Don’t Mess With My Kids

This may seem to be off target for this forum, but it will come full circle, I promise.

A few days ago, both of my boys, ages 9 and 5, completed their Summer Reading Challenge. It was a challenge presented by the folks at Barnes & Noble (also Borders), which asked children to read 10 books during the summer. In return, the kids fill out a form, mom and dad sign the form, and the kids take the form back in, and they get to choose a free book. Now, the list of books was only 10 deep, but it offered some choices, and definitely offered the kids a reward for a job well done. The last day of the offer was August 26, 2010.

On August 26, the boys read their last book, I signed their form, and off we went to our nearest Borders. Upon arrival, my 5 year old was told that they were out of books. He looked around the well stocked store and said, “No you’re not.” It was then explained to him that they had run out of the books the previous day, and she (the employee) was sorry.

Since both kids were visibly disappointed, I asked if there was anything they could have for their efforts. The employee said, “No. We are under instructions from corporate to not substitute titles or anything else. Sorry.”

I was then faced with the difficult explanation of what “While Supplies Last”, clearly printed on the coupon, meant. A hard lesson to explain to a nine year old, harder for a five year old. Ah, but perhaps all is not lost: My oldest then asked if he could still get a book. I agreed, and said I would make sure that they would get what they were promised, and that I would buy them a book. Both kids then said, simultaneously, “BUT NOT HERE.” Hmm. Lesson learned.

My boys and I then went to a small, neighborhood bookstore. I bought them each a couple of books, we had coffee (ok, I had coffee, they had some sort of floofy concoction that strongly resembled a milkshake but was surprisingly expensive) and snacks. All told, I spent about $125, and took great pride in doing so. Had our friends at barnes & Noble offered something simple like a $5 gift card to each child, or maybe a free snack, they likely would have seen that revenue. As they were clearly overwhelmed by the demand for this promotion, they will, fortunately, not need to worry about our participation in future promotions, or our business ever again.

Customer service is what will differentiate you from your competition. Many of the service blogs out there speak to “Residual Spending Value” and other terms, which indicate how much a customer will be worth to a company in terms of their future, loyal spending. Think about the decisions you make, and who you are likely to alienate. You might save a couple of bucks here and there, but what will it cost you?