Fail

Marketing Fail: Worthless Savings

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When you get an email from a business you just finished patronizing and the subject line of the email reads like the one above, you are going to open it and see what savings you are receiving because you know you probably will go back again.

Savings Inside

This little tag, phrase, sentence, whatever you want to call it, has become rather popular these days. You see it in your emails. You see it when you are shopping online but haven’t signed into the website yet. You see it in texts from stores you’ve agreed to receive marketing texts from. You’ll even see it on the outside of junk mail (of the “snail mail” variety) envelopes trying to entice you to open it in the hopes the contents will actually help you in some way.

I’ll admit, I am a sucker for a good deal and have a hard time passing it up when it is an actual, bona-fide, good deal. I like saving money, who doesn’t? I mean, if I had money to burn, who cares what the price is – money is no object at that point! But, like most of you, I find myself pinching pennies at the end of the month and getting creative with the budget. So, “Savings Inside” is enticing and it could be the next great deal.

The problem is that in many cases the good deal is anything but a good deal. Most companies just hope you haven’t done any shopping around or offer so little actual value that in the long run you probably would have just been better to not have purchased it in the first place. Some examples you may have seen:

  1. The exceptions/exclusions area of coupons – some of these areas have so many exclusions that you literally can only buy like four items in the entire store. (see a Best Buy birthday reward coupon)
  2. Bed, Bath, and Beyond – they like to run the exact same coupon every week (in email or mailer) of 20% off your purchase. Every week! They might as well just lower all their prices by 20%…makes me feel sorry for the people who shop there without a coupon.
  3.  Any store that offers 10% off of something – the saving is so low, you barely save the cost of the sales tax.

Anyway, back to the latest fail at marketing. This one is by the local Toyota dealership and it came about three days after visiting for oil changes on my cars. I just spent well over a $100 there, so I was looking forward to some savings for the next visit. Take a look at the “savings” in the “coupons” below.

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Did you read them carefully? See any savings? Yeah, me neither. Apparently the only savings here is “free information.”

The head scratcher here is that they bothered to put an expiration date on their “free information” and “coupon codes”, which of course are good for nothing.

I wish I could say this was a one-off, or a glitch, but I get these “offers” from the dealership fairly often. My guess is they don’t have anyone really paying attention to their marketing, even though they say they “are here for me.”

So, we are left to click and hope (or if you are into the snail mail thing, rip and hope) that there really is savings “in the mail.” In the meantime, make sure you read the fine print!

Do you have any worthless savings stories or examples? Share below.

Redbox Chat – Customer Service Lost in Translation

 KathyaE: Hi my name is KathyaE, please give me one moment while I review your question.

 Ryan G: ok

 KathyaE: Thank you for waiting, Ryan. Sorry to hear that you were unable to use your credit. I will be glad to look into this for you.

It started out great, but went downhill rather quickly.

Background

A few weeks back I rented a movie at Redbox. I was looking forward to it because it had been on my “Watch List” for a little while and I am a history guy so I enjoy historical movies. I was looking forward to getting the “Monuments Men” Blu-ray home and devouring copious amounts of popcorn. When I got home and put the disc into the DVD player, things seemed fine. The commercials on the disc played normally, but for some reason the previews for upcoming movies were not playing correctly. Only the background tracks (music and sounds) for the previews were playing and not the voice track. Weird, I thought to myself. But then another commercial and all seemed well. However, when the actual movie began playing the sound did the exact same thing as the previews. No voices, just muffled noise, somewhere the equivalent of the Charlie Brown parents in the cartoons. I was disappointed. But, I knew that there would be a fix for it. I would rent another one, but I didn’t exactly want to pay for it again. So, I logged into my Redbox account on my computer and reported the issue with the disc. I, relatively promptly, got a response that I would have a credit issued to my account for my next rental. Great! I thought to myself again. I was just gonna have to wait till I had time to rent it again. I returned my defective DVD the next day.

The Rental

Two weeks after the original rental of “Monuments Men” I found myself outside the store in front of the Redbox again. I had time to look and I knew there was a credit waiting for me. So, I browsed and discovered there was a copy of the video I wanted available so I chose it. I got the “check out” screen and pushed the “credits” button. At this point, I assumed it was looking up my account and for the credit I had available to me. No such luck. It came back with a message saying something to the effect of “No available credits found.” Hmmmm….was my thought. That is odd. I haven’t used it yet, and I am pretty sure my wife hasn’t used it. So, I put in my billing zip and swiped my card, expecting to see along the way a message that said, “You have a credit available. Would you like to use it? Yes or no?” No where along the way did I see that. Only a message that said my receipt will be sent to my email address. Oh, maybe they just don’t bill me and credit me on the transaction. I’ll just check my email when I get home. When I go home I opened the computer and checked my email. I had been charged for my Blu-ray DVD rental. This was a little unexpected. However, I was anxious to watch the movie so I decided to deal with the following day. The movie is good, by the way. However, it is a tad slow so you have to really enjoy the subject of WWII and know the timeline to enjoy the movie.

The Chat

As you saw above, it started out well. At least normal, what you would expect, a friendly greeting and all.

 Ryan G: Thanks. I was at the kiosk and pushed the credit button but it said there were none available. I can home and looked because I knew it hadn’t been used yet. So, I got charged again.

 KathyaE: I have located a transaction for a rental made at the box for Monuments Men with the card ending in XXXX.

 Ryan G: Yes, just tonight.

 KathyaE: I show that that card is not saved to an online account, there for if credits were available they would not be accessible.

 Ryan G: So, in order to use a credit there has to be a credit card on file?

 KathyaE: That is correct.

 Ryan G: That seems a bit odd since all you have to do is pay at the kiosk. There would be no reason to have a card on file.

 KathyaE: Credits are added to your account, if there is no card on file there is no way to add credits to your account.

Here is things went sideways. I understood what she was saying and I really don’t fault her for the policies she has no control over. That being said, my account on Redbox clearly showed that there was a credit waiting in my account and I DIDN’T have a credit card saved to my account. When I logged into my account I was immediately shown that I had a credit waiting for me (see upper right hand corner of the picture below – a red circle with a white one in it – there is a red arrow pointing to it) and also on the account page it showed that I had credit available to me (see bottom left hand corner – there is a red arrow pointing to that).

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

Notice two red arrows pointing to areas that show my account has credit.

So, the website shows that I have a credit and the kiosk clearly knows who I am once I have entered my billing zip and swiped my card because it always brings up, for my approval, the correct email address associated with my account to which the receipt will be emailed.

 KathyaE: If you had a card on file and credits were added and you still have credits available on your card I would recommend saving your card to your account so you can then use them. As you have already checkout out there is no way to apply any discount to your transaction, I do apologize. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

She must not be really looking at my account or she would be able to see that there is a credit already there, I have no card on file, and what really needs to be done is for an option to be added so that customers who have credits get the option to use it before being billed. Instead, she gives me an answer that doesn’t match the situation and then tries to hurry me along and end the chat. I try to explain why there is no card on file and why I don’t think it is necessary to enter one since they can already identify which account is being accessed at the kiosk.

 Ryan G: Nope. Perhaps there is a better way to add credits then. If you know who I am by putting in my billing zip code and then swiping my card, how does having a card on file help? There are security issues with having it on file.

 Ryan G: I also have a user name and log in to use this online account, so you must know who I am without having to put in a card number.

 Ryan G: I don’t reserve them online.

Then I get the standard “We’ll pass it along to the appropriate department” answer.

 KathyaE: Your thoughts will be passed along to the appropriate team here at Redbox but as of now it goes as I have previously mentioned. Have I answered all of your questions today?

 Ryan G: Yep

AND the “We’re done talking now” response with a quick disconnection.

 KathyaE: Thank you for chatting with us at Redbox. Have a great day!

 KathyaE has disconnected.

The part that really bothers me here is that I wasn’t asking for more credit. I wasn’t being unreasonable about how their website/kiosk worked, just pointing out that what she told me and what was shown didn’t jive. I wasn’t demanding to take command of the mothership. I wasn’t even rude. However, I feel as though I was treated this way because she thought I was doing all of the above mentioned things…

The Conclusion

Admittedly, I didn’t expect to get much help from Redbox chat. I didn’t expect to be listened to. I don’t expect that my suggestions will be passed along to the appropriate department (‘cuz they won’t be), but what I do expect is that I am treated with respect as the customer and that was something that wasn’t given. Instead, I was brushed off like dirty knees after kneeling at the beach. Next time I need to talk to a Redbox, I’ll talk to the brick wall next to it because it ought to be just as helpful.

Also, this experience hasn’t kept me from renting more movies from the Redbox. In fact, we have rented quite a few. However, we don’t usually rent that many there. We generally wait for the codes they send out via text or email  for a free one or an occasional rent one/get one offer. And, yes, I did put information for my card onto the website long enough to use my free credit, but then I took my card information right back out again.

Tell me about some of your customer service related encounters/problems in the comments section so we can commiserate together. Some day, maybe some day, customer serve will be king again. Until then, good luck and keep your head down!

A Case for Better Education – Insider Observations

Parents, this is your fault. YOU have failed your children and as a result, they will fail you when you need them most. There, I said it. I wish others would say it too. But we live in a society where the norm is to blame others instead of where it really lies, in ourselves.

You’ve done it again…

The news media is, again, pushing the idea that our schools are the problem. This time they are using the PISA scores ranking U.S. 15 year-olds at 26th in math, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. While not being #1 for U.S. citizens is troubling (mostly because we like to think we should be the best at everything), it isn’t the end of the world and shows the decades of educational reform up to this point isn’t working. Sadly, even now with the Common Core standards, it will continue to fail, though there may be some improvement in scores. However, how we test isn’t what really needs to be fixed.

The parenting grade.

PARENTS/PARENTING = F

  I would argue that scores would increase dramatically if all of us did one thing – pay closer attention to our kids and participate in their education more. Parents are the LARGEST part of the problem. Parents are simply not taking an active role in their children’s education and, because they aren’t paying attention, their children are suffering the consequences. Here is a prime example of what I am talking about that just happened during my recent high school conferences. I teach juniors and seniors. In fact, more than half of my students are seniors and are about to graduate (well, most of them anyway). You would think that now would be a perfect time for parents to check up on their kids and make sure they are on track. So, for conferences the school set aside 21 hours for parents to come talk to their kids’ teachers. I have 112 students that I see nearly every day and I sent out email reminders about conferences. I also tried to set up appointments for some that are struggling and could use a little push from home. During the time set aside for conferences by the school, I only saw the parents of 31 students (and only two of the nine appointments made in advance), or 28%. That is a failing percentage in my book. 

Parents are constantly showing their children (especially the older children) that education isn’t a priority, at least in action that is. Verbally they give it lip service but their actions speak louder than their words. “I have to work and can’t make the time.” LAME. You show it isn’t important by not making the time. If you show it is important, they will think it is important too. “Half day of school? Oh, well, why don’t you just stay home today. They won’t do anything important in class anyway.” LAME. That just shows you are lazy and allows your kids to be lazy. Effort makes it worth it. “We can get some extra days of vacation if we go during school conferences.” LAME. This really shows where your priority is. Sacrifice your child’s education for your leisure. “Poor, *insert name here*, the teacher must be picking on you” or “You must be failing because the teacher is being unfair.” Yep, that’s it. We teachers wake up each morning thinking about how to make our jobs more difficult and despise discipline. FAIL.FAIL.FAIL. These are just a few ways parents undermine the importance of education.

EDUCATIONAL FUNDING (or lack thereof) = F

It would be nice to get paid a wage equivalent to people with similar skills and experience, that isn’t really where the money needs to go (though bashing the profession and poor pay doesn’t help with retention or recruitment of great people). Similarly, more money doesn’t need to go into testing or comparing ourselves to others, we already have too much of that. No, what we really need are newer, tech friendly, and bigger buildings that incorporate more space for more teachers. More teachers would mean fewer students per classroom and many studies/reports (here, here, and here) show that class size does make a difference.  No student should have to sit in a room with more than 15-17 kids in it. Maybe even less would be better, but there doesn’t appear to be a magic number that would make it best. Smaller class sizes would do more for educational reform than any other solution. Small class sizes mean that the students get more attention and individualized instruction. It also can translate into more meaningful lessons, better participation, and greater “buy-in” from the students.

Much like parents, society as a whole has shown that they are only willing to pay lip service to education as well. Teachers are a favorite punching bag. Society says we need better education and instead of focusing on the real problems they blame the people doing the work in the classroom who are trying to make due with less and less resources every year. Education funds continue to get cut, across the board, which just puts us farther in the hole. Teachers do more with less all the time, something the government should maybe learn for itself. Instead of funding for education the government perpetuates HUGE waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy. Instead of funding education, it gives out money to nations that don’t necessarily need it. The list goes on and I am sure you can name any one of the many places money doesn’t need to go. We, as parents, even complain about paying property taxes that go to the schools. I am lucky to work in a community that has almost never failed a school levy, yet in many places around the U.S. they get failed by voters all the time. How does that logic work out? I am going to vote to fail a levy (which is to make up for what the government isn’t covering in the first place), not pay for education, and cheat my kids out of their education all so that I can have a better retirement/more toys/bigger house/fancier car/etc. Clearly there is a disconnect here. In other words, FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.

Just 1.9%??

There you have it. I am a teacher and proud of it. Yes, there are teachers that shouldn’t be teaching, but it is a minor problem considering all the others. I see these things from the inside, a place many of those who talk about reform have never been since they were in high school themselves. They have no experience in what it takes to be an educator and the challenges that go along with that. Those who should be reforming the schools are the ones that are subject to public whimsy and fantastical schemes that produce results that are largely ineffective. If you want to reform schools, ask the teachers, ask the students, but keep the politicians out of it. This teacher says that from the inside, the two solutions above to very obvious problems will go a long way in making a difference.