Digital Age Journalism & Social Media Anthropology

BAD BIZ BYE-LAWS: Or how not to treat customers

I had two experiences recently that have brought home to me the golden rules of how not to treat customers unless you want to lose them. I call these the ‘Bad Biz Bye-Laws’. They should never happen and especially in this economy one would think that a retailer or service business provider would want to go out of the way to keep customers happy rather than alienate them.

This actually happened recently on more than one occasion and with two different stores. The first of these ‘Bad Biz Bye-Laws’ happenings involved a purchase where I noticed the day after I had made the purchase that I had a 20% off coupon for this store.

I went back to the store and inquired with the cashier who pointed to a hand written sign by the register boldly disclaiming that coupons would only be honored at the time of the purchase. When I asked to speak to the manager, the person who addressed me was someone who obviously did not care if I ever came back to this particular store.

I knew a way around this. All I had to do was return the merchandise and buy it again using the coupon during the repurchase. I had to weigh the time and energy to do this against the amount of money I would save and decided it was not worth it. But I will now go out of my way to go to another franchise of this company rather than give the one in my home town more business than I absolutely have to.

Clearly, in this store, policy was more important than personal relationship. It had been drilled into me, as a business owner, that all lasting business relationships begin with a positive personal experience. I guess the manager of the store was out sick the day that the ‘Biz Bye-Law’ was taught where he went to biz school.

The second occasion that involved both the above and another situation occurred in relationship to a store that boldly displays a banner for all vehicular traffic to see. It claims that all ‘seniors’ 65 and over get a daily 10% discount.

I inquired with the manager, a very personable fellow with whom I had established a strong positive relationship, about lowering the ‘senior’ status to 62 (or even 60). We are in a tough economy and the store’s products tend to run on the expensive but desirable side.

He indicated that he would have to speak with the main office about my request concerning lowering the age for ‘senior’ status. When he had not heard back from headquarters, I decided to inquire directly.

I did not reach the boss; but I did plead my case to a lovely woman who was very sympathetic due to the fact that she probably was within this age range. I did not hear back directly from anyone. But a few days later there was a message on my voice mail.

It was an authoritative voice that I assumed was the top gun, who claimed the following two ‘Bad Biz Bye-Laws’:

• Here as well the ‘senior status situation’ was ‘policy’

• The second reason given is one worth quoting verbatim, “if I do it for you then I have to do it for everyone”.

As a business owner and a customer, I feel the following about these ‘Bad Biz Bye-Laws’:

• Unless you want to lose customers, do NOT use them. Policies, like rules, are made to be broken, if the circumstances, like keeping good customer relationships in a bad economy are important.

• Secondly, the perfect marketing opportunity had presented itself in the second situation. Imagine the great publicity and good will in lowering the ‘senior status’ to 62 or even 60 for all customers. This store is never crowded and it could have been a way to substantially increase business in these economically difficult times.

I was annoyed and frustrated by both of these experiences. But I was reminded of an important lesson. Business relationships start with positive personal experiences. Needless to say, I now frequent these two stores as little as possible. This is my ‘Bad Biz Bye-Laws’ boycott. I welcome you to join me when you are faced with similar situations.


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