Borders: encouraging customers to do the right thing? You’re doing it wrong.

Some background:
I work downtown 3 days a week. The closest most convenient drinkable coffee (in the form of a large Americano) is right across the street at the Seattle’s Best Coffee Cafe inside the Borders Books store. Last year I finally got myself on the right track and bought a 20oz thermal coffee mug that I take over and have them use instead of disposable paper cups. Conveniently, since using my mug saves them money, I get 10 cents taken off the price of my coffee when I bring my own mug. All good. Good for me. Good for the environment and the extra change goes in the tip jar for the best baristas in town.

◄——– Yay!!!!

But then:
Seattle’s Best stopped using a stamp card method of earning a free drink after X number of purchased drinks. Borders introduced a ‘new and improved’ method that would replace the stamp cards with tracking purchases via our Borders Rewards cards and coupons for free drinks when we’d earned them would be emailed to us. Great. Good for me with no stamp card to lose. Good for the Baristas since they are already scanning our Borders Rewards card. All good, right?

Plot complication coming through:
I never really thought about it much until one day one of the Baristas who knows me well asked me if I was getting my free drink coupons in my email since she’d never seen me use one. When I told her no, she recommended I contact Borders Customer service. I did and was informed that the coupons must be going into my spam folder. Just to verify if this was indeed the case, I updated my email for the Borders Rewards program to one that I could easily monitor the spam folder. No coupons ever appeared in either my mail or my spam folder.

I love me a good mystery, so upon further review of the email from Borders Customer Service I found some details about the Cafe Loyalty Program

For every 5 beverages purchased within a 30 day period, you’ll receive an e-mail with a coupon to get a free beverage. Every time a 5th beverage is purchased, the 30 day period starts over. The coupon is good for 1 week only and you must present your Borders Rewards card to get the beverage. The offer is valid in Seattle’s Best cafes only.

For a beverage to qualify the item must be at regular price; it cannot be discounted. The drink item must also be priced greater than 99¢. Multiple beverages purchased in the same transaction are all eligible. Also, purchases made during Happy Hour, an in-store offer that runs every Mon-Thurs from 3-5 pm, do not qualify for café accruals.

So that’s the major malfunction:
By using my own mug and not a disposable, (worse for the environment) paper cup and cardboard insulating sleeve I was not only getting 10 cents off the price of my coffee, I was also getting a discount that disqualified my purchase from the Cafe Loyalty Program. Just to verify this I did not use my own mug for 2 weeks and Voila! in my email I get a coupon for a free beverage.

Where’s the incentive to do the right thing Borders??

Boo !!!!!———►

So, from now on, I’ll take my mug when I go over to get coffee in the morning, but request that I not get the discount for using it. After 5 drinks and 50 cents more than I’ve been spending, I’ll get a free beverage with a regular price of much more than 50 cents. I never pocketed the the extra 10 cents in change anyway, it went into the tip jar. So the Baristas will get a bit of a smaller tip when I buy my coffee, but when I use the free beverage coupon I’ll make sure they get a tip that makes up for it. They earn it. There’s a good group of kids who work there that know their regular customers. It’s nice to be greeted by name and have them know what I’m getting without asking. It’s not their fault that Borders can’t figure out how to make the incentive to do the right thing for the environment also the right thing for rewarding customers.

and no incentive to do the right thing.


*** 7/27/10 Edited to add: please see my follow up regarding this topic.