Membership buying service DirectBuy lost a female customer this week when they refused to allow her to look at their furniture without her husband.
Stacy wrote to Consumerist with the following story:
We are moving soon and am looking for options to buy furniture for our new place. This morning a sales rep from the Direct Buy company returned my call about receiving a pass to the showroom and meeting about their furniture selection. During his information gathering he asked for my husband's name and I refused, as my husband is a very private person and prefers not to be involved in these types of meetings. He works long hours and trusts me (stay at home mom) with household buying decisions.
Well, once the sales rep heard that my husband didn't want to be involved he refused to schedule me for a pass and meeting at the showroom! He stated that they only schedule married couples if both spouses can be at the meeting. I stated "So, you'd have no problem having just me for a meeting if I was single." "No.", he replied.
I'm not sure what's more bizarre — that DirectBuy turned away this woman's business, or that they only did so because she was married. Does marriage somehow wipe out the furniture-buying circuits in a woman's brain? Does DirectBuy assume that men still make all the purchasing decisions in marriages — and stick by this outdated notion even when a customer strongly indicates otherwise? And hasn't this strategy lost them business in the past?
Consumerist's Meg Marco points out that DirectBuy's kind of shady in other ways — had Stacy's husband/keeper actually accompanied her to the showroom, they might have been treated to "a high-pressure sales pitch for a 3-year membership that, [at least in 2007], cost from $4,900 to $4,990 (plus tax)." The company also appears to have used intimidation tactics in an effort to get criticisms of its services taken down from a consumer website. So maybe it shouldn't be a shock that DirectBuy has questionable policies — and of course, female consumers are still discriminated against at car dealerships and elsewhere. Still, it's pretty odd that a company would cling to patriarchal notions when it means basically throwing away money. Said Stacy, in closing, "I guess I'll take my thousands of dollars worth of furniture purchases elsewhere to a company that realizes it's the 21st century."