Join Now
International Automotive Technicians Network
The hidden message
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 3/1/2009 35 Replies

Oftentimes, a business will try to solve a problem by going about it the wrong way and end up hurting themselves without realizing it. In too many cases, new policies are set because of some strange experience with an extreme customer.

This has the effect of doing something that causes a negative effect on our good customers.

Let's take an example that I'm seeing more and more of. A simple, seemingly innocuous sign that keeps popping up, mostly at fast food places:

"Please present coupons at time of order".

Here's what this REALLY communicates to customers:

First off, you don't even HAVE any coupons. That means you're basically getting screwed because you're paying too much. The business obviously has them out there, but there's no way for you to get them now. You''re trapped in the line and have no way to avoid this. Boy, don't you feel good now about eating here. :o)

Second, if you do have coupons and don't follow the "rules", we're going to let you know how much trouble you've caused because you refuse to follow the "rules" like everyone else is supposed to. We'll be sure to send you on your way with our last contact being "you're a real pain to us". With the inexperienced, under-trained help we have, that will be easy to do.

Third, even though we designed our whole system, we choose to put the burden of our ineptitude on you, by putting up another hoop for you to jump through before we'll accept your money. Be sure to remember to do this right. Even though we could easily make it a cinch to take any coupon presented at any time, that's too easy. We'd rather seek an opportunity to rain on your parade.

Fourth, be sure your coupons haven't expired, even though they may have been good yesterday. We love to point out that it isn't good today if it's expired.

This last item has happened to me on numerous occasions. I'm not a coupon guy, as I don't like a bunch of paper laying around that I forget to use.

Walgreens is the master of all coupons. They always have a ton of little things on sale. On many occasions, a sales clerk has voluntarily searched through the coupons to see if they can get me any discounts and I haven't even asked. This is a very positive experience and Walgreen's business is booming.

At my shop, we don't say anything about coupons, ever. We always have an oil change coupon in our Newsletter, good for a few bucks off. We give everyone the coupon deal, even if they didn't present the coupon. When we do this, we always tell the customer we gave them the coupon price "since they presented the coupon", nudge, nudge, wink, wink. When they say they forgot it, I always say, "no, it fell out of your purse or pocket when you came in. You should be more careful", said as I smile broadly.

Any coupon presented at any time is easily handled by us. We simply go to the "discount" section of our software, punch in the amount and give them the new total. Easy as pie, handled with a smile.

I was in a small neighborhood grocery store and they had a little sign above the eggs, advertising a lower price "with coupon". I needed eggs, so I tried a little experiment. At the checkout, I told them I forgot to bring the coupon, could they give me the deal, anyway. NOPE, not without the coupon, was the reply. I then asked why they even had a sign up about the coupons. All it does is make people mad, me included at this point.

You see, it costs a lot of money to print and distribute coupons. This money is spent in an attempt to generate more business. If handled incorrectly, this practice can make people mad.

One of my favorite George Witt quotes is: "Don't spend money to make people mad. You can make them mad for FREE!"

Be very careful about signs, policies or procedures you implement in your business asking the customer to do something to benefit you. Better to understand that the general public tends to be a little scatter-brained and is probably going to do some things that drive you crazy. Just smile and deal with it politely, as this is truly the nature of the retail business. If you have trouble with retail, maybe you should seek another line of work, because people just aren't going to change, no matter how many signs you put up or policies you implement.

George from Nebraska

35 Replies Received (View Replies)