One of the main missions of TOTS Thinking Outside The Sandbox is to learn about small business from small business owners. In our new Exemplar series we will be examining social media issues companies have had in an effort to learn from any mistakes they may have made and how to prevent them.
Who: aden + anais a company famous for their baby products, in particular their swaddlers.
What Happened: An internal friends and family coupon for 50% off was externally shared and 100s of orders were placed using it.
How The Company Responded: aden + anais sent out a letter to their customers stating the coupon code was not to be externally shared and they will be cancelling all orders which used the code. The original email can be found at Consumerist.
Social Media Reaction: 100’s of (mainly negative) comments were placed on aden + anais’ Facebook wall in reaction to the above letter and subsequent Facebook post from the company – seen below.
Where the company went wrong: As they say hindsight is 20/20 and it is much easier to see a ‘where I went wrong’ after the fact. Looking over at all of the evidence I can clearly see where I think aden + anais went wrong.
In the original letter the writer stated; “We will not be honoring the inappropriate use of the discount by non-internal members as it is unfair to our loyal retailers and the millions of customers that are happy to pay full price for our products.” What?! There was absolutely no need to state that you have many customers willing to pay full price. That one line is what turned the letter from a formal company statement to an attack on the customers who used the code.
The internal 50% off code should not have been shared publicly but it was. It is completely unfair to blame the people who used the code. I am willing to guess most, if not all (except the original sharer) of the coupon users did not know it was an internal code. Users would have thought they were having an amazing pre-holiday sale. Blaming your customers for your mistake should have never happened.
How the company could have handled things: Through talking with a few friends and checking out aden + anais’ Facebook page there seems to be a general censuses on how they could have handled the coupon code misuse.
1 – Honour the coupon codes which were used and stop any future orders from being used by the code. In most cases I would not recommend this approach (especially at 50% off) but aden + anais wrote on their Facebook page they would not suffer a loss at the discount.
2 – Adjust the coupon code to another percent (15%, 25% etc.) Contact your customers with the situation. As a goodwill gesture state their patronage is appreciated and orders can be adjusted or cancelled at their request.
3 – Cancel the orders which were placed with the code and communicate with the customers the situation and how much their business is appreciated without passing any blame.
How to avoid this situation: The best thing for a company is to try to avoid these situations. If aden + anais had limits placed on the code it could have prevented the wide spread use. For an internal ‘friends and family’ code I would suggest creating a new code for each retailer. In my store I create custom codes for example ‘catherine5off’. It is a lot more work but would help narrow down the originator in case this were to happen to you.
I want to know what you think.
Do you have a suggestion on another way this situation could have been handled?