Since May 2016, the Sale season has everyone in the Twin cities wild as they can buy whatever they want at discount prices. Consumers from all kinds of backgrounds and classes are able to buy what they want and need thanks to the reduced prices shops offer. But there is a downside to such amazing offers: bad-quality or defected items.
“It is quite disappointing,” says Ms. Zara, a doctor in Rawalpindi. She has been scouring the sales for a while now and this time she is not too happy about the purchases she made. “Branded shops often talk about how great their articles are and give us this false sense of assurance. Especially in sales. Yet, most of the time, one has to keep a sharp eye in making sure that the items have little to no defects in them. And they (salesmen) don’t let you return them.”
“Sales are a time when shopkeepers put bad maal in low prices and people are rushing to buy them thanks to its foolish hype,” remarks Zubair Iqbal, an IT worker in Rawalpindi. Mr. Iqbal has been shopping the sales with his family. “But in reality, they dump those items that are either damaged or are last year’s in really low prices. Bata and Servis shoes are the worst. Either way, we end up as losers.”
Many people have made Khaadi their destination for bulk buying in reduced prices. The DHA outlet is extremely popular in these months for this purpose but at a very high cost-quality. “Most of the items are alright at best,” says Mrs. Anees, a resident of Islamabad, who buys most of her clothes during sale season. “But I will not say that the items there are hundred percent perfect. Some of the time, there is damage in a print or an unusual stain in the dupatta. So one has to be watchful. But Khaadi is honest. They let you know beforehand that the items on display are defected. They even show it to you so you think before buying anything.” But as an afterthought, she does not think that Khaadi was above any of the outlets. “Despite their frankness, you have this vague feeling in you that you’re being ripped off in the open. And even then, you cannot request for an exchange!”
These days, Servis is also going through stern criticism amongst customers that the shoe outlet has no regard for quality and was blatant liars. A person who declined to give his name has his to say: “Majority of their stock is of substandard quality. If you get a good pair that lasts for more than a month, you’re lucky. Most of the shoes collapse after some weeks. Plus, during sales, items that are heavily discounted are of the worse quality or terrible-looking. And the managers there are hardly helpful!” When asked as to how he could make this serious allegation against a brand that has existed for several years, he pointed out that his brother used to work in the brand’s factory so he had access to these facts. He also gave a warning that purchasing shoes from the factory itself is no use as the quality remains the same except, perhaps for shoes Servis makes for children.
While this practice is not too rampant in Islamabad or in the other affluent cities of Pakistan, as the clientele there are affluent, educated and therefore critical of such items, the outlets in Rawalpindi are awash with salesmen tricking their customers to buying these items. But not all of them are in the act by a long shot.
“We often put our fresh stock on sale,” says Atta-ur-Rehman, manager of Stylo, Rawalpindi. “We make sure the items are of good quality and have no problems in them, then put them in such rates so that even lower-class customers can buy them. And if such a thing does happen to a customer, we give them a new pair.”
According to various shopkeepers, the items on sale are either fresh-that is, new and recent- on the racks, are items the owner or wholesalers send those items that are old i.e last season but not completely damaged. Items are checked for defects or damage before they are put on display. And most shops are quite accommodating to customers who get such an item by mistake.
“Our company often makes sure that items they send to us have no damage in them in any way,” says Muhammad Sherbaz, manager of Breakout outlet, Blue Area. “I admit that many shops sell second-rate items during the sale season. In fact, all of them do this. And at times, we do get a defected item despite vigorous checking. But we are quite willing for our customers to exchange, if they are justified and when the company rechecks the item in question.”
But though some shops are willing to exchange defected items for better-quality ones or give them their money back, many customers tend to avoid this. At times, they do not ask for an exchange. This is common among male customers while female customers aggressively make sure that justice is served.
“My husband does my shopping for me, but he never checks what he buys,” says a woman from Islamabad who declined to give her name. “Half the time, whatever he buys me during sale season is defected. I don’t shop much but if I do get such an item, I would definitely get the shop to exchange it for something else.”
Customers should be warned that during sale season, about half of the items on display are defected while at least a third of the shops during sale season do not take back these items they put on sale. They are advised to not only keep a sharp eye on the items before purchasing them or go to those shops which have friendly return-exchange policies. If an item does turn out to be bad, then make sure that shopkeepers give something better in exchange or, the money back.