August 4, 2014

When is a Promotion Not a Promotion

Using promotions to stimulate sales is an effective way of merchandising and a good business practice, but as I personally experienced in the last three weeks, it can fall short if not implemented properly. A supermarket offering “free cholent” based on a purchase of $100 or more apparently failed to inform check-out clerks. The obvious result was frustration by  customers. An upstate kosher restaurant, through its Website, was hoping to stimulate reservations by offering “up to a $60 discount if booked by 2 p.m.” The site never provided any guidelines as to how much the diner would have to spend to realize the discount. To make matters worse, the waiter was totally unaware of the promotion and when the diner insisted on the discount, he was offered a $20 discount, which meant that “up to” was an arbitrary decision by the restaurant.

Ironically, the use of promotions is designed to generate goodwill by customers, but when not implemented properly it can actually trigger the reverse. According to my research, poorly executed promotions are the subject of many complaints to organizations like the Better Business Bureau. Often there is a divergence in the interpretation of a promotion. While the business might have good intentions, the execution is poor. For example, the supermarket said that it would have credited the cholent at checkout if it was included in the basket, and the restaurant had been taken over by new ownership that never even realized that the promotion was offered on-line. For the customer, it is no excuse as the business is expected to be prepared and to honor the letter of the promotion