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Dottie Atwater

The stupid mindset of (most) merchants!

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Not long ago I used a camera I hadn't used in quite some time. After taking a few pictures, I couldn't find the cord to connect the camera to my computer. On June 28, I bought the cord at Multimax in David. Before I even got back to Volcan, I realized that the cord I'd used previously was the one for my Kindle, and it fit the camera perfectly.

Today, July 11, I made another shopping trip to David. I took the cord back to Multimax, explained the situation, said I didn't need the cord after all, and asked for a refund. I had never even had the thing out of its box and I had the receipt. Well, after speaking with two people, I then ended up with the manager.  He refused a refund, and even worse, he LIED to me: He said "no refunds" are the law in Panama. (The guy should be fired for that alone.) I told him I knew better, that Price Smart and other places give refunds. (I doubt that he'd recognize the phrase, "LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE.)

I told him with his refusal to refund a $13.00 cord that I'd never buy anything in his store again. I said his refusal would lose him the opportunity to sell me much more expensive items--computers, printers, etc. His response was a shrug. WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?

Yes, Price Smart does give refunds (although it's not a quick process). So does Super Stars Computers. I bought a  generic power supply there quite some time ago. After installing it, it worked great for a few hours then it immediately quit working and shut down my computer. I called Super Stars and told them about it.  They said I had to bring it back the next day. I told them I live in Volcan, and I'd bring it the following week. When I arrived, they said they needed to test it before giving me a refund. I told them it would require several hours to "test" because it would no doubt work fine at first. Other than the generic brand (that I didn't want to try again) they only had very expensive Cooler Masters. So they gave me a refund that day, albeit somewhat reluctantly. (The next time I was in the store, they told me the one I returned "worked fine." That probably means that they foisted it off on another customer.)

Multimax is off my list permanently.

(I bought a good, inexpensive power supply via the internet. It has been great.)

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Actually most of the places in Panama do not give refunds. One can always go the ACODECO route, but I have seen many stores with the little disclaimers, if it is not damaged, nor defective, but just a change of mind, I always understood it's yours to keep. 

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Law 45 from 2007 says if you change your mind, the store is not obligated to refund the money. 

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You missed my point. "Not being obligated" doesn't mean it is against the law to give a refund. Perhaps one day Panama will learn good customer service and good business practices.

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Although a different more consumer-friendly return policy may make sense to you, a change is probably not going to come anytime soon.

Giving a refund for anything that's been 'bought and paid for' is a very uncommon business practice here. Merchants make their return policies in accordance with their internal security controls.

ie: No Refunds means no cash* goes out of the till, ever.  *(or credit card voucher) Giving employees at any level of a store hierarchy the authority to approve refunds makes financial controllers shudder.

Edited by Keith Woolford

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3 hours ago, Danielle said:

Law 45 from 2007 says if you change your mind, the store is not obligated to refund the money. 

I have received refunds a few times.  I just got one a couple of days ago at Ivan's.  The worst case of no refund was a place that refills printer ink cartridges.  The clerk didn't know what she was doing, and by the time I got the cartridges home, all the ink had spilled out.  I took back the whole mess and showed her, and she wouldn't give me my money back.  I left the mess with her, and I will never go back there.

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10 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

Although a different more consumer-friendly return policy may make sense to you, a change is probably not going to come anytime soon.

Giving a refund for anything that's been 'bought and paid for' is a very uncommon business practice here. Merchants make their return policies in accordance with their internal security controls.

ie: No Refunds means no cash* goes out of the till, ever.  *(or credit card voucher) Giving employees at any level of a store hierarchy the authority to approve refunds makes financial controllers shudder.

They manage to do it in the US, so apparently the "financial controllers" don't have a problem, just as a few stores in Panama have managed. 

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The short response is that we're not in the U.S. and national merchants in Panama aren't going to change their sales return policies anytime soon just to suit North Americans who feel they should be different.

 

Edited by Keith Woolford

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Keith, I didn't deserve your snippy response. Nowhere did I say merchants in Panama should change their sales return policies "just to suit me." (Never mind; that's what your original post said in the email to me; I see that you edited it here.)

 

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I tend to agree with Dottie. If people demand better customer service (and return policies), some merchants in Panama will likely respond eventually. Its just one more area of commerce in which stores can compete for customer loyalty. Lets not forget that in North America, liberal return policies were not the norm until a few forward thinking folks (the Nordstrom family comes to mind) offered this as something they thought was both right, and would appeal to consumers.

Edited by Gordon Bakke
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6 hours ago, Dottie Atwater said:

Keith, I didn't deserve your snippy response. Nowhere did I say merchants in Panama should change their sales return policies "just to suit me." (Never mind; that's what your original post said in the email to me; I see that you edited it here.)

 

Yes, god forbid anyone should ever suggest Panama merchants change a really stupid practice.  After all, we must always respect "the culture" no matter how backward and irrational some practices are.

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The sales return and refund policies here are no doubt very rational from the business owner's perspective.

They are stupid from your perspective.

That's all, it's not personal, and has nothing to do with whether I like them or not. Offering a plausible explanation for something doesn't have to relate to preference.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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Keith, apparently you like the "return and refund policies" here. I don't, and many people (including Panamanians) don't either.

There are few goods things I can say about the US. I much prefer living in Panama (obviously, because I live here). I have no intention of returning to the US, even for a visit, but one good thing I can say is the "return and refund policy" in the US is better. (I know, I know...you'll retort, "better for whom?")

I have no doubt that the stupid "non-customer-service practice" in Panama will change. (Maybe not in MY lifetime. Ha, ha.) As a few stores start to change the practice, people will shop at those stores over the others whenever possible. That will prompt the others to change their arrogant "take it or leave it" attitudes. Pure economics, ya know.

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I just had to chime in regarding refunds, as I had a recent experince at the department store here in Boquete.  I was making a purchase for someone else (read: this was not my money) -- so I was very clear in asking about the return/refund policy before purchasing the items.   I was told very clearly (I understand and speak Spanish) that I could return the items for either credit or cash (effectivo), depending how it was purchased.   I used cash.  

After finding out that the items were not going to fit the needs required, I brought them back to the store less than one week later.  I was then told that it would be "credit" only, which would have been fine -- but, again, this was not my own money, and there was nothing else needed at the store.  I explained that before making a decision, I would need to speak with the person whom I was representing in order to get her instruction on preference (keep the items or get credit)… and asked how much time I had to be eligible to bring the items back with the original receipt.   I was then told TODAY only, and that after that they would not honor the refund policy.  This, of course, made no sense… as it had only been a few days since the original purchase.  blah, blah, blah… rest of the story unfolds.  

Bottom line: I will not purchase anything else from this department store in the future.  And, sadly, I doubt I would have been treated this way if I weren't a 'gringa'.  Things like this do happen.  I just wish it weren't so.  I understand rules, laws and policies.  What I don't understand how being 'lied to' is acceptable or defendable.   Peace.  

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I doubt that your being "gringa" had anything to do with it. Most Panamanians have passively accepted this kind of lying and awful service. If expats have a role in eventually changing it for the better, almost everyone will benefit--including the merchants who see the light.

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At the end of your long letter, I saw that you had zero success with ACODECO. I had the same zero success with them. I wasted LOTS of time and never got a refund for a hotel that refused my pensionado discount--EVEN THOUGH there was an ACODECO resolution (from Panama City) in my favor. (I have a copy.) Every time I'd call or visit ACODECO, I was told they'd call me, I should call them in a month, I should come back...whatever. I finally gave up.

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