When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Ten years ago, I have signed up for the “rewards” program at my favorite office supply store. In addition to mailing me coupons and emailing me special offers (which is how I bought a paper shredder for $10), they also keep track of my purchases, which allows me to earn quarterly discounts.When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Conceptually, this is a great business idea. It promotes store/brand loyalty and gives me an incentive to not consider their competition.

When I was emailed my recent statement of activity, I actually looked at it. I wanted to make sure that the recent ink cartridges that I returned for recycling had been credited to my account. They had not. Nor was the purchase that I made that day. Looking through each statement for this year, they had a record of only one purchase.If rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away. Click To Tweet

Why do they scan my card? Since charges don’t end up in my statement, scanning it seems to be largely an exercise in futility.

It makes me wonder if their competitor—whose store is right across the street from them—has a rewards program that works better and could actually capture all my purchases.

I’m sure that it’s not the goal of their rewards program is to drive customers to their competition, but that could very well be what happens.

Sadly, their rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Disconnect Between Marketing and Technology

I was a loyal customer of a national office supply chain (they’ll remain nameless to protect their otherwise good image). I was a preferred customer, which entitles me to special discounts and occasional rewards (on those rare quarters when I buy “enough” product.) They also send me an email, seemingly weekly, of sales and special offers.

Ten years ago,  I scanned their latest missive and noticed deals on paper shredders. I’ve been using a light-duty model for years and it’s showing its age as it groans through the documents I feed it. I figured that when it shredded its last page, I would replace it with a heavy-duty model.

Incredibly, they were offering an “on-line only” price of $10 for a light-duty model, similar to, but better than my old faithful.  At $10, there was little to lose; the super-deluxe model could wait.

I went to their website to place my order. I entered my email address only to be informed that they had no record of it in their files.There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT's ability to support them. I wonder how many sales were lost as a result. Click To Tweet

How curious. They had just emailed me that morning; obviously, someone had a record of my email. Unfortunately, the marketing department and the IT (information technology) department were not operating from a common resource.

I was going to abort my order (one explanation why e-commerce shopping charts are abandoned). However, out of a sense of adventure, I forged on. I placed my order without logging in; at it’s conclusion I was asked to sign-up to receive email alerts. I entered my address and they happily took it.

There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT’s ability to support them.  I wonder how many sales were lost as a result.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Not Talking About Abortion

Ten years ago I tangentially touched on the abortion topic. I didn’t address it head on—and won’t be doing so today, either.Not Talking About Abortion

Although some people are ambivalent towards the subject, most have pronounced and decided opinions on the matter. Both sides of this volatile issue have been known to take determinedly dogmatic and militant stances. Just throw out the “A” word in casual conversation—and then duck, because someone will start slinging something, be it hurtful words, strong rhetoric, or pure invective.

The issue is currently too emotionally charged to conduct a cogent conversation, so with words seemingly inadequate to win over the opposition, the prudent course of action is often silence. Each side is convinced that the other is ignorantly wrong and hopelessly barbaric. Unfortunately there is apparent truth to that, even if only in media sound bites and the fanatical fringe—which is present in both groups.

What I am sure of is that it will take the efforts of future historians to pronounce a victor. Once the emotion of the present has been dispatched and the distanced logic of another generation takes over, then opinions can converge.The issue is currently too emotionally charged to conduct a cogent conversation, so with words seemingly inadequate to win over the opposition, the prudent course of action is often silence. Click To Tweet

These future historians will look back, concurring with one side and condemning the other. They may uphold the pro-choice group with the same applause as those who promoted civil rights or salute the pro-life group with the same reverence as those who opposed the Holocaust and genocide. And when they do, whatever they decide, public opinion will line up squarely and smartly behind their conclusion.

I know what I want their verdict to be, but I’m not sure if they will agree. Only time will tell.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Restaurant Is Only As Good As Your Last Meal

Some 20 years ago, a shuttered restaurant—just down the street—was being renovated. Excited to have a nice eatery within a couple minutes of home, our family paid them a visit within weeks of their re-opening. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, the food was tasty, and entrees were not unreasonably priced.

I heard that the owner, a retired (or displaced) worker had invested his entire retirement fund into the place. I was pulling for him, hoping he could make a go of things, whereas the former proprietor could not. As the evening progressed and all guests had been served, the restaurateur emerged from the kitchen and began making the rounds, stopping by each table to greet his guests.

Methodically he navigated his way to each table in the dinning room, steadily moving towards us, the table furthest from the kitchen. I anticipated getting to meet him, encourage him in his endeavor, and wish him the best. Upon completing his schmoozing with the second to the last table, he took a half step in our direction, scrutinized us, and made a hasty U-turn, retreating to the confines of the kitchen. He did not reappear. I wonder how much fuller it might be if they welcomed families with children? Click To Tweet

Dumbfounded, my wife and I exchanged confused glances. Then I looked about the place, becoming quite self-conscience upon realizing that we were the only quests with children. Apparently kids weren’t welcome in this establishment. Now things began to make sense. The hostess seemed a bit flustered when seating us, mentioning something about a good table for children, and moved us to the far corner of the room, farthest from the door.

He did make a go of it, but we never went back, even though it’s still the closest restaurant to our home. Sometimes the parking lot looks a bit sparse. I wonder how much fuller it might be if they welcomed families with children?

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Go Green By Stopping Unwanted Mailings

Ten years ago, I made an effort to cancel the delivery of a free weekly newspaper that I have been receiving for years—and never read. It turned out to be an easy thing to do and they happily took my cancellation.

GO GREEN

The delivery of that paper immediately stopped—until I installed my new mailbox!

I understand the confusion because my new mailbox sports a self-contained paper box. The week after I installed it, not only did I receive the newspaper that I want, plus the one that I don’t want, but also a third paper that I’d never seen before! The third paper never showed up again, while I called again to halt the second paper.  Now things are back as they should be.

After I canceled the free newspaper, I was inspired to tackle all the free magazines that I receive, but don’t want.

I’ve canceled about 10 of them, with more still to do. Some have been easy to cancel, be it a call center or via the Internet.  Others are a bit more challenging, but gladly I do so as my part to help the environment.Whenever they include a prepaid envelope, I take their offer, write 'not interested; please remove me from your mailing list'. Click To Tweet

Another technique that gives me gleeful pleasure is dealing with the unsolicited offers I receive, especially for credit cards. Whenever they include a prepaid envelope, I take their offer, write “not interested; please remove me from your mailing list” on it, and return it in their envelope, at their cost. Generally that quickly stops the unwanted mailings. (Plus, it provides additional revenue for the post office—which they desperately need.  As I recall, they’re projecting a $2.1 billion dollar loss for that year.)

Next was the catalogs.  There is a Website to make it an easy and painless task: catalogchoice.org.

I’ll let you know how did it work.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

Several years ago, as I was mowing my lawn, a stranger pulled into my driveway. He approached with the determined look of a salesman. With no way to make myself scarce, I waited as he approached. He was taking a survey. Suspicious that it was really a guise for a sales pitch, I hesitated, contemplating the most effective way of returning to my lawn-mowing mission.Finally I consented out of a sense of expedience.Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

Question 1: “Do you think that right here today there is air pollution?” Answer: “Yes.”

Question 2: “Do you think the air in your house is better, worse, or the same as the air outside?” Answer: “The same.” (Actually I recall hearing that it is usually worse, but I was taking a calculated middle ground.)

Question 3: “Do you and anyone in your family suffer from asthma or allergies?”  Answer: “No.”  (Real answer: “Some allergies,” but I didn’t want to give Kevin too much encouragement.)Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined. Click To Tweet

Kevin said he would enter me into a drawing, asking for my name, my bride’s name, and my phone number. Knowing that all three pieces of information are readily available, I supplied them, but determined to provide no more. Fortunately that was all he asked. I was now registered to be in a quarterly drawing for 1,000 gallons of gas and a daily drawing for two pizzas and eight movies passes.

Three hours later Meg called from “Southside” to tell me that my name had been drawn—imagine that. This was playing out as I suspected, so I went along. Kevin wanted to personally come out and give me my prize. A time was set and then Meg said that Kevin would get a bonus if I listened to a brief sales presentation about Rainbow products. (Brief, by the way, is “35 minutes—depending on how many questions you ask.”) Pretending to be unaware, I asked what Rainbow was and Meg hesitated, “Well it’s like cleaning the air with water.”

Unfortunately collecting my prize was contingent on spending 35 minutes will Kevin. Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined. “Do you want me to give your prize to someone else?” Meg implored with a feigned incredulity.

“Sure,” I responded, “go ahead.” I wasn’t any closer to my pizzas and movies—but at least I had enough info for my blog.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Time to Move the Sprinklers

Last week I shared my quandary about my lawn (“The Pursuit of the Perfect Lawn“). Although my goal is to find a balance between my lawn’s appearance and the corresponding work required, I am yet discover precisely how to achieve that. Part of the issue is watering.Time to Move the Sprinklers

The “use” of water is not a concern. Irrigating a lawn does not actually consume water (see “Save Water“). It merely takes water from the earth and redistributes it—mostly back to the ground, with a bit evaporating to join rain-producing clouds. There is some electricity required to extricate the water from the earth, but that’s not a huge concern either.

My disquiet is the act of watering itself. For most people this is not an issue. Just program the irrigation system and forget it. Not so with me. I rely on the old-fashion method of dragging hoses around and carefully pointing sprinklers in order that my lawn may receive its requisite hydration.When I am in 'watering mode' I work more effectively because work occurs with greater intentionally between trips to the yard. Click To Tweet

Sometimes this is a major hassle and I wonder why I do it. However, by hand moving sprinklers I can direct water to where it is most needed: extra attention to the dry spots and a quicker pass on the shaded areas. You can’t do that with an in-ground system. Part of the lawn will always be over watered, while a few areas will inevitably be stressed.

However, I generally enjoy this task of watering. It gives me a short break from work, allows me to go outside, and provides satisfaction.  I often find that when I am in “watering mode” I work more effectively because work occurs with greater intentionally between trips to the yard.

The process is quite simple. I program a reminder using the calendar function in Outlook. When it alerts, I tell it to “snooze” for an hour and head outside to reposition the sprinklers.

Well it just chimed, telling me it’s “time to move the sprinklers.”  Gotta go, bye!

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

In Pursuit of the Perfect Lawn

Over the years my attitude towards lawns has changed.In Pursuit of the Perfect Lawn

I must have spent too many hours mowing lawn as a teen because when we bought our first house I was ambivalent about the condition and appearance of our grass. As long as it was mowed, I was fine. It could be weedy and brown, but as long as no anomalous growth showed from the road it was all good.Over the years my attitude towards lawns has changed. Click To Tweet

After a while my attitude changed, perhaps because brown grass isn’t much fun to view or walk on. So my goal then became to have a yard that was mowed and green. I didn’t care if it was full of weeds, as long as they were green weeds. This required watering during dry spells, but that was okay if the result was a nice shade of green.

That phase also ran it course as I became dissatisfied with neatly mowed green weeds. I then sought to be weed-free as well. This required fertilizer and weed killer—five times a year. But then to get the most out the product I was applying, more water was required.

Overall, I am pleased with the results—and it looks great from the road, as evidenced by the many positive comments I receive. Alas, with fertilizer and more watering, comes more frequent mowing. As it is turning out, the pursuit of a well-trimmed, green-colored, weed-free lawn is taking more time than I want to give it.

It seems that I know how to have a lousy looking lawn, and I’ve figured out what it takes to have a great looking lawn, but I’m thinking that the perfect lawn is part way in between—it looks okay, but doesn’t take much time. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Spring Has Sprung

Whenever I see a robin, I become gleefully excited—really, I do! No, I am not particularly a bird lover, but I am quite affectionate for a new season, when spring has sprung.spring has sprung

The connection is that returning robins (which are a migratory fowl) mark that spring is right around the corner and warmer weather will soon be upon us. The males return first to stake out a territory and the females follow later when the temperatures climb a bit higher.Spring is an almost spiritual time for me, signaling reinvigorated life and a fresh start. Click To Tweet

Spring is my favorite season. Yes, summer is grand and fall is enjoyable (while I view winter as something to be survived).  However, spring is the most splendid time of the year. Springtime is when the cold dreariness of the winter fades, the dirty snow melts, and plants that were seemingly dead push forth green and are revived. Spring is an almost spiritual time for me, signaling reinvigorated life and a fresh start, a new birth of sorts.

Already I am starting to see which plants have survived the harshness of the winter months: the tulips and daffodils are just poking through.  Soon the grass will green and with it a slew of yard work will follow.  But that’s okay, because it’s spring and I want to get outside and do something other than shiver.

I can firmly cheer that “spring has sprung!”

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Time Lag

We’ve all heard about jet lag, that messed up, disconcerted thing that happens to our bodies after flying across time zones. It’s been said that each time zone crossed equates to one day of recovery.  For my constitution, that may be a bit generous. Though thinking back to when I frequently flew, I suspect that the more regularly one travels, the less the effect. Interestingly, flying west (“gaining” time) doesn’t faze me as much; but the return trip (“losing” time) really sets me back.Time lag from daylight-savings time (DST)

A similar disturbance happens to me each time we switch from “normal” time to daylight-savings time (DST) and visa versa. I call this phenomenon “time lag.”'Time Lag'—happens to me each time we switch from 'normal' time to daylight-savings time (DST) and visa versa. Click To Tweet

Just as in flying west, the fall DST switch causes a relatively minor disruption to my sleep equilibrium. However, the “spring forward” time change throws me off for several days, just as does a flight east that crosses several time zones.

When we lived in Wisconsin (which is on the eastern part of the Central time zone), DST made sense—it was an appropriate shift of the clock to better match the rising and setting of the sun.

However, Michigan is on the far western part of the Eastern Time Zone, and it’s never made sense. For the majority of the year, my reasonable 6 am rising is in the dark. On the summer solstice, dusk doesn’t occur until after 10:30 pm. And a scant two weeks later, we have to wait well after 11 pm just to watch fireworks. What nonsense!

I’d just as soon forget the whole daylight-savings time thing and lose the time lag along with it.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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