Cumbersome FSA policies will scare customers off
Sometimes finding the lowest price isn’t the most important thing for customers who want a stress-free experience.
Between the end of the wheelchair marathon and the start of the Monza Formula 1 Grand Prix coverage, I decided to nip to the local Waitrose supermarket and stock up on some essentials. While I do not want to get into the ins and outs of my shopping basket, Magnum ice-creams made it onto the essentials list, particularly when I noticed they were priced at two for one.
When I got to the checkout I was slightly taken aback when the operator suddenly picked up my Magnums and said “just to let you know, these are half price at Tescos”. It was a comment that left me scratching my head for a while, why would he say that? I pointed out that they were currently priced at two for one which pretty much amounted to the same thing, so he recommenced his scanning.
I had mixed feelings about this exchange. As a consumer I was initially pleased to receive this information, but as a small business owner I thought this was unacceptable behaviour for an employee. Clearly he was not part of the John Lewis employee partnership bonus system. Yet the more I thought about it with my consumer hat on, the more I became annoyed.
You see, as a consumer I had made a conscious decision to shop at Waitrose, it is one of four large supermarket chains all within five minutes walk from my apartment; Tesco, Sainsbury’s and M&S are all nearby. I realise Waitrose is not the cheapest, but I prefer the floor layout, the range of food and quality of the produce. All right, so Magnums are the same whichever store I go to, but that is not the point. My purchasing decisions are not based on price alone, and if they were I would not be shopping at Waitrose.
But what I do not want is to have my face rubbed in it. Telling me that something might be half priced somewhere else (with no guarantee that it is even in stock) causes several things to happen. I began wondering just how much extra I was paying for my entire shopping basket - I know I pay more, but I do not want to be paying double for everything. Then I wonder whether I should put the Magnums back and make the journey over to Tesco, but I decide against that. Then I got annoyed, because the anticipation of sitting on the balcony in the sunshine with an ice-cream was being replaced by doubts over the entire Magnum buying episode.
And in an odd way, I became even more annoyed, because I thought about how our industry is constantly telling people that what they thought they wanted to purchase is not necessarily what they should buy. But not only that, when they do finally take up a service or purchase a product, we make them jump through hoops of understanding.
I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the FSA’s policies have gone far beyond consumer protection, and are actively putting people off financial advice – it is just too bothersome. Not only for consumers, but for advisers too.
I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the FSA’s policies have gone far beyond consumer protection, and are actively putting people off financial advice – it is just too bothersome
Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning