A large supermarket chain near my abode also runs a convenience store-style gas station in front of the supermarket. They run a thoroughly marketed promotion whereby customers receive a discount for gas based on how much money they spend on groceries.
Having just dropped a serious chunk of change on groceries, I received a fuel coupon for a discount of $0.23/gallon. Nice, I thought. That’s almost four bucks off on my next tank of gas.
A couple of days later, I went back to their gas station. The fuel discount was printed out at the bottom of my grocery receipt, but it didn’t say what to do with the coupon. So I pulled up to the super-modern, uber-convenient pumps and saw the sign that read: “Must Pre-Pay or Use Card.” I shrugged and used my card, as I usually do at pumps with a card slot. I figured they would give me the discount inside the convenience store. How on earth else could it done?
Fifteen point eight gallons later, I sauntered inside the store, receipt in hand. At the counter, the conversation went like this:
Me: I have this discount coupon here. (handing him the receipt)
Clerk: Did you already pay?
Me: Yup. Receipt right here.
Clerk: Then I can’t give you the discount. You have to pay inside.
Me: But the pump said I had to pre-pay or use my card. I used my card.
Clerk: That row of pumps is pre-pay. You should have used this other row.
So I chose not to cause a scene and shuffled off to chew on my frustration. Of course, my coupon expired the next day.
Am I going back? Should I go back?
Let’s analyze the ways this promotion failed this customer.
Great marketing does not equal great execution. You have to do what you say you’ll do. And you have to do it without throwing up roadblocks. A benefit behind roadblocks is not a benefit at all.
If the customer thinks he’s going to get a benefit, and then finds it’s walled up behind fine print, or seemingly arbitrary rules, he is going to go away and not look back.
I don’t expect that my personal boycott of this chain matters to them, and I’m not that bitter, but how many other customers are going to walk away, dissatisfied? Maybe readers will think me unreasonable, but how much inconvenience are customers willing to put up with?
What is the lesson here for all marketers?