Recently, I received via e-mail the coupon below from EMS, an outdoors store. Needing to buy an expensive Thule roof rack component for my new car, I went to EMS rather than a competitor, hoping to use the coupon, though suspecting it might not be accepted.
I was or was not disappointed, depending on one’s point of view. When I presented the e-mail on my phone, the sales clerk relied on the small-type words, “exclusions apply,” and scrolled down past a lot of other content to the bottom of the e-mail, which contained, in even smaller type that I had not noticed, a long list of items to which the coupon would not apply, including, of course, Thule products. My usual argument, that “any one item” is directly contrary to “exclusions apply,” and that the statement in larger type should apply, fell on deaf ears.
Though I probably should not have, I bought the item anyway, as I was there, it was in stock and I probably could not have gotten it for less anywhere else.
I concede that the facts that the coupon did not apply to everything in the store, and that the item I wanted to buy was one of the “exclusions,” were displayed in the e-mail, and that I was aware of the first, which should have led me to look for the second. Does this mean that I have no reason to be disgruntled?
I contend it does not. The format of the 20% offer – with a seemingly unqualified offer in large type, followed by increasingly restrictive words in increasingly small type – seem to me calculated to attract customers into the store as well as to limit the number of tendered coupons that actually have to be honored, thus limiting the cost of the promotion. Of course, the cost of losing customers who feel they weren’t treated fairly is not factored in by the marketing bean counters.
I wrote to the company, pointing out the direct conflict between “any one item,” and “exclusions apply,” suggesting that honesty would require the use of some qualifier such as “any one specified item” or the like. I will let you know if I receive a response.
EMS is not the only retailer using this type of coupon, though its list of exclusions is the least conspicuous I have seen. I believe government regulation should prohibit the use of seemingly unqualified offers unless the fact that there are exceptions, and the list of specific exceptions, appear in the same size type as the original statement. Such regulation would, of course, be decried as intrusive and unnecessary by the weasels whose antics precipitated the need for it.