No Excuses for Expired POS Sale Signage

Stein Mart has ranked high on shopper’s “favorite”  lists for years. Personally, I think it’s a better men’s store than women’s, which is why my husband and I typically shop there for him. (always together; alas, he is color-blind)

Recently, we were on a golf mission trip, starting at Dicks. Despite the BOGO sale on shirts, we left with only a desire to check out the more stylish shirt selection at Stein Mart.

The golf section was alive with prominent, but expired Sale signage, with extra 20% off coupons laid out on nicely stacked tables of new merchandise. Twenty minutes later we’re at the checkout line, only to be told the sale was over, and that the tiny print on the coupon said the 20% didn’t apply to the “fabulous finds” shirt we selected from the table with coupons placed directly next the shirt.

The register clerk said they hadn’t had time to remove all the POS. Nor had they posted any coupon-exempt “fabulous finds” signs on the golf shirts. But, clearly they had taken time to refold and re-stack all the table displays, given how neat the department was.

Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!
Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!

Is refusal to honor posted deals the first sin of retail?  Misleading the customer and not honoring all posted offer is, IMHO, the number one mistake in customer experience.  And the “we’re too busy or short-staffed” chatter at the register about outdated POS is not an acceptable excuse.

We bought the merchandise and promptly asked to see the store manager. I introduced myself and asked her to walk through my shopping experience with me, pointing out the mis-cues and lack of pertinent information I might have used to figure out that I’d be paying full price. I positioned myself as the giver of “free expert advice” on how to eliminate a misleading experience for her shoppers.  When she too gave me the short-staffed excuse, I pressed for a reason she was in the back room (unpacking new merchandise) instead of removing old the POS herself.

She wanted me to leave the store happy, and insisted  on giving us a refund of $16.00 ( 20% off). I let her know that what would make me happy enough to come back was for her to take immediate action to remove the misleading and outdated signage. I’d have gladly donated the $16.00 to cover her time.

The big mess at Macy’s shakes my faith.

Shopping is a visceral and emotional experience, fulfilling deep-set gathering and social needs. So returning a gift and choosing another should be at least somewhat satisfying, right?

Not so much. Last week at a big Macy’s store at upscale Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan, my deep-seated sense of the pleasure from the art of shopping in real life got a big fat negative jolt. Now I realize things get busy and therefore messy in retail at the holidays, but never have I seen store departments look like they looked on this trip.

My friend and I browsed the crowded store on December 29th.  In coats, one entire wall of jackets was blocked by hundreds of returned coats piled on the floor. I asked why, was told “no room in the back” to put them. Really? The pile was up to my knees.  My visceral nerves were on edge already.

Then we cruised quickly through kids apparel, and although we are both grandmothers, we quickly decided the crowds and very messy fixtures were a huge deterrent to the joy we might have in finding something adorable for our precious ones.  This decision prompted an emotional response of resentment of the mess, since I’ve loved shopping baby clothes bargains for 16 months now. When pleasure shopping is spoiled, resentment will linger on.

The most appalling mess was in pajamas and intimates,  The piles of returns on the floors were bad enough, but the associates were engulfed by merchandise strewn all over the counters. Other fixtures laden with new inventory looked as if the department had been recently ransacked. By now, I was really on edge, but was stuck in a long line as my friend was buying something.

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I know retailers have procedures and processes for managing the future status of returned merchandise, and this does take time, but never in my shopping life have I seen this kind of poor handling of returned merchandise. Or should I say mishandling of the shopper. I felt that I didn’t want to touch one thing in this department. These images will be seen by my mind’s eye for a long time, and while it will be a while before I visit another Macy’s, one thing I did learn is this:

If you don’t know what your loved one really wants for Christmas, go with a gift card. Then perhaps post-holiday shopping can return to a bit less chaos.