A few weeks ago, Jennifer and I herded the whole family out the door for a fun-filled trip to Menard’s and Target. As we were leaving, I pulled out the stack of coupons we had sitting in a bin by the door. I asked my wife if we needed to bring any of them, and she said we didn’t need the shampoo coupon because she had just bought that shampoo at Target last week.
“Oh, and you didn’t use the coupon!” I said. She admitted she forgot. No problem. I grabbed the receipt from the week before and brought that, and the $2-off coupon, with us on our trip to Target.
When we got there, I walked over to the returns counter. The women working there pressed some buttons on her register. Then the drawer popped open and she handed me two dollars. That’s it. Just two dollars. Exactly. This was especially baffling since usually the employees just zap the code on the coupon and then on the receipt and the computer tells them how much to give back. If I had returned the bottle of shampoo, I wonder if she would have just given me back the $10 base cost instead of the $10.73 that the receipt showed.
So I said, “What about the tax?”
She said, “Huh?”
I said, “I paid tax on this two dollars, so I need that returned to me, too.”
She said, “No, sir, the coupon is only for two dollars off.”
I said, “Yeah, but look here at the receipt. I paid tax on the shampoo, and since I didn’t have to pay as much for the shampoo now, I don’t have to pay as much tax on it, either.”
She said, “Um…but the coupon only says for two dollars off.” She picked up the coupon and showed me.
So I said, “Whatever.”
Yep. That’s it. I just walked away. I mean, I know I could have stood there and complained, but after our brief exchange yielded no indication that the employee understood basic math, I remembered something from a book I recently read at work about the voice-of-customer: It’s better to complain to the customer service department. I mean, yes, the returns counter at Target is generally touted as the customer service department, but it’s just the first level. And, if it’s staffed by people who think I owe them tax on two dollars I didn’t pay…then my energy is best spent elsewhere.
So, that evening, I sent a brief email to Target. My main purpose wasn’t to demand my fifteen cents (though I did say it was still owed to me), but to tell them they need to train their employees on the nuances of refunds.
Last week, I received a response from Target Guest Relations. The letter read, in part:
We’ve taken these comments very seriously, so thanks for taking the time to let us know about not receiving your tax refund when you cashed in your coupon. Enclosed please find a $3 apology coupon. Thanks for writing. Your feedback helps us improve our service commitment to you.
So there you have it: Complain at the front desk, and I might – might! – have gotten my fifteen cents back. Write to the guest relations department, on the other hand, and I got twenty times the amount I was owed.
Oh, and I just made Target a slightly better place to shop. So, there. You’re welcome.