Kmart’s Coupon Mistake Becomes PR Blunder
Mistakes happen. Everyone knows that. Usually the best approach is to admit
the mistake was made, apologize and then move on to making amends and insuring
it doesn’t happen again.
Last week, Kmart made a mistake. It sent out an email to customers offering
them a link to a coupon worth $10 off any purchase of $20 or more. The coupon,
posted on the Kmart website, was intended for shoppers in Baltimore, Chicago
and New York. It did not, however, specify the geographical limitation and
instead said it was valid at all locations.
Being 2010, many Kmart shoppers saw the coupon online, printed it and then
head out to their local store to redeem it. Many told their friends about it
so they could do the same. What happened next, based on a variety of reports
and posts of Kmart’s Facebook page, was not pretty.
Cashiers and managers in stores where the coupon was not valid refused to
accept the coupons and, in some instances, went so far as to accuse customers
of trying to cheat the retailer.
Seeing that the coupon had gotten out, Kmart pulled it with the following
explanation: “A coupon for $10 off a $20 purchase has had unauthorized circulation
and we have had to stop accepting it at most stores. The coupons will still
be honored in the intended stores in the New York, Baltimore and Chicago area.
We regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers. Thank you for your
continued patronage and we do look forward to sharing other deals and offers
with you in the future.”
One poster on Kmart’s Facebook page wrote, “These are tough times. If Kmart
thinks that people will not seek out and use coupons to the full extent of
their terms, they are not making wise decisions at the highest level of management.
What is absolutely shameful is the accusation that customers were attempting
to use fraudulent coupons. If you make a mistake, admit it, don’t blame it
on someone else.”
Another wrote: “This incident has gotten out of hand. While it’s obvious that
the coupon was too good to be true, the bulk of the blame lies with the company.
The accusation of ‘unauthorized circulation’ is not the appropriate response.
Kmart, you need to admit to the mistake that your own company made. This alone
will go a long way toward repairing the store’s image in the eyes of many customers.”
Discussion Questions: What lessons can be drawn from this incident with
Kmart? How should Kmart corporate have handled the issue once it discovered
its mistake? What is your assessment of how stores dealt with the issue?