In Flanders, New Jersey, George Filimonchuk planned his Black Friday shopping expedition at Walmart. He received a flyer two days earlier advertising Walmart's sale of a 32″ Emerson LCD television for $198 which Filimonchuk had planned to present to his teenage daughter Alexis for Christmas. He made arrangements for Alexis to sleep over at one of her friend's home so he could be sure the television would be a surprise.
Filimonchuk noted the sale for electronics started at 5:00 AM and was there at the store on time. When he arrived, however, all of the televisions were sold. Apparently tickets had been passed out at midnight, and because George was not there at the time, the same television would now cost him $80 more. There was no mention of tickets being distributed on the flyer. A sales representative told him there would be no "rain checks," however the fine print stated Walmart would grant rainchecks - "Just ask." Then there was more fine print which in addition stated, "unless your items are deemed 'limited quantity.'"
George forged on to the store manager who read the fine print, but was also confused. Shop Smart Magazine editor Jody Rohlena joined in the confusion and notified the local television station who also became involved until Walmart's executive offices finally succumbed to the public pressure and sold George the television at the discounted price.
Walmart never did explain the inconsistencies between the advertisement and what customers were told in the store, and it continues to bring up the often very confusing verbiage of the "fine print." Some consumer advocates consider the "fine print" a subtle form of fraud or exploitation. Was the flyer that Mr.Filimonchuk received just a clever lure for the old "bait and switch"?
The government mandates that manufacturers and service providers disclose fees, consequences, etc. to consumers. In bank loans we read about fees, breach of contract, sign-up deals, and rebates if and only if certain procedures and criteria are followed. These are commonly confusing and only translatable by an attorney. So are we now forced to hire a lawyer to read the fine print for retailers' holiday sales? Black Friday is supposed to be about phenomenal deals, breathtaking bargains, and an overwhelming selection of superb holiday gifts. We're supposed to be rewarded for getting out of our warm beds at 4:00 in the morning to rush out to the stores for their wonderful offerings. After all the sales usually just last a limited time. Why are retailers now limiting the limits?
Customer satisfaction may not be high on a retailer's list during Black Friday and the subsequent busiest shopping season of the year, but rest assured when the presents are unwrapped, the tree stored away, and the shoppers are chatting away while working off those excess pounds on the treadmill, your store with the "fine print" might be the next one shoppers decide not to visit anymore.