Don't Squat When You're Wearing Spurs

By Stacy Cornay for the Times-Call
Publish Date: 07/10/2011

We're all for saving money. Just watch any episode of "Extreme Couponing."

Couponing is the "in" thing. It's the trend that's capturing the imagination of millions, especially those looking to come out on the shiny end of bargains. Couponing is saving a lot of people a lot of money. Couponing is providing new ways for business owners to sell more products and services and expand clientele.

But it's not all upside. You have to watch the fine print.

I recently got a coupon from my car dealership. They noticed I hadn't been in recently. They missed me. They wanted me back. As an enticement, they sent a special coupon for lube, oil change, and filter. It read good to me. The money saved would be money earned.

The catch was in the fine print. There, spelled out for anyone with the eyesight of an eagle, was a notation that I "may be charged for fluid/filter disposal."

Because of the semi-hidden disposal fee, I ended up paying twice as much as I intended. The coupon wasn't such a good deal. It certainly didn't build customer loyalty.

Will Rogers, the homespun philosopher of the 1930's, had a lot to say about doing business. Some of his best advice was:

Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco;

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier n puttin' it back in; and

Never squat while wearing your spurs.

As a business owner, I know that businesses need to make money to survive. But some short-term tactics may cost long-term gains. Advertising super sales, special discounts or just-for-you customer loyalty programs will backfire if customers think you're baiting and switching.

Will Rogers might compare that with slapping a man with a mouth full of tobacco juice or fighting to get an irate cat back in a bag or squatting on your own spurs.

That's not a knock against discounts or coupons.

Businesses using coupons and discounts properly stand to win over time. Coupons are excellent ways to draw new customers and to reward the loyalty of existing customers. When backed by quality service and products, coupons and discounts are fun.

They are welcomed by everyone trying to stretch dollars and feel good about it. But fine-print disclaimers take the bloom off the rose. Unexpected surprises at the cashier's counter spoil it all. My car dealer did put himself back in my thoughts, but not in the way he intended.

Before launching a coupon or discount campaign consider the following elements:

  • Are you offering a real deal -- a coupon savings or a discount sufficient to reward the loyalty of old customers while attracting the patronage of new ones?
  • How will you keep new customers and clients once they've visited your business? Do you have quality products, reliable services and personal follow-up to keep them coming back for more?
  • What is your message? Are you offering a discounts or coupons as parts of an on-going marketing/advertising campaign or are they one-shot efforts to get what you can before trying something else?
  • How will discounts/coupons be used in conjunction with other special offers you may have available? Are there trade-offs or carry-overs?
  • What's the objective of your coupon/discount campaign drawing more attention to your products or services, getting more people in the door, rewarding loyalty, or leveraging purchases to increase total sales and volume?

Done with style, coupons and discounts can do it all. But hidden surprises may leave potential clientele singing an old favorite song:

"If the phone don't ring, it's me."

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit or call 303-651-6612.