Retail marketers have always been in love with the word guarantee, without feeling the need to embrace its meaning. CRM vendors, for example, have always been fond of promising guarantees without specifying what they'll do if they can't deliver.
Best Buy's buy-online-pickup-in-store guarantee program promises $10 to consumers if their order isn't given to them within one minute of them presenting their confirmation e-mail. But this Web posting raises a fascinating question: Is the guarantee legitimate if the retailer controls the terms?
The guarantee excludes items priced less than $10. Fair enough, I suppose, but this also excludes the time waiting in line. That's a grey area. Is the guarantee intended to tell consumers that they'll get in and out quickly with the program? If so, line waits shouldn't be excluded. Then again, line waits are sometimes not the fault of the merchant, especially if the customer comes in an hour before closing on Christmas Eve.
The full guarantee, though, gets trickier. It's not merely the confirmation number, but the "one minute starts after you have presented your photo ID, purchasing credit card and your confirmation e-mail or valid order number to us, and when Best Buy enters your order number into our computer system. Best Buy will track the time, which will end when you have the product in your possession."
As the poster asks, what if the store associate doesn't allow the customer to present all three of those items until after the product is delivered? Doesn't that fully undermine the intent of the guarantee? Indeed, if true, what does the guarantee actually mean? It's something to think about when you're considering making the guarantee offer that your marketing people are pushing. Give it too many exceptions and the only thing it guarantees is that you'll never pay.
Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesn't plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here.