Borders Rewards Snafu: Be Careful What You Wish For

Written by Evan Schuman
December 2nd, 2010

Memo To All Webmasters: When you beg customers to redeem rewards points within a few days or lose them, it’s a good idea to know that your site can actually handle such transactions. Signed, Borders.

In a standard Black Friday sale promotional news release, Borders on November 24 implored customers to join its Borders Rewards Plus program by November 30 and receive a $10 credit, which had to be used by Jan. 11, 2011. The good news is that customers listened and did what they were told. The bad news is that customers listened and did what they were told.

Related stories: The Laundry List Of Black Friday Site Problems and the Black Friday Inventory Blowup.

But within hours of the statement being issued, a mass E-mail was sent under the signature of CEO Mike Edwards. He cited “a huge response” to the promotion that “impacted” the “the customer experience.”

Impacted in what way? Remember that credit people were given and told to use right away? Well, many of those transactions didn’t work.

“If you were not able to redeem your $10 in Borders Bonus Bucks online, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you,” Edwards wrote. “Please look for additional exclusive rewards and incentives throughout the Holiday Season.”

That apology doesn’t sound awfully persuasive, given that it offers no details about what went wrong and, more importantly, no promise that it’s been fixed. (Despite Borders promising a statement explaining what happened, no statement materialized by deadline.)

Indeed, that last line feels awfully abrupt. “We asked you to do this, you did it and it didn’t work. Oh well. Please look for us to do this to you again a few more times this holiday season, in the true Lucy/Charlie Brown football tradition.”

How about adding an extra $5 (or more) for customers’ inconvenience, along with assurances that it won’t happen again? To be fair, this was a nice holiday gift—for Amazon and


2 Comments | Read Borders Rewards Snafu: Be Careful What You Wish For

  1. Mike S Says:

    Author, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. That coupon worked for me as I’m sure it worked for many others. Here’s a company that is trying to build a relationship with customers, admitted it made a mistake by underestimating the demand, and is trying to make amends. With no charge to join, are Borders Rewards 33% off the price not good enough? 40%? how about their 50% off promotions? Cut them some slack, Jack.

  2. Simon Says:

    Mike, I think the point is that (rightly or wrongly) the consumers won’t cut the store some slack. “Borders gave me something, but it didn’t work”. If your wife gave you a shirt for xmas that didn’t fit, how does that make you feel? Loved? Cared for? Appreciated? Sure, rationally you know its a simple mistake/oversight but, on an emotional level, it hurts.

    Customers will get upset when this sort of thing happens. “The Customer is always right,” remember? Not, as many retailers seem to think “The customer is always right as long as he is reacting rationally and his demands don’t significantly adversely impact operations or the bottom line.”


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