Coldwater Creek – Another Dumb Customer Service Policy


Share on LinkedIn

Coldwater Creek provides the latest example of just plain dumb business practices that only serve to make consumers angry. Another bait and switch example.

In our book, Negotiate Anything!, we devote an entire chapter to “Just Plain Dumb Business Practices” and this one by Coldwater Creek qualifies for this chapter in our next edition.

My wife was online today and put a $79.99 item in her Coldwater Creek cart and a notice came up on the screen telling her that she qualified for FREE shipping. She added another item to the cart going over $80.00 (to qualify for the coupon that provided $20 off if you spent $80).

She checked out and entered the coupon code (Get $20 off $80) and noticed she was charged $12.95 shipping.

The order at this point was already submitted before she noticed the bait and switch. So she called Cold Water Creek. They answered right away — good for them! Lynn (my wife) told the Rep that she did not receive the free shipping that they had highlighted to entice her. The rep told her that “you only get one offer” to which Lynn responded that there was no notice of that. Furthermore, she told the Rep that the communication on the site was not at all clear. The Rep said that they had heard that a number of times before. Lynn asked for them to provide free shipping as advertised to which the Rep said that she wouldn’t do that (Lynn asked her for it a couple of times). Ultimately, Lynn cancelled the order, because as we point out in our book, Negotiate Anything!, consumers vote with their wallet and can’t reward bad behavior.

We are Founders of The CareGiver Partnership, a national retailer of over 3000 medical products and supplies. We go to great lengths to ensure we do not mislead customers in a manner that Coldwater Creek does. If we find we may have miscommunicated, we immediately change our communication to make sure we are perfectly clear.

In our book, Negotiate Anything, we point out why companies like Coldwater Creek have such policies. In this case, it is because the marketing people have not thought through the consumer shopping process. With all the talk about “consumer insights”, the marketing/merchandising teams at Coldwater Creek do not understand consumer insights. Why do we say this? If their front line Reps have heard this same complaint many times (by their own admission) and the marketing/merchandising executives have elected not to change their policies, its because they don’t have a consumer insight listening process (like meeting with their Reps from time to time), or simply they don’t really care.

What should Coldwater Creek have done? First of all, their marketing people should listen to consumer calls. Second, they should have given Lynn the free shipping as advertised. Third, they should reprogram their site to qualify the free shipping offer.

Tom and Lynn Wilson are passionate consumer advocates, entrepeneurs, business leaders and authors of Negotiate Anything! Secrets to Make Businesses Treat You Fairly. Negotiate Anthing! is available to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other retailers in both soft cover (266 pages) and all eBook formats.

My wife Lynn received an email from ColdWater Creek last evening, relenting and providing the Free Shipping as advertised. This morning, she placed an order for $80, saving the $12.95 shipping cost they wanted to charge her. By following the simple principles in our book, Negotiate Anything! we’ve saved well over $30,000 by getting businesses to treat us fairly.

What should Coldwater Creek have done?
Since they’ve disappointed many customers already with their policy according to their rep, they should say “Certainly, it would be my pleasure to provide you with Free Shipping.

They should reprogram their site to throw up a flag telling consumers that a discounted item does not qualify for Free Shipping. Don’t let them get all the way to the checkout screen and then charge them without a warning.

The way they handled this was to disappoint the customer, push back at them by regurgitating company policy and then ultimately providing what was originally offered — reluctantly… leaving a bad taste in a consumers mouth.

Marketing/merchandising leadership at Coldwater Creek owns this one… not their front line people.

Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson, former global Sector President at Kimberly-Clark Corporation spent 30 years in consumer products, started up two companies, one manufacturing underground coal mining equipment (Wilson Manufacturing Company, Inc.) and in 2004, The Caregiver Partnership, a national direct to consumer retailer of home medical supplies to the more than 66 million caregivers in the U.S. He is also co-author of Negotiate Anything!, a 30-year longitudinal study of customer service in the U.S., the first of its kind.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here