Holiday Shopping

So I was shopping with my sister and mom and son yesterday at a The Apple Barn in the Opry Mills Mall. The store sells a variety of items having to do with apples--butter, decor items, clothing, books, actual apples, gift baskets, dishes,'s a very large store, with two locations in this state. They have a bakery where you can go and get handmade fried apple pies, frozen cider, hot cider, etc. It's one of my favorite places to go in this mall. It's about the most unique and home-y store in the mall and I trully enjoy going there. (If Stacy Julian ever comes to town, I'm going to volunteer to take her there! She would love it!)

So as we are checking out, I noticed that there is a small sign posted near the cash register that says something along the lines of "We know that sometimes accidents happen and we are happy to share the cost of breaking or damaging a product with the responsible customer by only charging 50 percent of the price."

Insert *confused* look here.

Now ya'll know I am *all* for personal responsibility, but "you break it, you buy it (even at 50 Percent off)" ?? I have never seen this be a store policy before--he only place I've ever seen this is at flea markets...where there are signs posted every 12 inches informing you of your risk. Seems like breakage should be considered a cost of doing business and keeping customers. They sure had everything out and available for handling...

I was a little shocked. It got me to wondering if other places are this way and I've just never noticed. Is it unusual?

My only problem with the policy is that it's stated on a very small sign...less than a half a sheet of paper...not in an overly obvious place. Seems like if I am taking a huge risk by shopping or even brosing there, I should at least be made aware of it long before I get to the checkout. We shopped for more than an hour before I knew about the policy...because it's posted at the check out.

Another question that plagues me: what will they do if a cash-only customer (like me) accidentally breaks that $300 platter? I (maybe) have $50 or $75 in my pocket. I am far more likely to be browsing than actually doing heavy-duty shopping so I typically don't carry much cash. Will they call the police? What is the procedure for forcing a customer without enough money on her person to pay for something? Will I have to wash dishes in the kitchen..or what?

For the record, I have worked in several retail establishments and the breakage policy was always to remove the tags and turn the label in so that it could be deducted from the inventory as "damaged". It was a cost of doing business. There was never a charge to the fact we were trained to be curteous to the customer, make sure they weren't hurt, and soothe any embarrassment they may feel. Yes, it is a loss to the store, but again, that's just a cost of doing business.

Last week, I was the mom who walked past a display of resin Santa figurines in Hobby Lobby and my jacket sleeve brushing against one was enough to send it crashing to the floor. I scooped up the pieces of the $4 item and took it with me to the check out. I told the cashier what happened, apologized, and she reassurred me that it happened often and she would take care of the broken pieces. While I was prepared to pay for it if they insisted, she didn't even bring it up.

There is no way I would have walked away without handling the matter. What kind of message about personal responsibility would that send to my children? Not a good one. Even if the boys hadn't been there, I would have done the same thing. It's just the right thing to do. I wouldn't want someone else to trip and fall on the broken pieces or a child to get cut picking it up off the floor.

I guess there is a fine line. I am all for being responsible but I am also a customer and, given my past training, have come to expect a certain level of *grace* while I shop in your store. If you aren't going to extend me the presumably normal amount of grace, I should be informed before I enter or upon entry about the risk I am taking.

In 20 years of being a shopper, I have only broken one item. That's a pretty good track record, right?

I can guarantee you that if I were *forced* to pay for something I broke in a store, I would never return to shop there again. I'm not sure I will be returning to The Apple Barn. I'm not sure I feel comfortable taking such a risk for a few minutes of shopping pleasure.

At least if I shop online I can't break anything.


Debby said...

Very interesting Sarah. Unlike you, I've not ever worked in retail and really had no idea of the policies that are actually in use. However, I was shop with the "you break, you buy" policy in mind, I guess because that was how my mother taught me. Fortunately, I've never had to find out as I've not broken anything thus far. It's good to know that, though I'd be prepared to pay, in most places I wouldn't be expected to do so. Thanks for the info. And thanks again for a lovely evening Friday! I enjoyed meeting Deb and spending time with your family!

Sarah said...

The more I think about this the more confused I get, Debby. :) My mother often said the same thing--"Don't you touch because if you break something, we will have to buy it." The concept, as a matter of principle, is "in me" and I guess I didn't realize it. I didn't hesitate to think about it until saw the sign that made it an *official* policy right after I had just run my hand across a $300 platter. (Had I known it was $300, I wouldn't have touched it...LOL!)

When it was a $4 Santa at issue, I didn't hesitate and I would have paid for it had the cashier mentioned it. While I didn't intentionally brush against it, I know that my jacket is kinda swishy and could result in an accident. I could have taken it off to prevent the problem.

I just wondered what they/we would have done.

One of the peas mentioned this morning that a certain amount of "shrinkage" is built into the cost of products...consumers are paying a portion to cover the costs of theft, breakage, postage, advertising, cashiers, etc when we purchase a product.

I guess it's obvious I'm still working thru this. Thanks for helping.

I had a nice time on Friday too. When you left my sister said "You have such cool friends." She's right, of course.

TracieClaiborne said...

That is quite a quandary. I broke something recently at TJ Maxx and was mortified! I was in line and there was a Halloween "ghost" cookie jar or something like that. I picked it up by the lid to see the price and the jar fell to the floor with a crash! They should have had it taped together. I was soooo embarrassed and offered to pay for it but of course I didn't really want to!!! They kept saying don't worry about it, it's okay, happens all the time...

I feel really good about TJ's now and not too good about Apple Barn. I will say this - Apple Barn is a family business. There's Pigeon Forge and Opry Mills and that's it unless I'm too dumb to know otherwise. Maybe they don't have the money like a big Hobby Lobby corp.? I think it would probably be better for them to post signs that say "careful among breakables please" or something to that effect. I would venture to say that they've probably had a problem with breakage recently and felt the need to post a sign b/c I've been in there numerous times and never noticed it.

It does kinda leave you with a bad taste in your mouth! I totally get it.