What’s Up With That? #76: Reward Zone? More like Twilight Zone

The following is an example of how NOT to provide an incentive for your business’s customers.

Earlier this year, I bought a new HD plasma TV at Best Buy. This purchase garnered me a membership in Best Buy’s bonus program, Reward Zone, and $35 in free merchandise of my choosing. (Say it with me: If it’s free, it’s for me.) The company mailed me a bright blue Reward Zone card a few weeks after the TV arrived… a card which I tossed into a stack of paperwork and largely forgot about.

Forgot, that is, until a Best Buy representative called me the other day to remind me that my $35 reward expires on June 13, and encouraged me to redeem it promptly.

Online shopping being as efficient as it is, I rarely make a trip to Best Buy these days. But hey, for $35, I could use a little fresh air and sunshine. I’d been looking at desktop microphone stands on eBay — just the ticket for lengthy narrative and audiobook reads — and I knew that Best Buy sold such an animal. So, off to the Big Blue Box I travel.

A quick cruise around the musical instruments and audio department turned up the mic stand. I picked one up and proceeded to the register. I handed the box and my Reward Zone card to the young man behind the counter.

“I’d like to get this with my Reward Zone bonus,” I said, just in case the combination of merchandise and reward card wasn’t self-explanatory.

“Do you have a certificate?” the clerk asked.


“Yeah. A certificate that says how much your Reward Zone bonus is.”

“I don’t have a certificate. They mailed me this card.”

“You have to go online and print a certificate.”

“Umm… I went online and registered the card like the instructions said. Can’t you just scan the card and see how much reward money I have coming?”

“No, you have to have a certificate.”

Clearly, this conversation was going nowhere.

My next stop was the customer service desk. The young woman there was, at least, more enthusiastic than her counterpart in the audio room.

“Yes, you do have to print out your Reward Zone certificate in order to redeem it. But let me scan your card, and I’ll print your certificate right here.”

She brought up the information and directed me to key in my password. In moments, she handed me a certificate for $35 in Reward Zone funds. Oh, frabjous day!

“Did you want to use this to buy that?” the clerk asked, pointing to the mic stand in my hand.

“Yes, please.”

She scanned the bar code on the box.

“Oh, this is only $12.99 before tax.”

“I understand that. But that’s less than $35.”

“Yes, but the way the program works, you have to get a combination of merchandise that’s a minimum of $35 before tax. The system won’t break up the amount. You have to use it all at once.”

“Okay. How about if I just take this one item, and you guys keep the $22 balance?”

“The system won’t let me do that. You have to get $35 worth of merchandise.”

“Even if I only want one $13 item?”

“I don’t know why they set up the program that way,” she said empathetically. “But that’s how it works.”

Thus, having already wasted an incredible amount of time on what seemed at the beginning like a simple project, I now found myself trolling the aisles of Best Buy, trying to find something worth at least $22 that I might actually use.

Twenty minutes later, laden with a 2 gigabyte flash drive and a six-outlet surge protector strip in addition to my mic stand, I approached the checkout counter. With dispatch, the clerk processed my merchandise, collected my $35 certificate — plus $7.61 from my debit card — and sent me on my way with a bright blue bagful of Best Buy gear.

So, here’s the bottom line.

In order for me to get the one $13 item I wanted in exchange for my Best Buy Reward Zone bonus, Best Buy…

  • Gave up a total of $42 in merchandise.
  • Wasted a half-hour of my Thursday.
  • Involved three members of its customer service team.
  • Raised my already hypertensive blood pressure with pointless exercise.
  • Got seven bucks of my money in the bargain.
  • Frustrated me to the point that it’ll be a snowy August in Fresno before my shadow falls across the threshold of another Best Buy store.

Is that any way to run a rewards program?

While I’m on the subject: Why is the name of the store Best Buy, if your best buys are always at Fry’s, guaranteed?

For that matter, why can’t you get fries at Fry’s?

Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, My Home Town, Taking Umbrage, What's Up With That?, Wonderful World of Advertising

One Comment on “What’s Up With That? #76: Reward Zone? More like Twilight Zone

  1. sank63 Says:

    That’s what you get when you have a company run by consultants. Analytics, more analytics and no one minding the store.

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