Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

October 29th, 2015

Categories: Customer Service, Discounts, Food, Promotions, Retail

Take Care: The Good

I got a generous 30 percent discount offer for online purchases from CVS, a pharmacy chain. Among other things I ordered a $45 OTC product my husband eats like popcorn. I’ve taken advantage of this offer many times.

Whether in the store or online, I am very careful to choose the right version as there’s one for kids that looks pretty much the same as the one he uses. So I was surprised when I opened the box and there was the kid’s version. I clearly clicked the wrong package–I hadn’t reviewed the order when the email confirmation arrived. [I’d never made a mistake like this before.] I called customer service, admitted my mistake and was given a bunch of options. I chose to return the box of kid’s stuff to a retail store and the cashier gave me a gift card equivalent to the amount I’d paid: A seamless collaboration between online and retail operations. I’m a fan.

Fishy: The Bad

I get email notices of special promotions from a fish store that assumes that everyone has a big family: You get a free pound of the fish of the day if you pay for a pound. If you like fresh fish–which is why people shop here–freezing the extra won’t do. So while it may seem like a great deal, it’s of little use to some–such as me. Why not just offer a smaller percentage off per pound?

Hot Dog! The Ugly

As I left to run errands I noticed a crowd of students who attend a college down the street from my office, gathered around a table on the sidewalk in front of a small food establishment. You often see a person handing out food samples in little cups from a tray. Tables on a city sidewalk are unusual.

On my return only three people were in an orderly line so I could see what was on the table and I joined the line.  Along with a sign declaring “free hotdogs” were two bottles of condiments and a tray with the snacks. The line moved quickly, I was next and there was one dog left. Just then a man arrived at the table from the other side and he stopped. The server looked at me, looked at him, and handed him the last hotdog.

I calmly said to the server “You made a mistake. You saw I was next. My office is two doors up. I was about to tell the 10 young men in my office about this business–they order out daily. I won’t now.” She stuttered that there were more inside but I was off.

What a shame: The owner meant well and now someone on staff has turned off a potential customer who will never go inside only to expect to be faced with similar discrimination. Also lost is positive word-of-mouth, the best marketing tool there is for a food place.

Can you share any good or bad promotions of late?

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6 Responses to “Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

  1. hb Said:

    As a consumer who is intensely concerned about the future of the globe and the human race, which while its number expands relentlessly, is being evermore deviously goaded into mindlessly consuming the planet’s rapidly diminishing resources, I realize marketers must market. But somebody should, to protect innocent consumers like me, vet and police their activities to insure that they are legitimate, open and aboveboard.

    My most recent pet beef is with gift cards, which one seems to acquire with increasing frequency. More often than not, I’ve found that they come with strings attached. After you get one, and after a few time consuming “press one, press two” telephone calls, you discover that they can only be used in certain places to buy certain things, you realize that you have been had. You must buy something you don’t need or want at a store you don’t like, or forfeit the card’s supposed value.

    In frustration, I am adopting a new policy. If someone gives me a gift card, I am going to return it to the giver, even if my doing so offends him or her. If someone tries to sell me something with a gift card attached, I am going to insist on a cash price or not buy whatever it is no matter how badly I need it.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Please send any gift cards you receive my way. I’m sorry you’ve had issues with them but used as part of a promotion some may be faulty.

    Nevertheless, if a friend gave you a gift card you didn’t want to use and you didn’t care to send it to me or someone else, why would you insult the giver who only means well? Give the card to charity, no? You seem too polite and concerned about others to rudely refuse any gift. Have you done this before with a sweater, socks, shirt, necktie, pen, puzzle or other offering?

    I put to very good use a generous Whole Foods gift card from a friend and another Visa gift card for $400 sent because I happened to sign up for a FIOS bundle at just the right time. I needed the service anyway and the windfall was welcome gravy. I had no trouble with either.

    However I plan to write at some time about a gift card that did give me angst so the concept isn’t perfect. I’m not so flush as others may be to turn my back on money even if it comes dressed as a plastic card.

  3. EAM Said:

    I mentioned back in September I was looking for a new bed and a friend recommended Bloomingdale’s. The price of the bed was 50% off of an extraordinary price but the salesperson made the difference. She was really great and assured me that I would be in good hands with their sales guarantees. Other “major chains” were not nearly as knowledgeable and didn’t really seem to be invested in standing behind the quality of their products. I also experienced this at Macy’s when I went to buy a set of new sheets for my new queen size bed. I picked up the Martha Stewart sheets which were a better quality sheet. The sale price did not start until Saturday but she gave me the 50% discounted rate the Tuesday I came in since (there was only one set left).

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kudos to Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s!!!! Hooray. I LOVE great stories like this and hearing about knowledgeable and savvy sales associates who are terrific at what they do.

    You will especially enjoy using the new bed and sheets because of these positive associations. A billion years ago I bought an amazingly well made jacket at Loehman’s when it was thriving. It must have been marked the wrong size or something as it fit me perfectly, had nothing wrong with it and had been discounted so drastically that for years I kept the sales tag in the jacket pocket. It cheered me up! And for several years I replaced the tag in the pocket when the jacket came back from the dry cleaners. OK: Now we know I’m nuts.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    I profit by “buy one get one free” items, along with mail-in promotions launched by reputable retailers. With a policy of not purchasing unnecessary items, and/or goods from unknown sources, no matter how great it sounds, I don’t remember getting stuck.

    Buying food on the street may be dangerous because of possible contamination. No matter how “free” the hotdog, it’s not worth the risk of landing in the hospital or underground!

  6. jmbyington Said:


    I prefer a discount to buy one get one free unless it’s something like shampoo or toothpaste that I use up quite quickly. Like you, I don’t like to buy what I don’t need. Keeping lists helps me line up a bunch of things I am running out of so that when a big discount comes my way with a minimum to avoid a shipping charge I can take advantage of it without waste.

    The free hotdog went from the store to the table in front of the store and I don’t think anything bad could happen to it in that short time. I used to buy all sorts of things on the street like falafel but now buy only coffee ring and coffee from the morning carts though not often of late.

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