when is a gift not really a present?

My birthday is June 25th. I’m telling you this not because I expect your to send me a present, but, as you can imagine, this is the month when my credit card companies, my insurance agent and all the other sign-ups that requested my birthday will send me a present.

Some send those automatic greetings. Aren’t they pathetic? It’s not like they know me personally. For me it just reinforces the idea that computer programs have taken over for the personal phone call or cards that were sent. I am sure Hallmark Cards is crying in its soup.

But today’s present really set me back. Bon-Tons, the department store in the Newburgh Mall, send me a very sweet card with a bold graphic and a simple, HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the cover.

All well and good until I opened the card. There were two gift certificates.  Great, I thought! It gives me an excuse to go shopping… then I read the small print. One certificate requires me to spend at least $50 (And I get 20% discount) and the other suggests no minimum purchase but I have to shop online.

First, I don’t like receiving a present that just encourages me to spend more than I really want to.  And second, don’t push me to shop on the web if what I really want is an in-store experience.

But the thing that irked me the most is that I could probably get as good a deal in one of their newspaper inserts or online.

So “shame on you” Bon-Tons. You didn’t really want to wish me a happy birthday; you just wanted to created another “hurry in a shop” discount. Fire the person who came up with this awful idea.

UPDATE: Just heard from Gina, from the marketing department at Bon-Ton’s Department Store. Apparently she works for the boss who suggested their current birthday program. The same one I suggested they fire. According to Gina they welcomed my comments because they are in the middle of revamping their promotional programs and should launch new programs as soon as August.

According to marketing studies, Bon-Tons did everything right…almost.

  • 1.  They actually read the comments. Ever leave a comment for a store and never hear back from them?
  • 2.  They responded quickly with a personal phone call.
  • 3. They acknowledged the problem I addressed.
  • 4. And said thank-you and encouraged me to keep in contact with any other thoughts.

According to marketing studies, if a business follows the four above steps, they limit the damage and will most probably keep the complainer as a client. The one step they could have taken is to give a “gift” to say thank you. That assures that you not only keep the customer but will encourage the customer to tell others. Word of mouth compliments are the “bread-and-butter ” for business growth.

What customer service stories do you have to share?