The black Friday’s sale was on. The shops of the renowned brands such as Khadi, Zellbury, Alkaram, Almirah, Sapphire, J., Gul Ahmad, Warda, Sana Safinaz and Bareeze were jampacked with ladies with the valet de chambre waiting outside. The main University Road in Peshawar was standing still with massive traffic jam as usual. The opening of new outlets, with the regular sales offer, every now and then, made the situation even worse.
In the meantime, one of my family members purchased some garments from one of the newly opened outlets of a famous brand in the city. On unwrapping the packing, there were found to be having several defects. Unsatisfied with the quality of the product, the lady took back the stuff to the shop but the salesclerk refused to take it back and even exchange as it was put on sale. Feeling cowed down with share anger, disappointment and frustration, the lady had no other option but to discard it.
The purpose of this blog post
Exchanging a defective piece is still a hard nut to crack for most people in this part of the world. The consumers go through a harrowing experience when they seek a replacement. After much persuasion, if they manage to exchange it, even then the experience has always been quite humiliating. This blog post is aimed at sensitizing the public at large, business community in particular and the policy-makers in principal to join hands to the cause that ‘goods once sold will not be taken back or exchanged’ must no longer be the norm in Pakistan.
While talking about this dysphoric happening and watching TV in the evening coincidentally it was reported by the BBC that the Whirlpool, the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances has developed some problems of overheating in the door locking system of its two models of washing machines (i.e. Hotpoint and Indesit) in the UK. The company’s vice president of communications and public affairs enunciated that being an unfortunate thing, the company is in the process to arrange to replace and repair the defective machines.
To address the situation, the company has established a free helpline, open 24/7 day. Some 519,000 machines sold since 2014 are subject to the recall, owing to excessive heating up of the door locking system. The company has set up a model checker online. Owners of the Hotpoint and Indesit bought since October 2014 are required to register the model of their appliance. The company will email all those on the register to offer a replacement or repair and invite them to choose a date on an online portal for that to be carried out. The company has no issue in repairing and replacing the machines sold since 2014, however, it is widely demanded that the company should offer the owners of the recalled washing machines the option of a refund alongside a repair or replacement.
Down the memory lane, in one of our MBA class, we discussed a case study related to Whirlpool Corporation revealing how it thrived over the years. Established in 1911, the American multinational had developed a minor fault in the gear transmission in its first lot of 100 washing machines produced and sold. All the machines were recalled repaired or exchanged at the cost of the company, with nothing being charged from the customers, though it was revealed that the company was not liable for that. From there, the company of three individuals (i.e. Louis Upton, Emory Upton and Fred) grew to a Fortune 500 company, today, with annual revenue of approximately $21 billion with around 92,000 employees and more than 70 manufacturing and technology research centres around the globe.
The scenario in Pakistan
It happened to many of us and on numerous occasions that while purchasing some groceries, fruits or vegetable or meat from the market and upon returning home, we find something dirty different in the basket from what we had actually purchased. Besides, it is not uncommon that on the front door of many shops, in our shopping malls it is vividly written on a conspicuous point– “Sold goods will not be exchanged or taken back”. Even on the receipts of many shops, it is printed that “Goods once sold will not be replaced or accepted back”.
The Islamic injunctions
The Islamic teachings addressing the subject matter illustrates that there is no room for dishonesty, deceit and trickery in Islam. There are plenty of hadiths which emphasis upon transparency, justice and fair play in trade. The Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “He who deceives is not one of us”. On another occasion, he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The Muslim is the brother of another Muslim, and it is not permissible for a Muslim to sell his brother goods in which there is a defect, without pointing that out to him.” Similarly, Abu Hurayrah RadiyAllah Anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said: if anyone rescinds a sale with a Muslim, Allah will cancel his slip on the day of Resurrection.
Contrary to what is happening in Pakistan and very much in line with Islamic teachings, sold goods are taken back, exchanged with certain conditions and oftentimes with a refund around the globe. In most of the developed countries, if the customer were not satisfied with the product they purchased from any shop, they could either return or exchange the same within the specified period as the practice of not taking back the sold goods is contrary to the Consumer Protection Laws prevailing in these countries.
What should be done?
The Consumer Protection Law in the country must have a provision to the effect that: 1). The consumer should have the right to have the products exchanged or returned if found defective or unsatisfactory, 2). The bills or cash memos must be printed with the slogans declaring that if the consumers were not satisfied with the product then they can return it or exchange it within the prescribed time limit. 3). No shopkeeper be allowed to write such unethical slogans on the shops, cash memos or receipts. In case, where consumers find that they have been cheated by a shopkeeper, they can approach the Consumer Forum for redressal of grievances. Let us put our efforts to the cause that ‘goods once sold will not be taken back or exchanged’ must no longer be the norm in Pakistan.