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Monday, May 28, 2007

A Golden Rule - Misdirected

Do you know who Leon Leonwood Bean is? Perhaps you know him better as L. L. Bean, founder of the apparel and outdoor equipment retailer that bears his name.

A while back, I received a catalog in the mail from LL Bean. On the cover, in addition to photos of camping gear and clothing, was L.L.'s "Golden Rule" in large type.

"Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more." - Leon Leonwood Bean

Mr Bean penned that nearly a hundred years ago, and I'm sure he intended the Rule to inspire company employees for years to come, and certainly well beyond his own demise, to further his company's growth.

However, I am not as certain that he intended the Rule to be presented to the customer as a reason to shop at LL Bean.

Let's break down the Rule into phrases. "Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit." Good merchandise speaks for itself, but is a company's profit margin a selling point? Do customers care if a store's profit is reasonable?

"Treat your customers like human beings." Wow. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I think I'd kind of like to expect that anyway - not to have the founder have to explain it to me. This phrase is patronizing and doesn't make me want to shop there because they state, "Buy LL Bean gear and be treated like a Human Being!"

"and they will always come back for more." I think this phrase tops all for reasons why I should shop at LL Bean. "We make a profit, we patronize you, and yet you keep coming back for more."

LL Bean's Golden Rule has merit. Every employee should understand the history and importance of his Rule. But whichever advertising exec had the brainstorm to put the Golden Rule on customer-bound advertising material was misguided into thinking that such a move would boost sales given the employee-only nature of the message.

Apparently LL Bean's website agrees. They state his Golden Rule, but it's buried deep in the website under the retailer's background as a historical reference.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Loyalty Card Madness

So this woman is checking out her groceries and the checker says, "Do you have your loyalty card?"

"Sure!" the woman says cheerfully, and hands him her keys. He rifles through the myriad of teensy cards she has on her keychain till he finds the one for that store, scans the cards and hands the wad back to her.

"I wonder if you can tell me something..." she begins.

"I'll try my best," he offers.

"Can you see if I have updated my address to my new once since I have moved?"

"I cannot access that from here - you'd have to go to the Customer Service Counter and they will be able to help you. Just walk down this aisle and they're on your right."

"Thanks," she waved enthusiastically.

She goes to the counter where a pleasant woman greets her. "May I help you?"

"Yes. How can I tell if my address is current on my loyalty card? I've moved recently and can't remember if I've changed it yet."

"I'll be happy to check for you. May I see your card please?"

The woman hands over the pile of keys and cards and the counter person meanders through the stack until she locates the proper card. She scans the card and looks at the screen.

"We have you at 345 Elm St," she states.

"Oh, good!" the woman sighs, "I did change it. One less thing I need to worry about!"

"Glad to have been a help," says the lady, "and thanks for shopping with us today."

The woman leaves the store, hands the keys that she and her friends found in the parking lot to an accomplice, who then drives to the address the store gave the woman, where they proceed to rob the poor, hapless victim who was unfortunate enough to have lost her keys.

Keys that contained enough information to associate her address with her house key.

I suspect that most establishments have rules that prevent someone from walking into the store and asking what is the address that's connected to a loyalty card.

So perhaps in this case, these criminals needed to visit several of them, (the coffee shop, the ice cream shop, the library, the oil change shop, three gas stations, and three supermarkets,) before they found one who didn't know the rules.

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