Business Integrity and Goodwill

Excerpted from Peters, Tom, "The pursuit of WOW!", Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 65084 0, pp.11

Retail guru (and Wal-Mart board member) Bob Kahn tells this great story of business integrity and goodwill:

In a 72-page sales catalog, the Bon Marché in Seattle (part of the Federated Stores combine) made an error on the price of a Sony five-disk carousel CD player - the regularly $199 item was to be discounted to $179, but $99 appeared in print. Long lines awaited the store's opening, fueled in part by e-mail about the sale circulated at nearby Microsoft.

"What would you do under those circumstances?" Kahn writes in his newsletter, Retailing Today. "Run a small ad the next day professing a mistake had been made? Tell the customer that common sense would indicate that the price was wrong?

"Here's what the Bon did: It sold all the players in stock for $99. In addition, it took orders for another 4,000 units at $99!...

"Could any other expenditure of $200,000 [5,000 units times $40 - the $99 price was $40 below cost] have done as much to establish the Bon's integrity? I think not."

Amon other things, Kahn notes, the $200,000 netted a feature story in the New York Times that was also circulated around the nation via the Times' wire service.

Hats off to Bon Marché. More pertinent, would you have reacted the same way?