Misleading Coupons Hurt Loyalty

My cousin went to Lord & Taylor expecting to use a 20% coupon. After finding a bathing suit that she wanted to buy, she went to checkout.

The sales rep, however, said that the coupon did not work for her order. They called over the supervisor who insisted that the coupon could not be used for bathing suits. Even after several minutes, the supervisor could not explain where it said that bathing suits were not included. The sale rep was nice about the situation, agreeing that it was misleading after the supervisor left. But my cousin had to pay full price for the bathing suit.

The experience was so problematic that my cousin told me about it (and she probably told other people as well).

My take: I’ve included a copy of the coupon below. Take a look at the wording. Even with the closest reading of the fine print, it does not seem to say that bathing suits aren’t included. 

There were two significant problems with this interaction: 

  • Misleading wording. Despite the large font claiming “Storewide Savings,” it has so much fine print that it’s very hard to understand. And the implementation of the coupon in the store does not seem to match how it’s worded.
  • Unempowered employees. Even after realizing that the policy was wrong, the salesperson did not have the ability to override the system. She should have been able to give my cousin the 20% discount.

Unfortunately, these problems aren’t unique to Lord & Taylor. Too many retailers still try to lure customers into their stores with less than clear promotions. This type of experience may drive short-term traffic, but it doesn’t create loyal customers.  

The bottom line: Incremental sales aren’t worth the cost of loyalty.

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