The Consumerist has an interesting article this morning on Barnes & Nobel changing their return policy. Now, I'm all for businesses changing the return policy to stop rewarding shoplifters and scammers, my problem with it is that even though they end up saving a ton of money in the process, prices don't go down. The end result? More hoops for innocent shoppers to jump through, but no benefit to them. The store gets to save money, the stock holders may see a bigger dividend, the store posts a higher profit margin, but the little guys still get screwed. Think the employees get a raise? I doubt it.
Maybe it's time for "Retail Unions". Credit Unions provide banking services, but since they're non-profit, the focus is more on the members (also known as "customers") rather than the profit margin. What would the result be if a store adopted that philosophy?
Could you imagine the screening process? You'd want to eliminate anyone that might shoplift, scam, or damage anything. Check arrest records? Credit Reports? References? Suddenly, just telling people you're running an errand could become an exercise in snobbery. Oh, and what about kids? Allow them or not? Require parents to sign a waiver accepting financial responsibility for any extra cost their kids cause? How much does it cost to have an employee clean up that smashed display, or mop up the broken apple juice bottle because the little darlings were running wild?
Still, I think that might be somewhere I wouldn't mind shopping. It's extremely rare that I ever need a store to go "above and beyond" for me, yet there's no question that I pay a little extra for everything I buy as a result of the people that do end up making stores go "above and beyond" on a regular basis - unruly kids, "Women of a Certain Age", scammers, etc. etc.
Perhaps its' time to start letting those types of customers pay their own premium.