, where the store’s No Cash Refunds sign had been removed.
So they paid my $300 back. And I could, perhaps, have saved them $200 thousand.