Are your coupons and sales backfiring?

Like many holiday shoppers, I was looking for the best deal. And judging by the 25-person line at checkout, so were many others, even on a weekday morning. But I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed by the store’s confusing come ons.

In the past, I’d been pleased with Macy’s special coupon deals. So I carefully read the ad offering great sale prices on items I wanted. It said if you purchased the items before 1:00, you’d get an extra discount the sale price. It mentioned Super Sale items were excluded, but my items weren’t listed as part of that sale.

Arriving at noon to ensure I’d be checked out before the deadline, I carefully perused my items to make sure they qualified for the deal.

I chose an out-of-the way checkout counter to avoid the aforementioned 25-person line at the centralized cashier counter. There were two registers across from each other, so I stood at the side of the register the lone cashier was using, even though he was currently ringing up a customer on the other side. Another customer got in line behind her. Then a man joined my line.

While the cashier was helping the customer ahead of me, she was joined by a relative with many more items to buy. I learned this was his first day, so he was unsure of himself and had to call his supervisor during the transaction. The women bought heavy items and a passing coworker told him to call the Will Call department and someone would take the purchases to the dock where the women could pick them up. The young cashier couldn’t get Will Call to answer the phone, so he decided to take the items there himself. He was gone 20 minutes while the checkout line grew to 20 people.

During our wait, the man behind me asked a roaming staff person if his item qualified for the extra coupon savings. She said she didn’t know, but when the item was scanned the register would say. He said he didn’t want to wait another 30 minutes to then be told it didn’t qualify for the discount. We were all getting frustrated by the understaffed store, the uninformed workers, and the confusing advertising.

The cashier returned and it was my turn. I gave him my coupon expecting the extra discount because it was only 12:58. He said my items didn’t qualify because they were part of the Super Sale. The tags near the items didn’t identify them as Super Sale merchandise, nor did the ads mention this. Having already spent nearly 45 minutes in line, I decided to buy the items anyway rather than start over at another store. But I was not happy in the way the store advertised its sale items, the understaffing, and the untrained cashiers.

Since this experience, there have been other enticing coupons in the Macy’s ads. In the past, I might have taken the bait to purchase items I needed. But now I don’t bother as I don’t want to have a repeat of my last experience. If I really need something, I may return if I can’t find it elesewhere. But this experience has tainted my enthusiasm for this store.

The questions for you:

  1. Are you staffed up to sufficiently serve customers during sales? Having customers wait 45 minutes to check out will prevent some from purchasing — and others from returning.
  2. Are your ads and coupons clear on what is excluded? Do the tags or web pages for these items show if they are excluded from special discounts?
  3. Are your people trained in what is on sale and what isn’t so they can respond accurately to customers’ questions?


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3 thoughts on “Are your coupons and sales backfiring?”

  1. i dont quite agree with your comments. as a customer, it is our responsibilithy as well to check what is in the offer and what is excluded. somehow, i feel that we have forgotten our roles and have completely put the onus on service provider to spoon feed us at every stage.

  2. Hi Harshil:

    I agree that consumers need to do their due diligence. My point was that even though I and the customers near me had read the ad and the signs on our items, they weren’t marked with the exclusions so we had to wait until a staff person could determine if they qualified for the sale or not. This is a management problem.

  3. I think the onus is on the store to make sure it is crystal clear to the consumer what is included or not. If the exclusion list is more than 2 lines long, I think the store should seriously rethink offering the coupon.

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