A Timely Referral Can Help Your Brand

I had reason lately to think about the movie “The Miracle on 34th Street” with the young Natalie Woods.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it is a charming Christmas movie that is a favorite of our family during the holidays.  There is a particular situation that occurs during the movie.  Having been provoked by the self proclaimed Santa Claus, and also because it made brilliant marketing sense, Mr. Macy decides that if there is anything that a Macys’ customer is looking for that Macys doesn’t have, the salesperson is to immediately refer that customer to Gimbles, their most potent competitor.  Well, not to be outdone, Mr. Gimble catches wind of this and promptly gives orders that Gimble customers are to be referred to Macys if they cannot be helped at a Gimbles store.  This back and forth builds as each store tries to “out-nice” the other.

You’re probably asking, oh this is a very nice story David, but what’s the point?

I am a constant observer of what is happening around me, as it relates to how companies market themselves and their brands, and I am usually supplied with plenty of writing material, both positive and negative.

My wife and I were traveling this week and she was in desperate need of a pair of comfortable walking shoes.  We were in a beautiful shopping area in Naperville, Illinois and came upon an Eddie Bauer store.  We were both very familiar with Eddie Bauer and decided to go in.  Once inside we realized there were no shoes anywhere to be found.

An alert young man approached and asked if he could be of assistance.  We explained that we were from out of town and needed shoes.  He explained that this particular Eddie Bauer didn’t sell shoes, but a catalog was available to order them and he offered to help us with that order.

Since it was not feasible to order shoes, we again explained that we needed these shoes right away.  We asked, “Do you know of a shoe store close by?”  His answer was what dumbfounded us both.

In his kindest way he answered, “I am not allowed to tell you.”   It was evident that he was not comfortable with being the messenger of this news.

I am positive he was then looking into two faces with jaws dropped and that speechless, incredulous look of, “okay, well then.”

Needless to say we left immediately.

I have known the Eddie Bauer brand for a number of years and have purchased and been very pleased with the items I have bought, but nothing in that brand experience has prepared me for what we ran across that day, and it has tainted my impression of this store in a very negative way.  In fact, I proceeded to tell a number of other people of our experience that very evening.

You know they say that if a person has a good experience with your brand, they might tell four people but if they have a bad experience they will probably tell ten or more people. Talk about viral marketing!

I have to believe that this policy, clearly articulated by this young man, is the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps the young salesperson was quoting a general policy, not a hard and fast rule that circumstances don’t allow for a modification, for if that is not the case, sell your stock in Eddie Bauer because they will not last.

Have you had any similar experiences you would like to share?

David The CMO Outsource

36 thoughts on “A Timely Referral Can Help Your Brand”

  1. David,

    This behavior is astounding, particularly since that store didn’t even sell shoes, except by mail order!

    I’ve heard tweeting about bad service or a situation like this will catch the attention of Eddie Bauer’s PR department. Perhaps it would be a good idea. They’d certainly want to know if their policy is angering potential customers.

    Thanks for your good post.


  2. Hi David,

    “The Miracle on 34th Street” reference is a good one and very relevant for this topic.

    I apologize for the experience that you had as there is no policy discouraging associates from referring customers to other stores. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience so that we can address it and continue to provide the excellent customer service that you’re familiar with.


    Social media specialist, Eddie Bauer

  3. Thank you for your reply Paolo. I was certain that this was an isolated experience.

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