Less Advertisements, Less Guarantees; More In-Store Action

It’s time for a new kind of promotion. Earlier this summer, the grocery chain Safeway had a radio commercial that targeted the current season. They want to make our summer extra memorable and used a bunch of exaggerated adjectives to describe their produce. Okay, so does almost every other commercial for their respective products, but then they added a guarantee that sounds bold and of substance, but I really don’t think it does much for consumers in this day and age.

Safeway promised that if during this summer season, if any of the produce we buy is not fresh or does not meet our standards, we can return the item, get a replacement, and get our money back. Sounds great doesn’t it? Sounds like the company is really going over and above to satisfy it customers, right? However, in reality, how many of us really bother to take the time, energy, and maybe hassle to return our uneaten produce back to the store after just coming home from grocery shopping? I guess I can wait until next week, but then the moment has kind of passed, we kind of say ‘why bother’, and of course everything is probably not that fresh after a week anyways.

While Safeway’s guarantee is definitely not an empty promise, because they are known for their customer service and I am sure they will replace the produce and return your money without much question, I don’t think it’s a promise that in reality would be acted upon very much and certainly is not worth as much as the words make it sound. It’s like me saying I’m fast, but never really having to race. It very well may be that I have some speed, but it’s never going to be tested that much in real life. (Except for the bus driver who can anecdotally support how I chased down his bus during my university years because I was always a half minute late; wait…that’s in the past….never mind….). Sorry for the digression.

I think that companies these days need to come up with better promotions and methods than the standard money back guarantees. Or, maybe not announce it, but just provide direct actions to pleasantly surprise the customer. Last week, I had such an experience at Sobey’s (IGA), another grocery chain. Upon entering their store, I looked at the flyer and saw that Bolthouse Farm drinks were on sale. The price tag beside the display corresponded to the flyer. However, when the cashier scanned the items, they showed up at a higher price. When the manager came and resolved the situation, I got the prices corrected (which was what I expected) and one of the drinks for free (which I didn’t expect).

Perhaps this is in their policy but, because I wasn’t aware of it and it’s not as obviously advertised, I think their actions have a more powerful effect on the customer. Rather than making guarantees that don’t really get acted upon, maybe companies should think of more ways to develop promotions that surprise customers on the spot without notice. If customers leave your store saying “Wow…I didn’t know you did that….”, then I think it creates a positive lasting impression.

-Patrick Law


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