New Kid's View

Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.

My Daughter is a Dog

I'm not talking looks, here. And this has nothing to do with bark or bite. Nope, it’s her nose for bargains.

She can sniff ‘em out like a blood hound. She dogs newspaper supplements and other advertisements for sales, and uses coupons to the max. She has actually been known to leave a store with a cart full of items and more money in her wallet than when she went in. That’s right, by combining coupons with double-coupon days and store specials and promotions there have been times when store ended up owing her money.

She’s found items – undamaged and in perfect condition – in stores and online for a fraction of the retail price. She haunts eBay for gifts and products she thinks friends and family members would like and gets them not only for reasonable prices, but often for an almost ridiculously low bid.

So it was no surprise when she found a sale recently on the Toys R Us website. Two sales, in fact, going on simultaneously. One offer was buy one item, get one free (for up to three free items) on selected products. The other was $20 off of a purchase totaling $75 or more, if a particular type of payment was used.

She was so pleased, she purchased three items so she could get three free. Then she added one more item to reach the $75 mark so she could get the additional $20 off of the order total. But instead of taking $20 off the total dollar amount of the order, Toys R Us split the $20 among all seven items, which included the three free items ($3 off each of six items and $2 off of the seventh).

But as she navigated through the payment process, the $3 off of each of the three "free" items disappeared. That, in effect, reduced the advertised $20 discount to $11. ($3 x 3 items = $9) Nothing on the website regarding these two special offers gave any indication of that kind of accounting method.

Since she still ended up with a great deal, why quibble over the missing $9? The reason is she based her purchase on Toys R Us's advertised promotions, which she expected the company to honor. It was, however, more to her than honor or the $9 she didn’t save. She was thinking about the cumulation of what she considered would be ill-gotten revenue for Toys R Us from other customers who expected their order totals to reflect the two sales advertised on the company’s website.

But my daughter is not only great at sniffing out a bargain, she can dog a problem, issue or cause like the proverbial canine with a bone. That is particularly true when she thinks something's amiss, deceptive or has David-versus-Goliath odds.

So she called Toys R Us’s Customer Service Department. (She’s also a master at digging out good contact information.)

When the customer service representative she got on the phone said the $11 discount is all she was entitled to, she asked for her supervisor. Getting no satisfaction there, she asked to speak to the supervisor's supervisor. She continued up the chain until she hit that inevitable ceiling, which was someone – quite possibly the head of the customer service department – who was too important to talk to her, a customer. My daughter could only convey and receive messages through that important person's assistant.

So she left a message and dug out Better Business Bureau and U.S. Department of Justice’s online fraud division phone numbers. Before calling them, though, she gave the company a day or so to get back to her.

It did, in the person of Jessica.

Jessica reviewed her order, realized what had happened, apologized, issued a $9.04 credit, and promised to use her experience in customer service training to correct the misperception that led so many company customer service representatives to indicate that she wasn't entitled to the promotions as advertised.

That might seem like a lot of work for relatively small change. But the moral to the story is no company should end up with more of their customers’ hard-earned money than it's entitled to. You don’t have to be particularly dogged to watch for deals or to check store receipts to make sure you’re charged accurately. But if you do get a whiff of something that doesn’t pass the sniff test, you might try getting in touch with your inner hound to see if you can track down the problem and work out a satisfactory resolution – not only for yourself, but for your fellow customers everywhere.

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