Rarely am I so motivated by bad customer service to take additional time and energy to write about it… but my recent experience today at Academy Sports + Outdoors is one of those events that I feel compelled to speak about. The manager at Academy Sports showed blatant disregard to the notion of taking responsibility for the confusing price signage placement for their weights. You tell me, if you walk up to this display, what would you think the prices are for the weights…

Let the Ordeal Begin

When I saw these weights, I pulled out my phone and compared the prices to Wal-Mart. I thought, “Cool, these prices are about a $1 cheaper than Wal-Mart… I’ll go ahead and get these here.” I placed four weights in my basket (sets of 10lb and 15lb). I know, I need to work on my arm strength lol – but back to the ordeal… I had decided to buy a couple of other things as well. At the checkout, my total came up higher than anticipated. Upon reviewing the receipt, I noticed that the weights had been rung up higher than the prices shown; I mention this to the cashier and she replies, “Oh, if that’s the case you can go to the customer service desk and they can give you the credit there.” So I proceeded to do just that.

At the customer service desk, an employee tells me that if indeed the pricing isn’t correct, they’ll honor the price shown and give me a credit. So I head over to the area just to double check. Sure enough, I’m thinking, “Yup, I got overcharged by about $4-$7 per weight.” As I was about to head back, I noticed that there was a sign on top of a similar stack of weights next to this one except those weights were the metallic type; but the prices matched what I had been charged. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the signage had been switched. The sign on top of the rubber coated weights was suppose to be on top of the others and vice versa.

So I tell the employee about the signs being in the wrong place. He agreed that it definitely looks confusing and told me that I would still get the credit and they would honor the price shown on top of the weights.

But the Plot Thickens

As the employee was switching the signage, he notices that the signage is placed correctly when viewed from the other side. It turns out the signage is double-sided. One side is for the “Cast Iron” weights and the other side is for the “Rubber Coated” weights. Here’s what’s wrong with this:

  1. I approached the stack of weights from the side that most people would approach it from. The other side was a single-sided aisle while the side I approached from was an open area where they had all their other weights and equipment. I never went on the other side. Most people who see what I saw would think that those were the prices for those weights.
  2. To be honest, I never paid attention to the “Cast Iron” text on the signage. I mean, seriously, what designer puts orange type on a grey background? And even if I had read “Cast Iron”, my understanding would have been that these weights were made out of cast iron on the inside. When I had initially put the weights in my basket, I did not read the other sign on the other stack of “cast iron” metallic-looking weights that read “Rubber Coated” so I never even had the slightest hint that this was not the correct sign for these.

The employee hesitated for awhile and was saying that in situations like these, since “technically” the signage was correct, I wouldn’t get a credit. He then followed up and asked me how many weights I bought. I told him that I had only bought four. After a short pause, he told me that they’ll still honor the credit and give me the prices shown which were for the “Cast Iron” weights. I figured this would be a satisfactory ending and I was about to tweet the awesome customer service I had received. But then things went from excellent to terrible within a few minutes.

Say Hello to the Manager

When I went back to the customer service desk, the other employee there had been provided with the new pricing to calculate my credit. Well when he was done, my total credit was about $5 total. I quickly asked, “Are you sure? What prices did he give you for the cast-iron weights?” He showed me the prices he had been given which were not correct either. I tried to explain to him that those weren’t the prices for the cast-iron weights. He followed up by saying, “Well that’s what he gave me so I have to go by that. If you’d like, you can talk to the manager about it”, which ironically was right next to us working on something else.

So here I am trying to explain the situation and bring her up to speed to what was going on. She immediately got on the defensive and asked me who had authorized the credit. The other Academy employee told her who it was and it looked like she wasn’t happy at all. She expressed that the other employee had no authorization to approve a credit and if it had been her she would not have given me that credit because the signage was correct. The manager then continued and asked me how much of a credit I was getting. I showed her the prices that the other employee had written down and added that those were not correct for the cast-iron weights either. She replied, “Well that’s the most we’re going to credit you.” I followed up by saying that his intention was to match the prices for the cast-iron weights, he just communicate the wrong prices. The manager then follows up defending her position that I shouldn’t even be getting a refund and we proceeded to go back to the area of the weights so she could “show” me how the signage is correct.

As soon as we get to the weights, she points out how the sign on top of the rubber-coated weights says “Cast Iron” and I should have known that those prices were for the other weights and not those. She continues stating that on the other side were the prices for the rubber-coated ones and how they even have a picture. I stated that I never went on the other side and most people approaching that stack of weights would see the signage that I saw and think that those were the prices for those stack of weights since it was right above it. The manager from Academy then tried to say that, “Well that’s just how the signage is but the sign is labeled right.” I quickly followed up by stating, “Sure the label on the sign and prices might match but the signage itself is positioned right above the weights and are you to expect that people will not associate that pricing with the big stack of weights right below it?” I followed up by saying that the other Academy employee had agreed that it is misleading and confusing; that it was more of a problem with how they designed the planogram for the weights section of the store.

The Final Showdown

Ultimately I asked, “So first I’m told that the price shown will be honored, and now you’re saying that it’s not? So you’re not going to honor the pricing?” and she firmly said, “No.” So I responded by saying, “Okay, fine… but by the way I’m returning the rest of my order.” (I had purchased more than just the weights) I then took the photo above to prove my point and share my experience with others. I proceeded to the customer service desk to get a full refund on everything I had purchased with the full intent to never purchase from Academy Sports again. I was standing in line and as it was coming up to be my turn, the cashier received a phone call. I could hear the conversation and it was definitely about me. As the employee hung up, he tells me, “Okay, so we’ll honor the credit.” My ultimate credit… about $25 from a total purchase of about $115.

Although the outcome was to my favor, I’m still dissatisfied with how Academy Sports handled the situation. The manager’s last-minute call saved a 100% long-term personal shun from me for Academy Sports (Acer is one company that’s on my shun list and has been for 7 years); however, I will be giving my business to other nearby similar stores for the near future.

I know that others have received good customer service at Academy Sports, which is why I’m even more disappointed about this, but this was my personal experience at the Academy Sports located at 2024 North Loop 1640 East, San Antonio, TX on Saturday, June 9, 2012.

Other sporting goods stores in San Antonio, Texas with similar or better pricing than Academy Sports + Outdoors:

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods (2 San Antonio Locations, 1 New Braunfels)
  • Sport’s Authority (2 San Antonio Locations)
  • Wal-Mart Supercenter (15+ San Antonio Locations)
    * Their prices on weights is about 5-10% lower than Academy Sports even though it’s the same brand (CAP)

*** UPDATE ***

I spoke with Rene, the store director, and he did personally apologize for the what occurred. He reassured me that this incident was a topic of conversation during a recent manager’s meeting and was used as an example of what not to do with the intend to eliminate any re-occurrence for customers in the future. I expressed that I wrote my thoughts as balanced as I could and even pointed out that I have heard good things about the customer service at Academy which is why I was surprised on how my situation was handled. Ultimately I hope that this blog post influences improved customer service from the particular manager that I dealt with.



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