where does a retailer stand in this instance.....

  ajm 21:53 23 Aug 2004

Slightly long thread....
A salesperson works for a major retailer selling IT stuff and equipment. This salesperson is reasonable knowledgeable. A customer (not so knowledgeable)comes to the store and buys a laptop from this salesperson. The salesperson asks questions to determine for what purpose the equipment will be used for. The customer says that he wil be using it for office and home work and a little games. Salesperson helps choose the customer what equipment is suitable. Customer walks away happy with his purchase and also with the salesperson.

Few days later, there is email correspondence from the cuatomer to the salesperson that the wireless connection on the laptop is not working. The salesperson guides the customer by email to physically turn on the WiFi button on the laptop to activate the wireless connection. Cusotmer repluies back happy and thanks for help.

Few days later, customer emails the salesperson that the computer will not work in his office as it has XP Home and he needs XP Pro to connect to domain server. Salesperson replies back saying that the customer never mentioned about connecting to domain server at office, else he would not have recommended this particular machine as he knows that to connect to a domain server, XP Pro is needed instead of XP Home. Advises customer to upgrade to XP PRo buy buing upgrade or getting a license from his work place. Customer emails back saying that it was only at this time he was told by technical support at his workplace that he would need to get XP PRo upgrade.

Customer then emails the salesperson claiming that it was the salesperson error that he sold the wrong machine and claims that he todl teh salesperson that the laptop will be connecting to a domain server in the the office, and is not compatible with his requirements and wants a immediate refund. He is shifting the blame on the salesperson. The salesperson has email correspondence stating that the customer knew AFTER buying the equipment that XP Pro is needed.


  GANDALF <|:-)> 22:11 23 Aug 2004

'Customer emails back saying that it was only at this time he was told by technical support at his workplace that he would need to get XP PRo upgrad'....so obviously not the salesperson's fault and the guy could easily upgrade to XP Pro.

If the email has been kept then I would tell the customer that he is trying to pull a fast one and never darken my doors again. Idiots like him give proper customers a bad name.

The customer is NOT always right and if the facts are accurate he is well wrong and trying to get a refund when the situation could easily be resolved.


  GANDALF <|:-)> 22:13 23 Aug 2004

ps...I would probably have chinned the customer for trying it on, which is the prime reason that I have avoided a career in direct retailing. ;-)))

  carver 22:36 23 Aug 2004

Gandalf you do have a way with words, but you are correct in saying that if the e-mails have been kept the customer can take a walk. But the main point is that the laptop is suitable for his needs and it the o/s that is wrong which isn't the fault of the sales person if he doesn't know all the facts.
Just be wary that the laptop does not come back with a FAULT and e-mail him to say that all of his e-mails have been kept for future reference.

  spuds 22:45 23 Aug 2004

Sales of Goods Act..Not suitable for the purpose..but it was..That's what the customer asked for, as per their specification.

  Forum Editor 23:28 23 Aug 2004

before everyone gets swept up in a tide of anti-customer reaction. The customer is 'not so knowledgeable'. That's why he asked the salesperson (on whose expert advice he will rely) for advice.

"The salesperson asks questions to determine for what purpose the equipment will be used for. The customer says that he wil be using it for office and home work and a little games. Salesperson helps choose the customer what equipment is suitable."

This could be the key to the whole thing - the customer responded to the salesperson's questions by saying he will use the computer for Office work (and some other things). Were this matter to come to court the salesperson's solicitor might argue that his client relied on the salesperson's advice (offered in his capacity as a knowledgeable person) when making the decision to purchase. He (the customer) subsequently discovered that the goods were not as described, i.e. fit for use in an office.

It's one of those grey area cases, but it's possible that the customer's claim would succeed - a court might take the view that the salesperson should have known that a machine for use in an office is likely to be connected to a network server. You've already admitted that the salesperson knew that WinXP Pro would be required to connect to a domain server, so why didn't he/she say as much when told the machine would be used in an office? It would seem to me to have been an obvious thing to mention.

I can see both sides of the story, and to a degree I'm playing the Devil's advocate here, but on balance I would say that if the customer pushes this hard he'll end up with his refund. Why not just offer him the upgrade and be done with it?

  ajm 23:43 23 Aug 2004

Point taken that this is a gray area. How many people who use computers in an office have a domain server, thus requiring the appropriate software.

The customer states that he told the saleperson that he would using it for office, but admits that he never says that it is a domain server network as he did not know at the time of purchase and was only told by his IT guy few days later about it.

The customer was advised to buy XP Pro, but is reluctant to do that, reason being that he has already spent £1800( after some discount was given ) on a laptop and does not want to spend extra on XP Pro upgrade and wants a refund as is incompatible to his requirements and therefore not suitable.

  GANDALF <|:-)> 23:44 23 Aug 2004

I might have been swayed towards the *poor* customer but his obvious reluctance to rectify a simple problem (which I am sure his IT dept. could have sorted...surely they could supply an XP pro upgrade at little or no cost) makes me ever so suspicious.


  johnnie_mcdougall 23:57 23 Aug 2004

Hi there, having sold P.C's for many years now for a large electrical retailer, now selling mobile phones just finished my Retail Business Degree (which included law from all aspects.)I would have to say I've been in that position before "the salesman told me...." I would back the retailer to the hilt on this one, as a salesperson, the questions have been asked, and if information has not been disclosed that a domain will be used. The salesperson cannot cover all bases, only the information given. If a salesperson was to cover all aspects of every single element they'd be there for days on end. It is a simple case of customer error, the salesperson DID NOT say that it would work on a domain and so there was no misselling of the item.

  Forum Editor 07:25 24 Aug 2004

who use computers in an office have a domain server"

Hundreds of thousands.

I did say that I could see both sides of the story, and that I was acting as Devil's advocate. This isn't such a straightforward matter as some people are suggesting, and I certainly wouldn't class it as a "simple case of customer error".

The 'fitness for purpose' duty in the Sale of Goods Act is in essence quite simple, despite the convoluted language in which it is expressed. The goods must be 'reasonably' fit for the purpose for which the buyer requires them - not perfectly and absolutely fit, but reasonably fit - provided three requirements are satisfied.

1. The seller must sell in the course of a business.

2. The buyer must have told the seller (expressly or by implication) the purpose for which he/she required the goods before the sale takes place.

3. The seller will escape liability if it can be shown that the buyer did not rely on the seller’s skill and judgement, or that it was unreasonable for the buyer so to rely.

The duty of the seller is slightly confusing because it is both an absolute duty and a 'reasonableness' duty: the standard the goods must reach is not perfection but only reasonable fitness for purpose. There is however an absolute duty on the seller to attain that standard.

As I said before, there's some doubt in this case, and my advice remains the same - try to settle with the customer. If it comes to a crunch his claim might be successful,(he may say that he "relied on the seller's skill and judgment"). On the other hand it might not, so in the end it's up to the seller to take a view and act upon it.

  Urotsukidoji 09:28 24 Aug 2004

i would say reading this that the consumer is in the wrong - if there can be such a black and white distinction.

Firstly the retailer asked what the customer was going to use the laptop for, the reply was home, office, and games - not neccessarily in that order. the salesman could quite rightly of assumed from the reponse the customer meant office applications/ small home office on a peer to peer network, in which case XP home would indeed have sufficed.

Secondly it should also be noted that the retailer DID offer XP Pro as an upgrade, the customer DECLINED this - perhaps the fault of the retailer was in not explaining the pro's of upgrading to XP Pro properly.

Thirdly as I understand it is the duty of the retailer to act in a reasonalbe manner with regard to selling any item, it is unfeasable for any salesman to ask the consumer so many questions about what "might" be needed, both the retailer and the consumer would be there all day - not good for the consumer, and not good for the retailer.

all in all, i think the consumer should shut up, pay for the upgrade, or get his company to buy him a laptop for work purposes

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