DFS is one of the biggest sofa retailers in the UK and their sales have risen. But not everyone at the company is happy with how DFS sometimes sell extras to customers.
We heard from a former DFS employee who told us that he was unhappy at the way some staff members were selling added extras to customers, a sales technique he says was known as assumptive selling. They stated that “it’s really clever psychology, we talk about the sofa, we talk about the service and then just add everything on, congratulate you, thank you very much, make you feel really good and show you the door.” Although extras are detailed on the final bill, according to this insider, staff sometimes hide the cost of these extras within the monthly repayment figures and customers may not realise just how much the total cost will be “you say it’s going to be £40 a month and then you say thank you very much and get them to sign but in the mean time you’ve added all those things because I have mentioned them”.
They added that they sometimes also oversell the benefits of the stain protection insurance as the exclusions are never explained properly. They said “we never explain the exclusions at all but you keep explaining the benefits. We just sell it to everybody. Even if a customer asked, we say it’s covered, don’t worry we cover everything”. His testimony has been backed up by another DFS whistleblower who still works for the company. They told us their “biggest concern was the huge pressure staff members are under to sell extras… this pressure can also lead to assumptive selling”.
We decided to put these allegations to the test. We visited ten different DFS stores around the country to find out for ourselves the truth about DFS’s sales techniques.
In each store we enquired about buying the 2 seater Jive sofa, reduced from £958 to £479. In one store we visited, the salesman automatically added the fabric protection plan to our bill without telling us that was optional and it cost an additional £80. On top of that, he omitted to tell us about the £45 delivery charge as well, instead hiding both these costs within the monthly repayment figures.
Our consumer law expert, Deborah Parry, said that “if a consumer is being sold a package and isn’t aware that some of the items in that package are optional and there’s an extra charge for them then this will be assumptive selling.”
Nine of the ten stores visited did tell us that the fabric protection plan cost £80 but three failed to make it clear that this was an optional extra, didn’t explicitly ask if we wanted it and just rolled it into our quote. They may have given us the paperwork to approve at the end of the sale but that would have been too late according to Deborah Parry “Some of the stores were better than others but in many cases even where the cost of the insurance was explained the consumer didn’t explicitly agree with having it included. The item was simply added. In one instance there was definite assumptive selling and in other cases consumers were being led to purchase something without fully realising what they were being committed to”.
All ten stores we visited tried to persuade us to upgrade from the Jive’s standard fibre filled cushions, to the more expensive foam cushions by telling us it would be difficult to maintain and wouldn't look good.
We also witnessed overselling when it came to the five year fabric protection insurance. All ten stores talked to us about it and eight of them gave the impression that anything we could do to the sofa would be covered. This is despite there being a number of exclusions listed in the terms and conditions. When we specifically asked whether vermin damage was covered, over half the stores gave us the impression that is was even though it is a specific exemption. We also asked if the protection plan would cover the sofa if we put it in a rental property. Four of the salespeople told us it would be covered. In fact, three went even further and told us that the tenants could pretend to be the landlords in order to validate the claim or the way to do it would be for us to call and say there was a mark on the sofa and someone would go out to the rented house and fix it, something that Deborah Parry says would not only “void the insurance policy but it could also be a criminal offence under the fraud act.”
On a more positive note, staff provided accurate information about the quality of the sofa’s construction. Furniture and joinery expert Roger Galpin told us that upon inspecting a DFS sofa he found hard wood framing along with modern day panel products. This, together with increased section sizes on the load bearing areas, has created a sofa of “fairly robust construction.”