Volume 35, Number 2, February 2000
is it a growing problem or just a few isolated incidents?
It seems somewhat of an oxymoron. According to Dr. Susan Edwards, a psychologist specializing in consumer-based fraud, the glass industry is a prime target for this type of customer deceit. In her article (found on page 54 of this issue) Edwards cites numerous examples of individuals in our industry who have been duped by a fraudulent customer. Obviously, since these cases are not made up, but real occurrences, fraud is a growing problem. But, on the flip side, when Edwards spoke at a recent Northeast Window and Door Association (NWDA) meeting, out of 150 people in the room, only two raised their hands when she asked if they were aware of consumer fraud as a significant issue. So, it could be that unless a business owner has lost thousands of dollars to an unscrupulous customer, he is unaware of the other subtle ways in which this phenomenon rears its ugly head.
Awareness is the key, according to Edwards. Although you may not yet have seen the signs, what has happened to others in the industry could happen to you. After all, although they were initially unaware, Edwards said her NWDA speech definitely got people thinking. In fact, after the meeting, a few of the attendees said after reflecting on it they thought of several instances when they had fallen victim blindly. And, during the course of her talk, people began to think of suggested strategies for dealing with the problem. Attendees took what Edwards described as the important fist step: recognizing these people are out there and thinking of what they can do to avoid being the next target.
One type of fraud that is becoming particularly popular in the glass industry is class action litigation. Although the following example didnt make it into the courts, if it did, the outcome could have been disastrous. A homeowner went to his state attorney general and demanded that all of his windows be replaced although only one was faulty. The attorney general decided only the flawed window should be replaced. But, according to Edwards, if the case went to court, there is a good chance a jury would have voted in favor of the customer.
And, what if the customer went to you, the glass shop owner who sold and installed the windows? Would you have gladly replaced all the windows simply to keep the customer happy? If not, why not? Just look at Nordstroms Department Store return policy: Employees are instructed to accept any returnno questions asked. Is this plain stupid or good business?
I am well aware that this column raises more questions than it answers. Is Edwards right, or someone who is just taking a few examples too far? Is fraud a serious problem that needs attention? Should the industry be doing more to inform members of the risks? Where do you think the line should be drawn between providing good customer service and allowing yourself to be an easy target? Im very interested in hearing what you think. Call me at 540/720-5584, ext. 113. or e-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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