Even if you managed to steer clear of Black Friday, it’s hard to avoid the shopping milieu this time of year. You can fast forward through the commercials on TV, you can quickly turn the pages of your favorite magazine and not look at the ads. You can even turn off the unwanted ads on the car radio. But there’s always email.
I get emails daily from all the online and retail stores that I have frequented at one point or another. Amazon, Banana Republic, Mrs. Beasley’s, Harry & David, Macy’s, and Pottery Barn are just a few that contact me at least once a day this time of year. All offering me the deal of the day: 40% off, 20% off. Free shipping today only! I’ve heard them all.
Most of these I ignore. But every once in a while, I can’t resist. After all, some offers are too good to refuse.
Of course, I quickly learn, not everything is as it appears. There’s always a catch. You know what I’m talking about. Otherwise known as:
The Fine Print
I’m very well familiar with The Fine Print which is why I read it the other day when I decided to take advantage of a $10 discount on purchases of $25 or more, that was being offered by a nationally known skin-care company (that begins with the letter “O”). The special included free shipping, which definitely was enough to pique my interest. A quick scan of The Fine Print indicated that the offer was not valid on gift collections. Which didn’t matter to me, since I only intended to buy a small jar of facial cream, that women of a certain age tend to need, and, based on its price, more than met the minimum purchase requirement. What a deal, I thought. Easy, peasy.
The email mentioned an offer code I needed to use, “TENOFF.” I found the item I wanted, added it to my shopping cart and began to checkout. And this is when it all went awry. I went to check out and typed in the code, but it said my purchase didn’t qualify for the discount. How can this be? I was following the rules. This solitary item was not part of a gift collection. I tried a couple more times. No dice. So I called the 800 number and Nancy, the lady on the other end of the line, was baffled, too.
“It should work,” she said. Check.
“But it’s not,” I replied. Mate.
Well, you can place your order now with me, at the full price and then call back later to get your discount.”
“But I don’t want to call back later for my discount. Can’t you give it to me now?”
“No, because it’s not working and I don’t know why. “
“Neither do I.”
Were we at a stalemate? Nancy said she’d ask her supervisor and promised to call me back. She didn’t.
The offer was supposed to be good for 48 hours. Later that same day, I tried again. Still nothing. The offer still wasn’t kicking in. Worse, my shopping cart indicated that the product was now temporarily out of stock. The web site has a live chat option. I tried it, only to find that live chat hours are only available weekdays from 9 to 5.
So, I sent them an email describing my problem.
The next morning I got a response to my email. The tech crew asked what server I was using as they’re pretty sure that’s the problem. I wrote back and said I have tried placing my order on two different servers on my computer and also on my iPad, to no avail.
Later, I called their toll-free line again. A different woman answered. Midge, as in Barbie’s best friend back in the day. (So this is what happened to Midge? She became a toll-free customer service operator?) Midge takes one look at my cart and surmises the problem.
“Well here’s the situation. You want an item that’s out of stock. This offer is only good for items that are in stock.”
“Well The Fine Print doesn’t say it’s not good on out of stock items. Only gift collections and, Midge, this isn’t a collection.”
“Well, honey, you can order this item and pay the full price. Then, when you receive it, you can call us back and ask for the discount.”
“But why can’t I pay for this item and you give me the discount now? Why do I have to wait for the discount. It’s not as if giving me the discount now is going to break your bank!”
“No need to be sarcastic. You know we can’t do that.”
“Why can’t you do that?”
“Because it’s not in stock, dearie.”
“But, Midge, when I first put it in my shopping cart, it was in stock!”
“Well, it isn’t now. You should have purchased it when it was in stock. Then you could have gotten the discount.”
“But, Midge, your site wasn’t letting me have the discount!”
“You can still buy it now at the full price and call us when you get it, so we can give you the discount!”
“Yeah, but by then I’ll forget. I’m no spring chicken, Midge, which is why I need this facial cream. Trust me, I already can’t remember the discount code!”
We go it another round or so and finally, I hang up, completely frustrated and defenseless against Midge and the corporate inanity she represents.
Just then, I receive an email message from the tech crew. Ah, I think. They’ve come to their senses and are going to give me the discount!
I open the email and here’s what it said:
“We apologize that you are still experiencing difficulty with our Web site. Thank you for providing us with additional information that we require to further assist you. We ask that you please follow the steps provided below to help resolve the issue you have experienced.”
They then proceeded to tell me how to get my server to accept their cookies. As if that’s the problem. Well, I don’t want their darn cookies, so I hit the delete button on the email and empty my shopping cart.
Tomorrow, I’m finding a new facial cream. Let’s just hope my face doesn’t completely sag by then.
How about you? Ever have any trouble with alleged special offers or shopping online?