John Lewis, the company that made its name on dependable customer service, has arguably shaken customers’ confidence by changing its guarantee: ‘Never knowingly undersold’. Will it stop us shopping there?
The thoroughly decent types at John Lewis have upped and tarnished the family silver.
Since 1925, the company has told customers that it is ‘Never knowingly undersold’, meaning that if you bought something at John Lewis, and then found it cheaper elsewhere, it would refund the difference. It also has a team whose job it is to scour competitors’ prices.
The terms have changed
Ever since I can remember, John Lewis was a place where you could assume the store prices were the lowest around. But recently, customers who tried to get a refund under its price guarantee were turned down.
Many hadn’t noticed that some recent additions (in smaller print) to ‘Never knowingly undersold’ meant it no longer related just to the upfront cost of the product.
Since the addition of ‘….on quality, on price and on service’, it now included extras such as guarantees and delivery. So if you found, say, a washing machine for £60 less at Argos, you’d be turned away because the Argos guarantee was one year, not the two (or three) offered by John Lewis.
Can John Lewis still compete on price?
The shopping landscape, and price competition, has been changing, and John Lewis has extended its guarantee to websites as long as the store has a bricks-and-mortar shop.
John Lewis is reportedly saying it’s now putting a ‘great deal of resources’ into checking competitors’ prices and ‘lowering ours, where appropriate’. ‘Appropriate’ must surely mean where it finds exactly the same guarantee and delivery offer as well as price.
You have to wonder how often that’s likely to happen, and, therefore, precisely how much this guarantee is really worth any more.
As a John Lewis customer of many years’ standing, I feel not only that this was done with little acknowledgment, but also disappointed that I can no longer simply assume that its prices are the lowest.