Should a company always honor what they advertise?

mens-shoes-task mens-shoes-task-2 mens-shoes-task-3 Or does the company’s responsibility only extend so far? Is the company liable for what is posted on their website? Or for products and prices advertised for their website through a third party?

About a week ago I performed a basic, online Google search for Men’s Nike Air Zoom Vomero 10 Running Shoes. As is typical the search returned multiple results at different price points. The lowest price, which appeared on the first page, was advertised as $32.49 at Finish Line. Great, as the next option was $83.97! This is my lucky day, right? Happy to have found such a bargain I clicked the link and went to make the purchase on Finish Line’s website.

The order page popped up, albeit with no image, and the option to “add to cart” or “buy online & pick up in store”. The only issue is that I can use neither option to order the shoes. Add to cart resulted in a pop up telling me to choose a size – well, there was no option to choose a size. The buy online and pick up in store option did absolutely nothing, either. Frustrated, I searched for the product on the site – nothing. Yet, if I went back to Google there they were, my shoes, at Finish Line, for $32.49.

So, I contacted customer service. I included all of the details, as well as the product number (little secret for those of you who don’t know this – it can usually be found at the end of the URL). And received this reply:

“Finish Line Greetings Jen, My name is Mary Angel and I will be happy to assist you with your issue. I humbly suggest calling our Customer Care Department 1-888-777-3949, for you to transfer one of the representatives in Sales Department and place an order over the phone. I apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you.
Thanks for Choosing Finish Line With best regards, Mary Angel O. Finish Line Customer Care Department.”

Ok, so I did exactly what was suggested – I called them. I spoke to an employee who did not seem to quite grasp the issue I was having – I had to explain it several times. And, as I am sure most can agree, online customer service is frustrating! I finally got my meaning across, she asked for the order number and…….nothing. She asked for the product name…….nothing. Her explanation?

She stated that the reason the shoes were showing up on the site, but not allowing a size to be selected, was that the shoes were no longer available in any size. She said that, once the product is sold out or no longer available, the site will not allow you to select a size / place an order. She further said that they do try and get the items off of the website as soon as possible but all items are subject to availability and at no time are specific items guaranteed to be in stock.

I asked about the Google search and she said that the item itself may still show up, but it does not guarantee it will still be available – sometimes only specific sizes or colors may be available. She also said the item should no longer show up in a Google search, as it is not available on their website, and that is a Google error, not a Finish Line error.

I explained to her that the shoes were still showing up in a Google search – still redirecting to Finish Line – still appearing as if they could be purchased. Her response? Nothing. She had none. No real apology, so offer to help find a different pair of shoes, maybe even through in free shipping for the inconvenience, a 10% discount, heck, even a sincere apology….Nope. Nada. Now, I have worked in customer service for decades – there is a right way and a wrong way to handle a frustrated customer who did not cause the problem – you find a solution. You focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Now, I do understand that the product was no longer in stock. And the woman could not sell me shoes that were not available. But in addition to offering some minor compensation she should have also gotten the details from me so the issue could be reported to the correct department and fixed. I would bet I was not the only person that had this issue or was unhappy about it. Finish Line’s customer service, in my opinion, is seriously lacking in training and first call resolution. Instead of trying to gain a new customer this company made sure that they lost one.

But, I digress, as customer service (or lack there of) really is not the issue. The issue is whether or not this is considered faulty advertising. Who is responsible for honoring the prices and deals that are advertised by a certain company? Shouldn’t that company take responsibility for and / or fix the error? Maybe say “thanks for bringing it to our attention, it will be fixed immediately”? Contacting Google to have the product removed from the search results? “I’m sorry, how can I fix this for you?” Because, at the end of the day, it is a frustrating waste of my time. Searching for the product, trying to order it, emailing the company, calling the company…..only to have absolutely nothing resolved.

And, the funniest part of all? Go on and do a Google search for “Men’s Nike Air Zoom Vomero 10 Running Shoes”, a week later, and see what still comes up on the first page………

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