Is It Really Just About Price? Part I

Ice Storm

Okay, so early this morning the temperature where I live in Green Bay, Wisconsin was -6 degrees, with a -30 degree wind chill.

For those who live in climates where you don’t get a wind chill report every day and aren’t sure what it means… here’s a quick review of the rule: When you go outside… cover up everything that you don’t want to fall off.

I know… it’s nuts.

But hey, there’s only 94 days ’till spring. In fact, instead of the twentieth of March, I usually use the end of February as the benchmark, ’cause it sounds way better… only 73 days to go!

See, bet you feel better already.


Before it gets this unbelievably cold, however, it just gets cold. Starting in October, things begin to change, and it is in fact my favorite month of the year.

Christmas is my favorite time… October is my favorite month.

I wish Christmas would actually be in October, but that would mess up the ‘winter holiday’ schedules for all the public employees who no longer celebrate ‘Christmas’.

But alas, I digress…, and this does have a marketing message.

Early October is the perfect time to ‘winterize’ your home, clean up the yard, and get ready for what is heading down from the arctic to chill us out for a few months.

So it was that I found myself at a mega-hardware store in the window-insulating aisle. People shop there because it’s got everything, at commodity level prices.


Checking my pocket, I have a twenty dollar bill… checking the price of caulk, I see it’s $1.80 per tube. Some quick math… ten tubes is eighteen bucks, plus tax of 5.5% is $18.99. Bingo… I’m outta there and into the checkout lane.

Without looking up, without a smile, without acknowledging me in any way, the gal rings me up and says blankly, “$23.21.”

Moment of silence… processing.

“Oh…,” I say. “I’m sorry… I think these were supposed to be $1.80 a piece.”

“It’s $23.21, sir.”

“Uh… can you check…? I’m sure they were marked $1.80 on the shelf.”

“Sir, it’s $23.21, they’re in the computer as $2.20 each… the computer’s never wrong. If you want to complain, you can go over to that line.”

Yikes… no…, not the complaint line…! Besides, look how many people are there!

“No, that’s okay (as I did more quick math)…, I could be wrong… I’ll just take eight of them.” If she were right about the price, that would put my new total with tax at $18.57.


I give her the twenty… she rings up the transaction and gives me back … twelve dollars change! “Thanks for shopping at…”

“Uh… uhmm… I’m sorry, this can’t be right,” I say.

“What can’t be right, sir…?”

“Well, you said ten of them were twenty-three dollars…, and now your saying that eight of them are only eight dollars…”

Deer-in-the-headlights look…

“Okay… ten of them were twenty-three dollars…, eight of them can’t be only eight dollars…”

“Sir, the computers never wrong… if you want to complain you can go over to…”

“Yes, I know… to the complaint line. No, I don’t want to complain, but I think I owe you some more…”

As she looks at the other customers, she rolls her eyes… and says, “What IS the problem, sir.”

“I’m sorry, there is no problem…”.

As I headed over to the ‘complaint line’ to return the overpayment she gave me, my mind drifted to the “they don’t care… they don’t have to” story told by Seth Godin.

And I thought, “WWSD?”


Yes, the ‘complaint line’ was a popular area… a real magnet… although that was not my purpose for being there.

Interestingly, twenty-minutes, two employees and a manager later… we arrived at a good place.

First, they realized that I wasn’t waiting to complain about anything… I simply wanted to return the money that I was under-charged at the checkout.

Second, they next realized the correct price was $1.80 per tube after all. Incredible.

Unfortunately for them, however, judging by the number of people now behind me in line… this was not an uncommon occurance.



How is marketing and advertising undermined by lack of training, poor customer service skills, and inaccurate processes and systems?

When customers who have had similiar experiences hear and see advertising for this company, what do you think they are thinking?

You are in charge of correcting this…, where would you start?


I look forward to hearing from you.


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