Rules are Rules, Right? Not If You Want to Keep Your Customers Happy

Marketers, business owners, retailers and service professionals should know, it’s the little things that count. Making exceptions is sometimes the rule if you want to serve your customers well.

Zappos knows this. With their extreme focus on providing the best customer service possible, they don’t let any little things stand in the way of a positive customer experience. You can see how committed CEO Tony Hsieh is in the video below. In it, he even explains why they will help a customer buy through a competitor at times.

Banana Republic (at least my store) does not seem to quite understand this type of customer-focused philosophy.

Banana Republic Loses Appeal

Much of my wardrobe is from Banana. I shop at the outlet store near me and get fantastic deals. Plus, most important, their clothes fit my style and my long legs. In short, I am a fan.

On Friday, I hurried up there so I could take advantage of the 30-percent-off coupon I got through e-mail. I knew my weekend was busy, so I squeezed in a visit because I still needed more business and interview wear.

I found a ton of stuff! When I went to check out—waiting patiently I might add for a solid five minutes or more while one customer had a problem sorted out and another opened a charge account. No problem, I noticed belts and found the dressy brown belt I’ve been needing. Productive waiting—not bad.

My turn came and I handed the coupon over only to be told I couldn’t use it. The coupon was only good for August 4 and 5. My bad. I honestly thought that Friday was the 4th. Who can keep track anymore? The cashier gave me a choice:

  • I could buy the items and come back over the weekend with the coupon for a credit;
  • I could place the items on hold and come back the next day with the coupon to purchase them; or
  • I could open up a Banana Republic credit card account and get 30 percent off my order right then.

After a bit of conversation I asked, “Isn’t there any way you can give me the discount right now?” I did make an honest mistake, which was quite obvious by the look on my face when she told me I couldn’t use the coupon.

Turns out the cashier was also the manager. Even the manager can’t make an exception? Come on now. I’ve been a retail manager. I know it can be done.

The kicker is that she could give me the discount, but only if I opened a Banana Republic credit card. That’s what makes it so aggravating.

You cannot buy something in a store these days without someone trying to get you to open a credit card account. Irresponsible and annoying. Does no one learn lessons from our recent economic turmoil? These stores care more about their credit card promotions than they do their customers. Some stores even announce how many applications leading associates got as a sort of competition among the employees. Ever ask yourself what customers think of those announcements?

But I digress.

Notice how the burden of all those choices were on me? Three of the choices included an extra trip back—a huge inconvenience when I already had plans for the weekend. The fourth choice involved me adding another card to my credit report, wasting my time and the waiting customers’ time so I can give the proper information so Banana Republic can make out.

What were they willing to do for me—a regular customer? Nothing.

Do You Know How Your Customers Feel?

So, here’s the result. I felt very disappointed with my favorite store. I felt lied to and patronized by the manager (whether she was doing both or not doesn’t matter—this is how she made me feel).

Driving back the next day, I felt even worse. Yes, it’s my own fault for screwing up the dates, but the manager had a choice to do something about it and chose not to. I will remember that.

As she had to re-enter every item over again, I said to her, “See, it would’ve been easier for both of us, if you had just given me the discount yesterday.” I hope she realized how true that is and chooses differently for someone else next time.

Will I stop shopping at Banana Republic? Probably not. It’s hard for me to find clothes that fit. But, I won’t be in a rush to go back and will most likely check other stores first.

Remember the Little Things

Ask yourself, how does your customer feel after doing business with you? If you don’t know, then ask your customer. You don’t want them walking away feeling like I did.

It’s the little things you do that people remember. Look for opportunities to make your customers feel appreciated in every transaction. It’s worth it, and it’s easy!


Speaking of little things, all retailers should stop putting those sewn in tags on skirts, pants and other clothing. No matter how you remove those cardboard tags, they leave holes. Not good!

Banana Republic tag on a skirt

Holes in skirt left by tag



  1. Carla R. Wilson (@WilsonVA) · August 8, 2012

    Coreen, wow, I appreciate your post. I recently made my first two purchases at Zappos and was bowled over by my treatment. (When I placed my 2nd order, my account was upgraded to VIP automatically which means I now get 2nd business day delivery FREE. Yes, free. Love it!) I’m sorry you had a not-as-nice visit to BR. Your story reminded me of a book I read this summer called Malled by Caitlin Kelly about the retail industry. Honestly, it turned my stomach to read her account of working retail and confirmed that I will never – ever – work retail. Ever. God bless the people who are in that industry. I wish they’d forget the rules, and always do right by the customer. You are a loyal customer so they should have honored the discount. Their bad, now we all know and will not shop at Banana Republic.

    • ctmarcom · August 8, 2012

      Hi Carla, I love Zappos because they truly do live their brand. Pretty great that you were upgraded on only your second order. They know repeat customers are their bread & butter. More companies need to realize that too (um, especially Verizon & Comcast). Thanks for the recommendation–you have me curious about that book. I worked retail quite a bit, and it’s a TOUGH job. But it can be fun too. These days, workers don’t get treated so well though. Thanks for your comments & support. I don’t want to tell anyone not to shop at Banana Republic. I will still shop there, but I won’t be as eager to go. I like to give people and places more than one chance before I say goodbye.

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