Monday, December 17, 2007

We're all family

There is nothing I despise more then a trip to the mall on a weekend during the holidays. With the advent of online shopping there is really very little reason to suffer the torture of mall shopping. I will, however, brave the snow, cold, crowds and children awaiting their turn with Santa for one reason and one reason only; to use my sister’s coveted Macy*s Friends and Family discount. It is fast becoming a tradition to brave the crowds, the lines and the frostbite for the opportunity to get a substantial discount on presents for myself and others. This bravery was once well rewarded but this year the Ho Ho Ho was taken out of our holiday shopping when we discovered posters all over the store offering everyone the friends and family discount.

It is a treat each year to go shopping with an additional 20% off everything coupon, even sale items, granting the opportunity to give very generous looking holiday gifts for a fraction of the cost and allowing a few new items to enter the personal closet rotation. We are incredibly excited to be in the special circle of friends and family lucky enough to get such good deals and it makes our sister so happy to share this with us. This year the circle was expanded and not all that special to be in; everyone was given the discount and the piece of paper in our pocket was worthless. What was more upsetting is the Friends and Family discount was being used as a store sale meaning nothing else was discounted; no opportunity for legendary stories of getting an additional 20% off items that were already marked down to nothing, no jokes that the store almost had to pay you to walk out with the item.

Realizing that there was little reason to actually go on a spending spree, I had to know why the decision was made to cheapen the meaning of the discount by offering it to everyone. After enquiring with a sales woman on why the largest department store in the US would resort to giving the discount to everyone she gave me the following answer; management found that people get upset at promotions they didn’t get it. Have we gotten so selfish and childish as a society that Macy*s has to pretend that everyone is family? Has our entitlement culture really become so out of hand that people are being petty enough to demand a store discount they don’t deserve?

What infuriated me more then having a pretend sale by including everyone as friend was the thought of thousands of coupons printed for actual employees to share with their loved ones; what an absolute waste of natural resources! In this time of environmental consciousness to be so utterly irresponsible as to waste that much paper is an abomination. A rainforest in Brazil was probably stripped clean so Macy*s could print the coupons AND the signs for the stores saying everyone got the discount.

Even worse then the filling landfills is how this employee perk, used to recruit people for both full-time and seasonal employment, is now worthless in the hiring process. There is no industry worse then retail during the holidays and the ability to get discounts is a tool used to convince people to work the insane hours and deal with irate customers. The sales women I talked with was very upset as she believed the friends and family discount was a perk of her employment and a “gift” she could give those she loved who put up with her stress and crazy schedule during the holiday season. She was absolutely right to feel slighted; her terms of employment and compensation were altered so Macy*s could engage in this badly executed sales ploy.

Over the past few weeks I quickly discovered that this sales tactic was not isolated and retailers nationwide were jumping on the Friends and Family bandwagon. It must be the latest fad in sales and marketing because suddenly emails and coupons came pouring in for a wide variety of stores offering the friends and family discount; Kenneth Cole, H2Oplus, ArtsyTartsy, Gap, Eddie Bauer- the list goes on and on. Each “offer” made me angry for all the people who sacrifice so much of their time and energy this time of year and are now receiving even less compensation for surviving the over-commercialization of Christmas. Perhaps I am overly sensitive since I did not get a cashmere sweater for $8 this year, but after a short time working in retail people who survive sales in December deserve this one little bonus.

1 comment:

Husband said...

"Has our entitlement culture really become so out of hand that people are being petty enough to demand a store discount they don’t deserve?"
I assume this was rhetorical, but if not... yes.