Of all the things to complain about I would have thought that having to pay less than £1 for something would be quite low down the list. Not for one customer however, who deemed it necessary not only to complain to me but also to the customer service desk when she couldn't get me to agree with her that she shouldn't pay it.
First, some background. We offer, as do most photo labs, a photo CD service where we can put either pictures from film or digital images onto a CD for you to use at home. This is a fairly popular service (we go through close to 400 CDs a week at this time of year) and one which we're told to try and upsell when we're taking films from customers. We also offer extra sets at the same time and if someone mentions they will be wanting a lot of reprints done once they've seen the pictures I always strongly recommend it as prints from CD can be up to 54p cheaper per print than reprints from negatives. Case in point, I had a customer spend £37 on reprints recently whereas the equivalent prints from CD would have cost him as little as £7.
To advertise this service we have a large poster on the back wall which basically says photo CD and the price. This price is for the disc only so if you have 100 digital images and a CD copy, it will cost you the price of the prints plus the price of the CD. Likewise if you have a film and would like a CD copy with the pictures, it will cost you the price of the pictures plus the price of the CD. Simple, right?
Well apparently not. This customer wanted to have her film put on the CD without having any pictures printed but was apparently expecting to pay just the price of the CD for this. Now, when doing this we make a small, 99p, charge for the development of the film (and I suppose also partly for our time and the cost of the index print) in addition to the cost of the CD. There have been a few people in the past who haven't realised that we make this additional charge (I don't think we're unique in doing so, but correct me if I'm wrong) so I always make a point of explaining it to everyone who asks for the service. In the 18 months I've been working in the photo lab this is the first time anyone has ever objected to paying it. Since it's a relatively rare request it's fairer to make an additional charge rather than make the CD more expensive for everyone.
Anyway, when I told this customer that there would be the additional development charge she questioned it (this has never happened before either, most people just agree) and asked why we were advertising the CD at one price and charging her more when she just wanted a CD. I explained to her that the advertised price was for the CD only as it covered digital as well as film. She then questioned again why we were advertising it at one price and then charging her 99p more. Fair enough, perhaps I didn't make myself clear enough first time round, so I tried again:
ME: "The advertised price is for the actual CD itself, i.e. the cost of the disc in addition to any other services, so if you were to have the pictures printed as well it would be added on to the cost of that"
CUSTOMER: "But I don't want the pictures, just the CD"
ME: "I know that, and that will be [the price of the disc plus 99p] because we have to make a 99p charge for developing the film"
CUSTOMER: "But it says [price] up there"
ME: "Yes, I know it does, but's that the price of the CD on it's own. The development of the film is additional. Let me put it another way, if you were to order just the pictures, that development charge would be included in the price. We can't advertise the price of the CD including the development charge because for 95% of our customers that would be wrong. So instead we advertise the cost of the disc on it's own."
CUSTOMER: "Well that's very misleading, you should have that taken down"
I could have argued that it wasn't wrong, but I was quite busy at the time so just wanted to take her order and move on. Thankfully, she dropped the matter and agreed to pay the development charge, although I could tell she wasn't happy about it. I was waiting for her complaining about having to pay in advance, but she didn't. Instead, she paid up and moved to the customer service desk to complain there. Since I was quite busy I didn't hear everything but I think it basically centered around the fact that the POS poster was wrong and should be removed. I amused to hear the customer service person tell her it wasn't wrong at all and basically tell her what I had just finished telling her. Unbeknown to her, she got the person on there at the time who is photo lab trained and thus knows what she is talking about. However, if she had been "helped" by anyone else on there they would have checked with us first anyway before telling her she was wrong.
Now, I can understand why some people might think that a film onto a CD only would cost the advertised price. However, as I mentioned earlier, it's not practical to mention the development charge or include it in the price. It is mentioned in the small print, but you need to be almost directly underneath it to read that, not several feet away. Most people are more than happy to pay the additional charge when it's explained to them. Usually all we have to say is something like "that will cost [price] because there's a 99p development charge as well" and people will agree straight away. It's such a small amount after all, I could understand it if we were adding a few quid onto it, but it's only 99p. Like I said, nobody had ever questioned it or made a fuss before this customer.
Is the POS in any way misleading? No, I don't think it is. I would be inclined to say yes it was if it said something like "Your pictures on CD, just [price]" or something like that. If it said that then I think it would be fair to assume that if you wanted a film put just on CD it would cost the price advertised and no more. However, the POS reads, word for word, "Photo CD, only [price]". There's a couple of generic pictures below that, as there are on all of our POS posters and then the small print below that. The small print just mentions the maximum amount of pictures which can be put onto CD, one CD for each film and the additional development charge. There's also the usual subject to availability stuff and the fact that due to circumstances beyond our control we can't offer a 100% cast iron guarantee that things will be ready when we say they will be.
Who knows, maybe I'm wrong here, but I think there would have been a few more complaints in 18 months if I am (the same basic poster has been there all the time, just in it's standard, winter, Christmas and summer varieties - technically they're all up there and we just rotate as necessary). Let me know via the comments if you agree or disagree.