DirectBuy Complaint - Harassed by Store Manager at DirectBuy Showroom
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA -- This complaint is about the violation of basic consumer right at DirectBuy. I and my wife saw an advertisement inviting us to visit the showroom at DirectBuy. When we got there, we were treated like prisoners. The basic right of a consumer to walk around a showroom to look at displays was denied us. When challenged, the store manager resorted to brute force in an attempt to kick us out. The incident occurred at the DirectBuy store in Mountain View, California on 12/6/08.
We are in the middle of adding a second story to our house. We saw an advertisement of DirectBuy on TV and decided to visit their showroom to gather ideas on how to decorate our house and to find out what DirectBuy has to offer for our project. We arrived at DirectBuy and were greeted by a host and the store manager. Then we were shown to a desk by the host for a short interview and to wait for the start of the infomercial presentation. As our host talked, both I and my wife noticed the hardwood-floor display behind him and imagined how it might look in our house.
The infomercial was long and boring, but we found out how much the membership would cost. I was almost ready to pay that, if we find the right merchandises in the showroom. After the infomercial, we were walked to the showroom for more presentation on how low prices were at DirectBuy. Surrounded by interesting furniture displays, my wife started walking around to examine them. She did that also to escape the never ending presentations. She was bluntly told by the store manager that she is not allowed to walk around. We were offended by his action. We are not used to being told what to do and what not to do within what we considered our right. Most would agree that a consumer has the right to walk around a showroom to look at displays.
After the presentation, we were told to fill out a survey. I began to feel that we were being herded around like animals. So I told the host and the store manager that we were not going to comply. The manager asked us to leave. We asked if we can visit the showroom to see the merchandises. He said we cannot because there is confidential pricing information there. I told him that I was only interested in looking at the merchandises and will not look up the pricing information in the catalogs which are kept in a separate library. He said no and quickly showed us out of the store.
While at the parking lot, I had a second thought. We spent money and time to arrange for a babysitter, drove the distances to get to the store, and set aside time from our busy schedule, why should we leave without seeing the showroom? I have a free visitor’s pass to DirectBuy’s showroom. I can challenge the store manager. I asked my wife if she wants to go back to see the showroom. She declined. So I went back in by myself and asked to see the showroom as part of the activities DirectBuy invited me to do. He was visibly annoyed by my challenge to his authority as the store manager (I later found that he is also the owner of the store). Without even reasoning with me, he called his security team to throw me out. Two heavy fellows and the head of security came. The heavy fellows grabbed my arms and started removing me from the store. I resisted. Sensing that the manager’s order was inappropriate, the head of security disobeyed him and stopped the forced eviction. He started reasoning with me. I gave my reason and he appeared to have understood it. He seems to be a more reasonable person than the store manager, who appears to be more concern about exerting his absolute power like a dictator. I also sense that he is so concern about his big ego that he is willing to drag down the corporate image of DirectBuy with it.
I told the head of security that he has to call the police to get me out. I ignored their order and walked around the showroom. But needless to say, by that point, I was in no mood to examine any merchandise. I did that just to make a point that a consumer has rights. I don’t know if he called the police or not. I am not a lawyer. I don’t know what the limit of my right is within their store, and I don’t really want to go to court to find that out. So I left after I proved my point.
Most stores treat customers with respect and trust. We can freely walk around almost any stores because the stores trust that we would not do anything inappropriate. All DirectBuy needs to do is to inform visitors that it is not appropriate to look at the confidential pricing information during the visit, and almost all of us would have complied. For the few who do not, a case can be made to kick them out. At DirectBuy, my wife and I were treated like thieves even before we have done anything they considered inappropriate. The so called “confidential pricing information” is just a poor excuse for a brute business practice. I frankly do not see what benefit DirectBuy could derive out of such a practice. That is why I was dumbfounded by DirectBuy’s insistence that they had acted properly when I complained about this instance to the corporate headquarters.
I filed a complaint to the Better Business Bureau and ask for an apology as a settlement. Not only did the store manager refused, he accused me of “trespassing “and “walking around the areas of the building that are off limit to guests”. When DirectBuy invited us to visit its facility and we agreed, we assumed that both parties agreed to be abided by commonly accepted societal rules of conduct. For example, both parties would have understood that private offices are off limit to guest, and bathrooms are not. I continue to challenge DirectBuy’s right to impose a new rule that its showroom is off limit to guests without clear notification in its advertisement that it has unusual requirements beyond standard accepted practices. Also, if the showroom is off limit, then it would be unethical to use it as an advertising tool to entice unsuspecting consumers to visit DirectBuy.
The charge of “trespassing” is another bad excuse for the belligerent conduct. I have not yet left its parking lot and went back to challenge the terms of the visit, all within a period of 3 minutes. Again, common societal rules of conduct would not call this “trespassing”. Instead of trying reason with me, he used “trespassing” as an excuse and ordered my removal by force. Both I and my wife have engaged in many debates, disputes and contests through our career. Challenges and counterchallenges are ways our society uses to settle differences. We have won some disputes and lost many others; but we have not yet met an opponent who would resort to violence to settle differences.
An apology from DirectBuy would be a respectable way to end a bad business practice.