Rewards and Incentives to Purchase Consumer Products - Part II

Here is one example of my experience purchasing a new cell phone.

Before purchasing the phone, I visited three retail stores. Two had good incentives and rewards. I asked questions particularly with regard to features and ease of transferring data from my current phone to the new phone. I made my selection based on features, cost, training either one site or through webinars, and on how knowledgeable the sales persons were to assist me in the operation of the phone.

My first major difficulty was on the day I picked up the phone and accessories. The sales person lacked the knowledge to transfer my service from AT&T to Verizon. After two hours, the manager arrived and knew how to transfer service providers. I was given about twelve pages of documents including a page which I was told had a link to obtain either Reward A or Reward B. I expressed that I wanted Reward B. The day before, B was sold out and the retailer knew it. In my view, the retailer committed fraud. I can either sue the retailer or file a complaint with the Maryland Consumer Protection office.

My next episode was with attempting to register the cell phone on-line. Over several weeks, I tried but my first name created an error when attempting the registration. The manufacturer’s on-line system did not register my phone until I decided to add two additional C’s to Fredric, my first name. I then was able to register my cell phone. The first time I sought to register my new cell phone and could not, I called the manufacturer, asked for Customer Service, was placed on hold for 35 minutes and then could no longer remain on hold. This continued for several weeks until the last day of the availability to receive the reward. That day I was on hold for 1 hour and 17 minutes and no one picked up my call. In the future I will never leave the retailer with coupons, links, mail-in rebates or registering on-line to obtain the Reward. Also, the sheet that the sales person gave me suggested that the reward was available but the fine print said “supplies are limited”. With the sales person explaining to go to the link, you may not realize that supplies are limited and, therefore, you will not ever get the reward.

I am persistent and obsessive about what I bargain for so I continued calling the manufacturer over the months of May and June. I spoke to Technical Assistance numerous times and registered a complaint. Three weeks after registering the complaint, I still had not been contacted. Finally, one of the technical people told me that although I could not receive Reward B, I was still eligible to receive Reward A. I was then connected to a Reward’s person who obtained my information and told me I would be contacted in three to five business days. I asked if I would then be told either way—approved or disapproved—and the Rewards person would not answer my question.

Time passed and then I got an email asking for the same information. I decided to write an email setting forth that Reward A was not satisfactory and explaining that I wanted Reward B. By then I had registered my cell phone and I thought that I would try to talk with people in the technical assistance area and possibly in the legal department. I spoke to a representative in the rewards department who said that there was no other option so I asked for the contact information of the legal department. I was transferred to a number of departments and each department representative said either he or she could not help me. The last person with whom I spoke happened to be in the appliance department and person gave me the mailing address of the president of the cell phone manufacturer as well as the email address of the president. I emailed the president and asked that my letter be forwarded to the legal department as I could not communicate with the president. As an attorney, I recognized that a large manufacturer would have lawyers either in-house or on retainer and therefore I should only speak with their lawyers. In the email I expressed the fact that before filing a lawsuit, I would like to talk with their lawyers.

I then received an email from the manufacturer’s president’s paralegal. That individual indicated that I would receive Reward B. I also explained to the paralegal that I had already received Reward A and asked if they would like me to return it. I was told to keep it.

You might say that all my efforts were worthwhile in that I ultimately received what I originally sought plus an additional reward. In my view, however, the amount of time I spent exceeded the benefits of the two rewards.