Editorial: Ruthless sales tactics exposed

MICHAEL CUMMINGS - EDITOR
Last updated 14:44 28/10/2012

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OPINION: The report in Friday’s Manawatu Standard about a  man with Asperger’s syndrome who was sold more than $6000 worth of cosmetics at a temporary stall in a shopping mall should serve as a cautionary tale for everyone.

The 55-year-old had his bank account drained and his credit card maxed out by a saleswoman representing Premier Skin Care, operating in The Plaza in Palmerston North.

The man’s family said his condition meant he would have been unaware what was happening to him, and were horrified at what the saleswoman had done.

Let’s put to one side for a moment the fact the man had a condition that makes him vulnerable in such situations.

It might not have been immediately apparent that he was not capable of making an informed decision to purchase the products, and one might be inclined to give the saleswoman the benefit of the doubt.

Even in doing that, however, we are still left looking at behaviour that can be described as nothing less than predatory.
Consider the chronology of what happened, based on investigations made by the man’s bank.

At 10.28am a transaction was processed on his eftpos card for $99.99. At 10.29am, a purchase of $49.99 was made.

Eleven minutes later, $135 went through. Then, in the following 26 minutes, five more transactions went through for $279.99, $139.99, $519.99, $519.99 and $1120.

But it didn’t stop there. They then started hammering his credit card 11 minutes later.

A payment of $1020 was processed, followed by one for $2240. An attempt to charge a further $1999.99 was made 10 minutes later, but was declined – twice.

Not to be deterred, the sales assistant immediately tried to make a sale for a lower amount – $1499.99 – but that was declined, too.

Then $1199.99 was declined, followed by $999.99, $499.99 and $199.99. It was presumably at this point that the sales assistant realised  the man had been sucked dry and sent him on his way.

Is that kind of sales approach acceptable in any circumstances, with any person?

Yes, the man had to key in his Pin to make the purchases, but would the salesperson not stop at some point and think, ‘why is a middle-aged man buying $6232 worth of skincare products?’

When his cards started declining, instead of trying to make sales for lower amounts, would a person of conscience not recognise he could not afford what he was buying and stop?

Indeed, a person of conscience surely would, but it seems clear that particular saleswoman on that particular day was not such a person.

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And, given the remarkable lack of contrition Premier Skin Care showed when asked by the Standard to explain her actions, the conscience of the company she works for is equally questionable.

- Manawatu Standard

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