The case of the free computer | H. Dennis Castor | Chroniclers


“Jake”, a civil engineer, ordered a specialized laptop computer directly from the manufacturer’s sales department as well as two preinstalled software that was essential for his job.

He was given assurance after another to receive the computer and activation codes on a specific date; but nothing was delivered until three months after the promised time. Activation codes had to be sent by email.

“Despite calling ‘Rob’ the sales rep, who often waits on hold for over an hour, and was told ‘My supervisor said he would send this email immediately’ , I never received the activation codes. ” Jake said, adding:

“For over a month I made several more calls and Rob’s growing frustration with his business going bankrupt was evident. After wasting so much time all I had was a computer that couldn’t be used for my business and I lost two jobs because I couldn’t use the necessary software. I gave up expecting the seller to ever get me these codes.

Finally, Jake called the software developers, sent them proof of purchase, and they provided the codes.

Happy Camper – When …

“I came back from a job out of town when my secretary said, ‘Boss, while you were gone Rob called, apologized for the hassle, said he had left the company, but got it right for you. The next day, FedEx handed over a check from the IT company labeled refund. I deposited it with our other checks, but thinking about it now, I thought you were finally happy with the purchase. ‘”

Jake called the seller, left voicemail messages and sent emails offering to refund the money and stating that he wanted to keep the laptop.

“But no one ever responded, and that worried me. I didn’t want to be accused of illegally getting a refund on the laptop that I still have and use. Should I return the money? The computer? “

A law professor gives his opinion

I asked a friend of this column, Loyola (Los Angeles) Law School Contracts Professor Bryan Hull, “Since my reader was not involved in getting the refund and tried to pay for the computer again. laptop, if he does nothing, could it land him in civil or criminal trouble? ”

Hull replied:

“If the refund was a payment in error, the seller would be entitled to the refund of this amount. But was it a mistake? It would seem almost mandatory that the sales rep get permission before issuing that check and allowing the customer to keep the laptop.

“But the buyer offered to send the money to them, so it doesn’t appear that he is attempting to hold the funds criminally. My guess is that the refund check was not sent in error, but rather as a way to compensate Jake for all the time he wasted trying to get what he paid for. His best bet is to do nothing and keep using the laptop.

Was the refund really sent in error? How could this happen?

I spoke with US-based human resources and logistics managers at two major hardware manufacturers, asking them, “Have you heard of anything as strange as this case? How could this have happened?

Logistics managers – on condition of strict anonymity – were in full agreement on: “The monumental flaw in ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing, where components are delivered to factories as needed, which minimizes the need for store them. But we all knew it was an impending disaster, ”he explains:

“This concept was pioneered by Toyota, was quickly adopted by all automakers and many other industries – including electronics and pharmaceuticals – and made them vulnerable to shortages.”

OK, that explains the delay, but what about Rob sending Jake a full refund?

Sabotage! “I will show you!”

Human resources officials revealed a touching and charitable attitude towards Rob, all believing that while technically what he did amounted to sabotage, “the pandemic has turned everything sales-related upside down”, told me. says “Stacey”, a 35-year human resources veteran.

“We have rarely seen this behavior before and it would show up after an employee quit or was fired and his supervisor got a scary feeling about him. We would audit their sales and returns, occasionally finding a refund issued but no action taken to recover the material.

I was wondering if their industry is addressing these issues with employees or would prefer not to publicize the issues.

“You don’t want to crash ideas on how to get revenge on a supervisor who embarrassed you – or yelled at you – by clients. But at the same time, if you don’t fix the problem, just one rep can cost you thousands of dollars! “

Concluding our conversation, Stacey said, “Since COVID the world of manufacturing has been turned upside down, employees are suffering burnout at rates we’ve never seen before, and it takes a lot more compassion from the part of the management that unfortunately many of those who occupy the “C” suites understand. “

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