Note from Nicole: This is a guest post from DH. Enjoy!
I recently enjoyed an article on businessweek.com that highlighted the successes you have had in your short tenure as CEO of Toys “R” Us. Many of the great changes you have made with store redesigns, new management and superstore openings are sure to increase the bottom line of your new private investors/owners. However, I want you to be aware of some of the ever-intrusive policies and procedures that are turning away customers every day.
1. “May I have your Zip Code?” For years, I have been asked that question at checkout at the beginning of the transaction, and I reluctantly gave the information knowing that it was probably being used simply to gauge which customers were going to which store. I always felt uncomfortable giving this information out, but did so knowing that if you wanted to come to my house to take back the Monopoly game I just bought, you’d have to go door-to-door in a large area to find me. But, this has changed – leading me to…
2. “May I have your Phone Number with area code?” This has replaced #1 at the checkout line, and I will refuse to volunteer this information every time. Please understand, the ONLY person I want to hear this question from is a 19yr old co-ed, preferable one who received some type of ‘augmentation’ for her 18th birthday. I do not want that number given/sold/traded to some overseas marketing company so they may call during dinner to tell me about the upcoming sale on Tickle Me Elmos. I also do not wish to be contacted by a survey company asking how my shopping experience was. And I certainly don’t want all of my purchases to be associated with a phone number – I like my family to be surprised on Christmas Day, not have the ability to find out what Dad purchased last week/month/year. And most of all, I do not want ANY grief from the cashier when I politely decline to provide this information.
3. “Would you like to join the Birthday Club?” Quite honestly, the birthday club is a nice bonus. My girls love spending the $3.00 gift card sent to them each year. BUT…what is it with the overachieving attempts to get everyone who walks through the door signed up for it? I’m guessing they get a bonus for most signups? On my last visit with my daughters, I was asked SIX TIMES by FOUR EMPLOYEES to sign my girls up for the club. Yes, two of the employees asked me twice in different parts of the store! This was all in the span of a 20 minute visit! Just take one or two of those employees and park them in a checkout lane so the rest of the customers don’t have to use the customer service line to check out. Oh, and the last time I took my daughter to spend her gift card (wearing her TRU birthday crown and carrying her free balloon), yep you guessed it, an employee asked me if I’d like to sign her up for the birthday club…
4. “May I have your age?” What?! I’m not buying liquor! And even if I was, I am 40 years old and look every bit of 39. I haven’t been carded in a bar in over a decade – why do I need to provide my age to buy a video game? I was actually asked this question, along with #1 and #2 in the same transaction – so the teller wanted my zip code, phone number and age! And she wasn’t 19! Frustrated, I asked if next she’d want a background check and a urine sample. She didn’t laugh. Neither did I.
5. “Service Plans” Which brings me to the last item that put me over the top and the reason for writing this diatribe. In an effort to beat the holiday rush, I stopped by one of your stores to pick up a couple board games as presents from Santa for my daughters. After declining to provide my phone number, the gal at the register begin ringing me up. Mind you, the ONLY thing I was buying was three common board games (Monopoly Jr., etc.). After each one she asked me, “Would you like to buy a service plan to cover this game?” I was dumbfounded and completely speechless. In the past I laughed as overpriced service plans made their way from $2,000 television purchases all the way down to $16 alarm clocks. But a service plan on a non-electronic board game?! What exactly is this plan supposed to cover? If I lose one of the Community Chest cards, will I get a new one? When I step on the box cover, tearing the corner, will just the cover be replaced? Or will the whole box? Will I have to mail it in first and hope it is not rejected for “abnormal wear and tear”? Each and every game I bought, the computer prompted the teller to ask me this question. When she saw how ludicrous I thought this offer was, she joked too, “yeah, they make us ask that, but I don’t understand it either. This is a cardboard item – what exactly is this policy supposed to cover?” At least she didn’t give me grief about not giving my phone number.
I know all of these procedures probably had some reasoning behind them when implemented, and I’m betting they were all instituted by different departments, as no one in their right mind would subject their customers to all of these questions/etc. in one visit on purpose. So forget the remodels and train the new management to give the consumer an enjoyable shopping experience, not an inquisition.
I’m not expecting miracles from this post, but it does feel better to get it all out in the open. For now I’m buying my toys on Amazon...oh wait…they want my address and phone number too…