An Easy Way to Screw Up Customer Service

banana peelNew York City’s streets are full of fruit stands.  Bananas for 25 cents each or a pound of grapes for $1.50. The prices are much lower than the markets and the fruit is fresh.

Free soup! Or was it?

There was one particular stand I used to buy from a lot. He’d often put in an extra piece of fruit; an apricot or an apple. I’d walk away feeling happy, thinking he was using a “free soup strategy” and being nice.

Then, one day, I bought fruit for prices that I could easily add up in my head: 5 bananas for $1, a box of strawberries for $2. He added an apple and told me the total was $3.50… I then realized what he’d really been doing. He was giving me extra fruit all right, but it wasn’t free! He was selling me bananas, and then figuratively throwing the peels on the sidewalk so I could slip on them.

I felt ripped off, and I’ve never bought fruit from him again. Heck, I don’t even like apricots! I just didn’t want to seem rude by turning down what I thought was a gift.

The big business version

Slate/The Big Money reported on November 25, 2009 that Best Buy sells a $40 optimization service for both Macs and PCs. According to the article, for $40 the buyer gets his/her name entered into the computer, a network connection check, a scan of the hard drive, and an anti-virus program installed.

There’s no reason for any of this. If you plan to use a computer, you probably can type your own name. The network in the store isn’t the network in your home or office, where the computer will actually be used. The drives are brand-new, so there’s nothing bad on them. Anti-virus software might be useful, but more so for PCs than Macs.

The author of the article talked with Ezra Gottheil (who works for an independent research firm called Technology Business Research). Said Gottheil, ” ‘There’s nothing of that sort that any brand-new PC needs, and Macs less so’ ”

[I personally set my Mac up by myself in about 10 minutes, and I’m not a geek.]

Helping? Or pushing?

Slapstick is funny when the other guy slips on a banana peel. It’s not so funny when you invite your clients to fall down and hurt themselves.

If you’re offering an extra free service, offer one that has real value, and is really free. If you have an upgrade, it ought to be worth more to the client than the standard version.

Image: redster