“What not to do” -learn from the big retailer’s faux pas!

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Last week was an interesting time.  I learned a lot about marketing don’ts from some local retailers.  In fact, if it wasn’t so scary in terms of what it’s probably doing to their profitability, it would be quite funny.

I thought I’d share some of the highlights – perhaps you need a good chuckle today.

I had to go shopping recently.  It’s something I don’t do a lot these days.  Too busy.  However, I’m thinking of undertaking an interior redecoration project sometime this summer.  As part of my concept, I’m looking for old fashioned blue ticking – that old canvas type fabric with the blue stripes that they used to cover mattresses and pillows with eons ago.

My quest led me to another town to visit a fabric store.  This store has multiple locations throughout Western Canada.  They used to have one in my town but it closed recently.  I now know why.

On my arrival I’m overwhelmed by the chaos – fabric bolts piled high in disarrayed abandon, plenty of customers but staff who appeared as if they were bored stiff and counting the minutes until close time.

I begin looking for what I want and after a good ten minutes decide it might be quicker to get some help, so I approach a young lady standing behind a cutting table, hands folded.  “I’m looking for blue ticking,” I say, “do you stock that?”

She stares at me blankly, then smirks, as if I’m rather strange,”Blue ticking?  Never heard of it.  But maybe if you ask one of the other staff, they might help you.”

Okaaay then….

A few days later, one afternoon, I’m visiting a large craft store in my town.  It’s a very big U.S. chain which entered the market here and pretty much took all the independent local craft and framing stores out of business by offering deep discounts (on inferior products at actually higher prices!).

I walk through the doors and am offered a flier by a sales clerk, “You can go online and download a coupon to save on your purchase today.  It’s valid even on sale items,” she says brightly.  I don’t pay too much attention, as I’m not even sure they will have what I’m looking for.  Turns out though, that they do.  And it’s on sale at 40% off.  Wow.  I lucked out.

Hang on though!  Didn’t I just get a coupon for an extra 20% off on top of the sale price?!  Check the flier.  Oh yes, but I have to go online to download it.  Hmmm.  Okay, well I have my iPhone, perhaps if I can connect to the internet here then I can download it and use it.

I ask another sales person in the department where I’ve found my items.  “Do you have internet here?” I ask innocently.  “No,” she replies looking at me as if I’m a bit retarded.  “Oh,” I say, trying to explain, “you see I’ve got this flier and I want to make a purchase but I have to go online to get this coupon?”

“Yes?” she answers with a ‘so what?’ tone.

“Well, I was just thinking that it would be good if I could get it now so I don’t have to come back.”

“No.” she says.  “Not possible, we’re green you know.  Haven’t been printing coupons for a long time now.”

This floors me a little.  “Oh.  I thought I could just go online and get a coupon number or something,” I reply naively.

“No.  You have to print it out and bring it in.”

“Oh.  So let me get this straight.  Your organization is going green, so I have to drive home to go and PRINT out a coupon then drive back here to purchase?”

“Yes,” she says flatly, without a flicker of amusement.

“Um… I thought you were going green?”

“We are.  Have been for ages.”

“That’s logical,” I reply.

She walks off rather ticked that I’d find their green policy strange.

I’m left shaking my head, thinking that the green policy must certainly refer to the extra greenbacks they save by not printing coupons.  However, someone surely screwed up.  If I hadn’t got the flier handed to me as I walked in, I would’ve bought what I came for at 40% off and thought I’d got a good deal.  I wouldn’t have wasted extra gas on driving there twice and I wouldn’t have used paper, ink etc for printing.

But no.  I went home.  Printed out the coupon.  Drove back.  Go figure.

I wonder how much they pay their marketing people?

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