What would Sverker say?

I was just watching an old show on Swedish television, SVT, called Plus. It has been like an ombudsman for consumers since the mid 80’s. It used to be hosted by Sverker Olofsson that became the average consumers’ hero when he battled companies for doing their customers wrong.

Only, now Sverker wasn’t there anymore. I was a bit sad but that’s not what I’ll rant about now. I was more upset with a segment they seemed to have in every episode nowadays. A segment where the hosts tried if and how much they could haggle down the price for different goods and services. I would even call it dickering. This time it was gas stations and home electronics stores that were being targeted. Of course it came down to what margins the goods had – petrol not so much while some gadget a bit more – no major revelations there.

So why am I upset at this? Isn’t it nice to get a little guidance on how to save a few bucks… or crowns. Well yes and no. I believe that in a transparent market, like the one we are close to today, consumers will in many cases have enough information to make good decisions. Prices are usually quite easy to benchmark and there are a bunch of services that even help us out with it. Our coice to then spend our money where we find it fit teaches the market what will work and what won’t. Watching the host beg for free coffee at the gas station or lie about how much money she brought with her to the store was just embarrassing. What did this tell us really?

The point I think they wanted to make didn’t at all come through though. I think, or at least I want to think, that they we’re trying to show that if a business just showed that they were willing to do a little extra for the customers, the customers would become more loyal. The begging didn’t quite make a good enough case.

I for one prefer to focus on the quality of the product or service I’m acquiring and the value I get for my money. Sure, I’d like the best available price but I won’t go so far as to drive the providers to focus solely on how they could deliver a lower price. My challenge is always how to find the best value for my money and in my world – that’s rarely achieved through dickering. But then again, I’m spoiled.

Don’t get me wrong, bargaining is a crucial part of business but that’s not what I saw today. So, do you haggle?

What do you think?