Macy's East Informative - Useless coupons, misleading promotion
I sent this to Macy's Vice President:
I used to like shopping at Macy's and am presumably the type of customer whom you would like to keep, given that I just spent $394 on three sweaters for my husband. However, you will not be seeing me or my money at Macy's again. You have bombarded me with coupons through the mail, in part because of the Macy's credit card which I hold - and which I am about to cut into two parts since I will not be using it anymore. I went with the coupons to the store, picked out the three sweaters for my husband, only to discover at the register that the coupons (ANY of the five coupons) applied only to one of the three sweaters. Having spent 20 minutes picking the sweaters out, I bought them but was quite displeased that the coupons were useless for two of the three. This will not happen again. I then went to try to buy some gifts for my daughter. I selected two items adding up to $48 and gave the sales person a coupon for $10 off of $30 in sales. OF COURSE, one of the two items didn't qualify for the coupon, which meant that I could not use the coupon. I decided to leave both items at the counter rather than reward Macy's for yet another "fake" coupon. I then went to the jewelry counter hoping to use any one of the coupons for a bracelet. Again, I was told that none of the coupons could be used. I did not buy the bracelet; instead I headed for the exit and I see no reason to return.
I am a marketing professor and teach the concepts of customer loyalty and lifetime value of a customer not only to MBAs but also to large executive audiences. I plan to use as an example your strategy of thinking only of attracting the customer but not of serving the customer so that he or she will return (e.g., lifetime value).
Please note: I once received such poor service from Bloomingdales (now owned by you) that I started using this incident of poor service in executive classes as an example of how NOT to handle service recovery. I had to contact the VP of Marketing at Bloomingdales to get my problem solved; however, it took two years to do so. I told this story to so many executive audiences that the VP at Bloomingdales heard about it and sent me a large floral arrangement asking me to stop telling the story; I have not stopped.
You have now provided me with another example of poor management and ill-directed marketing strategy. Your heavy use of coupons is directed to attracting customers to your store. However, the inability of the customer to USE the coupons (let's see, you can use the coupons on Tuesdays before 11am and Saturdays before the 27th of November and only on items whose brands contain C's, L's, M's or E's, plus they can't fall into any of 17 product categories) means that the customer gets to the register and finds that the coupons are useless; this is essentially bait and switch. You can't expect the customers to memorize the myriad of limitations to each coupon. If you actually do expect this of the customer, then you had better learn more about consumer behavior. If I have to educate myself about your rules in order to shop in your store using the very reason you provide to me to shop there (the coupons), I will not visit your store. There are plenty of other stores with good prices without having to use coupons, good merchandise, and no rules in tiny print with which I have to familiarize myself in order to make a purchase there at the expected price. The good news is at least that I did not have to stand in line at the register to learn that the coupons were fake; you have no lines! Apparently other customers have discovered the zero value of your coupons, have been equally offended that they took the time to visit your store only to find that the coupons were nearly without value - and that therefore your ultimate prices were not nearly as attractive as you would like the customer to think they are - and have voted with their feet. They are elsewhere shopping rather than forming lines at your registers.
The purpose of marketing is not just to attract a customer but to KEEP a customer. Your strategy is designed to frustrate customers who might otherwise be loyal. If you treat your customers as if they were stupid ("Oh, they won't notice that you can't use the coupons other than on every 29th item"), it won't take them long to leave you for good, as I am doing.
I will be using this in executive sessions as yet another example of poor marketing strategy. How sad that you have provided me with this opportunity.