To blog or not to blog....

A compilation of the thoughts in my brain, the questions I have and the journey of life. Not meant to educate, but merely to entertain and (hopefully) initiate some good discussion. Comments are welcome...come join the conversation.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bait and Switch?

Friends-I had to share with you an experience I had this week at the Gap.  I'm a long time Gap (and their affiliated brands) customer and have never had a problem with any of their brands before this. 

Please understand that I am not advocating that you feel the same way I do, take the same actions that I will or "boycott" Gap and their affiliates.   I  feel this strongly because of my background in customer service and realize fully that not everyone would be as annoyed as I am about what transpired. 

I found a promotion online that Gap was offering a "Free Pair of Black Pants" (from their new line).  The promotion was valid August 14-22nd and the only fine print stated that the offer was only available in stores (not online or at the outlets) during that time period. I took the coupon, along with M&S, to the Gap store at Marketplace Mall on the 18th.  After trying on a few pairs and selecting one that I really liked, I brought the pants and the coupon/promotion to the counter only to be told that "this offer was only available to the first 50 people that redeemed it"  BUT "if you want to open a Gap credit card, then you can get them and any other items for 40% off".    If you've ever brought to small children to a mall only to be told that you couldn't have the thing that you set out to have, you can understand my frustration at this point. 

I left the Gap, continued my shopping in the mall and then went home....all the time remembering my childhood "hero" David Horowitz.  David is a consumer advocate who's catch phrase was "Don't let anybody rip you off".  I loved his show "Fight Back with David Horowitz" and even met him at the LA airport.  Not your average childhood hero, but I loved him and his work nonetheless.  More information can be found about David and his work at Fightback.

With David's mantra in my head, I sat down to write an email to Gap Customer service. This is what I wrote:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have been a loyal Gap customer since the 1980’s and am writing today to express my displeasure over your recent “Free Pair of Premium Black Pants” promotion. I came across the coupon online for the free pair of pants and took it to the Gap store at the Marketplace Mall in Rochester, NY on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, which was within the period listed. After selecting the pair of that I wanted, I brought the pants and the coupon to the counter only to be told that the promotion was only available to the first 50 people that used the coupon but that if I applied for a Gap credit card, I could get 40% off. This information is not listed anywhere on the coupon or your website and I found it to be incredibly deceptive and remarkably similar to a bait and switch fraud. I left without getting the pants OR taking the time to look around the store for other items since I felt that the promotion might have been invalid to begin with as an attempt to lure people into the store with the promise of a free item only to be told that, coincidentally, it was no longer available.

I strongly disagree with your non-disclosure of this very important detail. I brought two small children to the mall in search of these pants and was very upset that it was a trip made in vain.

I look forward to your response.

Their response (in part) back to me was less than wonderful....

Thank you for sharing your comments about the Black Magic Pants event.

Our marketing and promotions departments try to create contests and promotions that add fun to your Gap shopping experience, and we regret disappointing you. Please be assured that we have shared your feedback with the appropriate individuals within our company so they can keep your feedback in mind when they plan the next promotion.

Please know that there were two special offers that surrounded our new Black Pants. If you were emailed directly by us with a coupon offer that stated it was valid for a period of time, you may still be eligible for the offer. However, if you were sent an offer from a third party you may not have been eligible for the offer that was already used by another customer. We searched our records and are not showing that your email is registered with us.

If the offer that you received was about particular stores, this offer was valid for one day only, in select stores, for the first 50 customers in the store.

We appreciate your business and look forward to shopping with you again soon.

**I have subsequently written back to them stating my displeasure of this response and even attached copies of the coupon in question that I attempted to use. 

Now, while it would have been nice to get that free pair of pants, it's gone beyond that for me at this point.  I appreciate that Gap (or any company) is free to run promotions however they choose and that they are under no obligation to even offer promotions like this.  There are very few material things that come for free.  What I object to is this...they offered this promotion without disclosing all of the elements of it on either the promotion itself or their website.  I feel as if they "lured" me into the store with the promise of the pants (i.e. the "bait") and when I attempted to redeem the offer, they "switched" the availability of the offer once I was in the store.  The cashier made a show of checking online to see if the promotion was still valid, but part of me can't help but wonder if the promotion was ever valid to begin with.  I also object to the response of the customer service agent who chalked up the validity of the offer I presented to whether or not my email was on file with their company.

For me, I am unsure whether or not I will continue to shop at Gap.  Will the loss of my business make a difference to their bottom line..probably not.  Will it make me feel better?  We'll see. 

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