It’s 2010. Sign me up for your newsletter or email marketing campaign. I’m game if I like your product or service. But don’t make me respond with ink and paper to electronic marketing.
I love seafood. And living in Tennessee means that Red Lobster is about top shelf for seafood. But that’s ok, because I like Red Lobster’s shrimp and crab legs.
In fact, I’m a member of the Red Lobster Fresh Catch Club, which is basically the email marketing arm of Reb Lobster.
I’m cool with that though, because they keep me posted on things like the start and end dates for Endless Shrimp (I get my money’s worth . . . my record is 100 shrimp and would’ve been higher if we could have gotten the waitress came back to our table a little more often . . .)
As a member of the Fresh Catch Club, Red Lobster occasionally sends out coupons in those email updates, which occasionally prompts me to visit the local establishment for some shrimp or crab legs.
Recently, I was out with the wife shopping for Christmas presents, and we ended up at Red Lobster for dinner.
I remembered that I had recently received some coupons from Red Lobster via email. I pulled up the email on my HTC Hero and asked the waitress if we could use the coupon. She tells me that normally they have to collect the printed copy of the coupon and send it back to Red Lobster HQ; however, she said that she would ask if they could accept it.
Cool. I figured this is a no-brainer customer service issue. Turns out, it was a no-brainer . . . but not in a good way.
We finished our meal, which was pretty good by the way. Our waitress then showed up with our tab and asked if we lived close by.
[Cue Twilight Zone.]
Oh, crap. I knew where this was going.
She said that they could accept the coupon if we would promise to go home, print it out and bring it back so that they could have a printed copy of the coupon to mail to Red Lobster HQ.
What? Are you kidding me?
Now, I would have been mildly disappointed if she had just said, “No, sorry, but we don’t accept coupons unless you bring the printed coupon.” However, this “accommodation” (if you can call it that with a straight face) was just bizarre.
So, to take advantage of a $4 off coupon for our $50 meal, Red Lobster wants me to
- drive home,
- log on to my email,
- open the email that I just showed my waitress,
- print the coupon,
- drive back to Red Lobster and
- hand my waitress a hard copy of the email coupon that I just showed her from my inbox?
All so they can do what? Send the printed coupon back to Red Lobster HQ via US Mail.
How is this even a possible option?
As noted earlier, I could understand an outright refusal over this ridiculous suggestion.
Of course, my waitress was ready to take my word that I would be back with a printed coupon; however, I wasn’t going to lie for a $4 savings, so I politely declined and had a good laugh over the bizarre suggestion with the wife after we left.
I hope this is an obvious lesson in customer service.
It’s 2010. If you are going to hold yourself out to the Internet-connected world, send electronic coupons and have a Facebook page with nearly 200,000 fans, then you should be ready to deal with the way your customers access your electronic communications.
Sure. The Red Lobster email said “click here to print” the coupon and it’s totally my error for not having a hard copy of the coupon on me.
But the “rules” of using a coupon sent via email shouldn’t restrict me from spontaneously deciding to eat at Red Lobster. To the contrary, emailed coupons should encourage people to choose Red Lobster while out running errands or doing whatever.
If a coupon is meant to entice customers in the door, then doesn’t the inability to use that coupon discourage those who haven’t printed it out from patronizing a particular business?
While I was headed to Red Lobster anyway, what about those days where the coupon might be the deciding factor for some people? What if they leave the coupon at home but can access it on their smartphone? Guess where they aren’t going.
Aside from the waste of ink and paper (and in the ridiculous accommodation above – gas and time), it just doesn’t make sense in 2010 that Red Lobster HQ needs me to print its email so the restaurant down the street can put it in an envelope and snail-mail it back to HQ.
Come on Red Lobster . . . printing email coupons is lame.