‘Just Ask’ – The Morality of Extended Warranties

I have mentioned before that I work in retail.  Though the position isn’t my dream job, it is decent work and I get along well with my co-workers.  If there is one part of my job that I struggle with, though, it is the pressure to up-sell.

One of the main responsibilities of my job, as a salesperson, is to persuade customers to spend more money in the store.  I am supposed to ask if they need additional items to go along with their purchase.  To a certain extent I am fine with this – if a person doesn’t want the additional items then they’ll just say no.  Sometimes I feel rather rude, but I can deal with it.  What does get to me, though, is the pressure to sell extended warranties.  I feel, as an employee, that I am morally obligated to do the work that my company wants me to do – as long as I am taking their money, I should be doing as they direct.  I feel some of their tactics put me in a moral quandary.

I do not believe that buying an extended warranty is a good idea.  I probably do not need to justify my arguments on the matter: essentially I feel that they are a waste of money, and the emphasis that my work places on them feels like a thinly disguised cash grab.  This makes me somewhat reluctant in pressing the matter with customers.

My company has done two things which I find especially bothersome.  The first thing is that, to ensure worker compliance, they issue a $10 dollar gift card to any customer who is not offered a protection plan.  I’m not surprised that they would implement such policy, because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who somewhat drags their feet in offering the protection plan (every time I offer one I cry a little on the inside).  I feel that it would be much better if they actually investigated why employees are reluctant, and spoke to us on the issue.

The second thing that I find bothersome is the rhetoric around extended warranties.  The language is very much ‘we are ensuring our customers peace of mind, etc etc.’  At one meeting we were told that a good tactic was to say ‘we recommend you get the extended warranty.’  Now, I may be mistaken, but I feel that these are tactics much directed at the employees to help us justify our actions to ourselves.  We, as the salesperson, must assume the moral burden.  I would, in a way, much rather just be told that I must lie about how I feel about the protection plan, because then a larger part of the burden settles on the company.

Let me know what you think,


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2 thoughts on “‘Just Ask’ – The Morality of Extended Warranties

  1. I find it interesting that you consider it a moral quandary to offer the extended warranty or not. In my position, I feel that management doesn’t have much of a control of what I do on the floor, morally or otherwise. While I agree that I’m there to carry out the tasks I’m given, and that selling as much as I can is my job, I don’t think I consider upselling tactics and extended warranty selling a big part of what makes my salesmanship very successful. Management won’t like it, but management hasn’t exactly done anything for me to make my job easier. By not providing information on how much value you get from an extended warranty, we’re instructed to use vague language and “recommend” that people spend more money blind. It’s not much wonder why the conversion rate is so low on those.

  2. I agree that the moral quandary is strongly dependent on how much you interpret the moral action to be following the letter of the law. If you interpret your duty to be ‘do the best sales job you can’ then the quandary is fixed. It seems to me that this fix only works, however, if you don’t think you COULD be selling more. I think that I am capable of selling more warranties, and I feel that I am encouraged to do so. I’m quite willing to bet that management is right when they say that 20% or whatever the number of customers will get the warranty if we offer it, but the rate is much lower I think because we (as in, the employee’s at large) do not feel comfortable offering it. I think that this is a fact that our employer is quite aware of (hence, the just ask policy and gift card). I think their tactic is slightly underhanded because they are failing to actually address employee reservations, but instead are trying to force our behavior through strong-arm tactics. I feel that it is disrespectful to employees to manipulate them so.

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