Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sales that end with an ugh

I’m not what you would call a fashion plate. It’s rare that I’m up with whatever the latest fashion trend happens to be. The first time I heard of Ugg boots was when a writing student of mine wrote a column for a local alternative weekly about how overexposed and ugly the boots are. Uggs were apparently reaching saturation just as they first crossed my awareness.

It was fortunate, though, that I learned of them when I did since it prepared me for an e-mail from A.C., a reader from Ohio. She had bought a pair of Ugg boots for her daughter from a website. The retail price, she reports, would have been $160, but she paid $85,which included shipping.

“The boots came and, unfortunately, they were two sizes too big,” she writes. Since there wasn’t any method to return the boots indicated on the packaging, my reader decided to cut her losses and sell them to a resale store. “If not for the size, we would have been happy to have kept them.”

The store’s buyer paid her $40 for the boots and marked them for resale at $80.

That night on her local news broadcast, my reader saw a clip warning consumers about purchasing counterfeit Ugg boots off of the Internet. She went online to get some tips on how to recognize a knockoff. Since she didn’t have the boots with her, it was difficult for her to remember the fine points of the boots. But she did recall that the box her boots came in did not mirror the description of what a genuine Ugg boots box should look like. “My box’s lid was simply a lid,” she writes, “whereas the genuine Ugg boots box is hinged.”

My reader called the resale store the next day to explain how she had purchased her boots and that she was no longer confident they were genuine. She didn’t explain why she believed this, but she did offer to buy them back so that someone else wouldn’t purchase them believing them to be “the real deal.”

The sales clerk she spoke with assured her that the staff at the resale store is trained to spot fakes, and then thanked my reader for caring.

“She never really gave me a chance to speak about why I thought they might be fakes,” my reader writes. She decided that if they passed the store’s staff trained eyes, then perhaps they were made in the same manufacturing plant as the genuine Uggs.

Still bothered by all of this, my reader returned to the store two days later and found that the boots had already been sold. Now she’s left wondering whether she did the right thing. “Should I have called them back and explained about the difference in the box?”

Once my reader grew concerned that she might have purchased a knockoff pair of boots, she did the right thing by calling the store to let it know of her concern. She’s right that it would be unfortunate if someone bought them thinking they had a genuine pair, but my reader had no obligation beyond telling the store that they might have fake goods on their hands. It might have been good for the clerk she spoke with to have taken her concerns a bit more seriously, but once my reader alerted the store of the possible issue, it was its responsibility to investigate and make sure it wasn’t mislabeling products for sale.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today’s Business,” is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to



William Jacobson said...

Jeffery, sometimes the right thing to do is to cut your losses. It is admirable that your reader would go to the trouble to followup with the store that she might have sold counterfeit goods to. Following up once is admirable. Twice is conscientious, but any more is just a nuisance. The store has a business to run and every conversation she has them with this takes away costs them more in employee time and trouble.

By all indications, the store no longer has the boots. Both the store and the new customer took the risk that they were buying counterfeits when they purchased them and quite frankly both the store and the new customer may well be thrilled at what they paid even if they were counterfeits.

Your reader did not intentionally harm anyone and in fact her actions may not have harmed anyone. She can sleep with a clear conscience.

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA

ECS said...

The whole issue of knock-offs is a vexing one. Where I live it is very common to see people carrying "Luis Vuittin" knock-offs. I always assumed they were cheap as they are plastic.

I am not at all impressed by labels, so I never worried much about it-- but a friend of mine gave my a purse that I was pretty sure was such a knock-off. I did some searched on the inetrnet and found a site that sells these-- for a hefty sum I(so much for cheap!) and the purse I have is indeed well made. But since real LV bags costs thousands-- yes, thousands-- I am 100% sure this one is a fake.

I am an attorney and thus I take this sort of things seriously, so I can neither carry the purse nor give it away, nor sell it. So I use it for storage.

Can I skim some books from my friend's donation?

A reader we're calling Josh, owns a pickup truck. Josh seems a good enough fellow, indicating that in addition to using his truck as...