A few days ago I shared a Best Buy Coupon Offer that was really hot. The coupon promised $50 off a purchase of $100 or more when you used ANY MasterCard. While the coupon did have a fairly lengthy list of exclusions, there were a few glaring omissions, such as gift cards. To complicate matters, the coupon didn’t contain any sort of limits in the fine print. (For instance, limit 1 per customer or limit 1 per household.)
While the coupon had been initially sent via email to subscribers, controls were not set in place and the coupon quickly went viral, being shared on message boards and sites (including my own).
What ensued was this sort of nightmare:
Image source: Consumerist
At this point, people in corporate were probably wetting themselves. And they wouldn’t have been the first to have had a coupon or freebie promotion go south so quickly. Unfortunately, the story gets worse. Often it’s not the mistake that makes consumers most angry, it’s how the company chooses to address the mistake.
I wanted to share my thoughts as a consumer and coupon blogger as to how I think companies could handle coupon promotions such as these.
1. Enlist Consulting Services First. It will be money well spent to hire consulting services before launching what is obviously going to be a popular coupon campaign. Having a legal team review your fine print to ensure your company’s needs as well as the consumer’s are protected cannot be underestimated. Might I also suggest reaching out to bloggers such as myself? Many of us would be happy to be contracted on to share our knowledge of how promotions are received and how you might best structure them.
2. Consider Groupon or a Daily Deal Site. Now this might not always be a best bet, but given the high value of the coupon ($50 off $100), I was a bit surprised it was NOT an offer run through Groupon or Living Social! Using a reputable daily deal site as a third-party might have helped both Best Buy’s interests (they could’ve guided them through some of the legal & fine print process) as well as protection for the consumer (the consumer gets Groupon’s guarantee and can more easily ask questions about its usage).
3. If you Mess Up, OWN IT. When Best Buy realized that the coupon was being abused, they quickly tried to pull the plug and issued a new coupon, but only managed to share the revised terms on their forums page. Trouble is, they left the original coupon as a live link – so many customers came to the stores only to find at checkout they could no longer use the coupon in the way they wanted. Not good, Best Buy. If you need to amend an offer – make a public statement. They could’ve pulled the link to the coupon, made a statement on their Facebook page, website, or Twitter – but they didn’t. Even as of this posting, I see no such statement issued. Customers want to know that their concerns matter.
4. Don’t leave your staff hanging. While I appreciate that Best Buy was not censoring the many complaints flooding their Facebook page, I feel really bad for the poor Best Buy dude named “Jesse” who very patiently responded to the masses of irate customers. Best Buy, you need to give that guy a raise! That should not have been his sole responsibility! Give him some back up – issue a statement and apologize. I also really feel badly for the store employees and managers who are likely frustrated and confused and now having to deal with many upset customers. I get that they are front line customer service folks, but it very much appears they have no clear direction or back up from corporate.
5. Consider alternatives before pulling the plug. To me, Best Buy’s actions in how they handled it seem a bit over the top. Instead of imposing lots of new fine print – which included a deadline of ONE day as opposed to seven, excluding gift cards and additional items, and then insisting the item be a regularly priced $100 or more item – how about simply saying “no gift cards?” I think most reasonable customers would get that at checkout if they were told “no gift cards” or “one per customer.” By slightly changing the coupon’s terms (as opposed to drastically), many people still would’ve left Best Buy happy customers.
6. Offer a swift, “we’re sorry!” offer. Sure, this coupon offer was going to cost Best Buy big bucks. But it’s truly a lose-lose scenario as many people are disgruntled and pledging to shop elsewhere in the future. Suppose Best Buy were to issue $10 gift cards to folks that were unable to redeem the coupon that day. It’s not $50 off $100, no – but I think it would extend good will to those customers, acknowledging their frustration and giving them a good reason to give their store a second chance. A winning example of this – around the holidays I shared an offer for a free Advent calendar that ended up being a mistake. Everyone’s orders were cancelled, but then the company decided to give everyone that had tried to place an order a deep discount on that product along with a credit to their site. Hat’s off to that company! Not only did they acknowledge the error and apologize, they worked to give folks a second chance to shop there and not write them off entirely.
7. Remember to make Social Media your Friend, not Foe. You know what I love? I love it when one of my store partners or a brand reaches out to me and gives me a “heads up” about a hot upcoming offer. Befriending bloggers such as myself can be a very smart move because you can often help guide the conversation and make a smart connection directly to your customers via that blogger. Many of us are well connected – I’m currently a part of several online coupon blogging groups totaling several hundred bloggers. And, we talk. So if you have some exciting news about an upcoming promotion and you can help us understand your intent and how it’s going to work? Great. Reach out to us; often we can help you because we want to inform our readers how your promotion is going to work for them.
Honestly, I get mistakes happen. Behind these companies – even the big ones – are people. But it’s usually how the companies choose to handle their mistakes that indicate to me whether I’m a valued customer – or not.
Finally, a word to the shoppers who saw the flaw in this offer and decided to take it for all it’s worth at the expense of Best Buy and customers? Shame on you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, too! What was your experience with the Best Buy coupon if you tried using it? What suggestions would you give them for making it right? Have you stopped shopping at certain places over failed coupons or promotions?