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The integrity of pop up

 

Pop up businesses have ethical and legal responsibilities too…

The global pop up “phenomenon” might be based on the excitement and notoriety of here-today-and-gone-tomorrow – but that doesn’t mean those businesses can shirk their commercial responsibilities. Pop up operators should have the same obligations as their full-time, bricks-and-mortar counterparts… to support and protect their customers.

Twice in the past week or so I’ve had contacts from people desperately trying to connect with businesses that we’ve mentioned here at popUPshops, complaining that they can’t find them.

One resourceful reader sent an email, made a comment on our Facebook page – and also called when I responded ! It seems her elderly mother had made a purchase at a pop up shop in one of our major shopping centres not long ago (3 weeks) – and returned the garment when it didn’t fit. The trader refused to refund the purchase but offered a voucher instead, saying they’d be popping up again soon at another shopping centre. But since then the pop up and the brand have disappeared… the website has closed and there’s no sign of the next shop (yet).

Another person asked how to contact the managers of a pop up space we had promoted last year…I sent through the details that we’d published, but they replied to say “Website, Facebook and her number has been disconnected. I gave up trying to locate her.” And I must admit, I’d also tried to follow up with this business, without success. One of the conditions that we publish details of potential pop up locations… is that a landlord or agent will let us know when a property is no longer available (otherwise how do we know when to remove a listing, and won’t waste our readers’ time ?)

Not long ago I heard a comment… “Pop up is a relatively new industry. What we do is a definitely a trade, not a trend”. Hmm – I’d agree that pop up is not a trend, but I don’t know about the “trade” description. I’d rather say that what we do is an established and accepted business activity – with enough success and momentum to qualify as a valid genre of retail (okay, a bit long-winded). But it also implies a measure of commercial integrity… that the operators who dabble (or dwell) in pop-ups will offer the same level of ethical and legal protections for their customers, as the fully-fledged / traditional / bricks and mortar retailers. And that includes honouring customer complaints (and vouchers) after the pop up has closed, or winding up a business. It’s not acceptable to hide a website or turn off the ‘phone… and expect customers, suppliers and supporters to know / accept / forget. That’s just poor (un-ethical) service.

Similarly, pop up businesses need to have legal registrations and indemnities in place before they start trading. One guy I worked with last year (through our pop up fit-out hire service – instant retail) had an ABN, but his trading name wasn’t registered as a business. He didn’t have a website and didn’t use online accounts (transactions were cash over the counter at a bank…) And that wasn’t really a problem for us – until it came time to chase his final, outstanding account…

If things don’t go well for a pop up trader it might seem easy to disappear. But there are always traces… IP addresses, business and tax registrations etc… which will provide details of a pop up’s origin. Many of those details are available online to anyone, others can be found through agencies and authorities. That customer with a garment voucher is taking her complaint to Consumer Affairs – no doubt they’ll soon track down the business owners. And yes, we recovered our final account from the dodgy no-website-no-bank-account trader.

I guess as the pop up industry continues to flourish there are bound to be a couple of “bad eggs”. I’m not suggesting those two complaints (or our own experience) are typical… or that they ever planned to shirk their obligations. In my experience most pop up businesses do offer genuine, ethical and responsible service to their customers. Let’s hope the bad eggs are few and far between…

 

Bad egg - IngredientMatcher.com

 

image : Bad egg – IngredientMatcher.com

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