Kids & Money

Catch phrases can be costly

I always cringe when I see the phrase “some assembly required.”

For me, that typically means the rudimentary drawings and vague instructions will turn a 20-minute toy assembly task into a two-hour mind bender.

There has to be a better, more consumer-friendly way, and I have a suggestion for the toy manufacturers who must take delight in torturing toolphobe like me: Provide a little more detail work on the drawings and write clearer assembly instructions so I’ll know from the get-go that snapping Part A into Part B requires a mallet and power tools in addition to the tiny metal doodad that comes with the package.

It’s not just toy manufacturers who are guilty of this type of poor service. When it comes to some of the details of the customer experience, retailers (both online and traditional), banks, credit card issuers, restaurants and many other companies also come up short way too often.

Speaking for all consumers — and, I might add, that includes children — I’m simply asking that companies make it as easy as possible for me to shop and spend.

Here are some other examples of phrases with a catch and my ideas on what good customer relations should look like:

• Shipping and handling. How many times have you heard this pitch: “Buy one today and we’ll send you the second one at no additional cost.”

That second product might be “free” in somebody’s world, but not mine. What they don’t tell you is that you still have to pay shipping and handling … and taxes too.

Don’t tout the product as being free. Spell out the shipping and handling costs and the sales tax so you can clearly see how good the deal really is.

• Batteries not included. You buy the toy, bring it home and realize you don’t have the right batteries. That’s what I hate.

The information may be on the package, but where? It’s hidden under the price sticker, or the print requires a magnifying glass to read. Some retailers actually include the batteries in the packaging, which I like. But at the very least, make the information easy to find and read.

• Extended warranties. Whether you think extended warranties are a good deal or a waste of money, it’s a royal pain to keep track of the paperwork. The onus is on the owner, and when you really need to find the warranty, well, you know how that goes trying to poke through your filing cabinet.

A better idea: More companies should have a record of the warranty, be able to access it and tell you immediately what’s covered and what’s not.

• Friendly financing terms. What could be better than this: You buy a big-screen TV complete with a 24-month, interest-free financing plan. Life is good until you miss a monthly payment and get slapped with a 15 percent interest rate penalty. Where did that come from?

If retailers are going to promote the financing plan on the showroom floor, do the right thing and spell out the penalties in bold letters.

• Tips. I’m used to adding a tip, but I just hate having to calculate it, which always seems to occur when I’m in the middle of a conversation.

The solution: Have it already calculated, as some restaurants do, so you need only to circle 15, 18 or 20 percent. But even this could be refined, since I’ve yet to see the 10 percent or zero tipping options.