Occasionally, something is just plain awful.
Pixie Stix were never my favorite.
But my grade-school friend Martie just loved them. So when we pooled our change to visit Borr’s Store for candy, she’d go for those tubes of sweet and sour grit, while I favored Bazooka bubblegum or a Seven-Up Bar. Better yet: beef jerky or Bugles. But those trips were few and far between until Mr Borr came up with a plan to boost revenue that would also endear him to every kid in the county.
Borr’s was the only store in town, selling a mix of grocery and convenience items. But customers had started to shop at the supermarket a few towns away, weighing the 80 mile round trip against the lower prices and larger selection, and Borr’s business was suffering. One day, Mr Borr posted a sign stating that he would honor valid coupons for any item he carried against any item in the store. Almost immediately, every child in town attacked their parents’ magazine rack with scissors and came in with a stack of coupons to buy candy.
Heinz Gravy: yes. Jello Pudding: yes. Chef Boyardee: yes. Swiss Miss Cocoa: No, we don’t sell that. Hellman’s Mayo: yes- a favorite, at a whopping $1.00 off!! Mr Borr redeemed coupons for various foodstuffs at an amazing rate, and kids could suddenly ‘buy’ fistfulls of candy and snacks.
At the time, I never gave a thought to how this worked for the store. Now I realize they sent those coupons to the manufacturer and received the face value plus a small premium in exchange, which helped keep the business afloat for a few more years. I imagine coupons are fully automated now. But then? I wonder if the manufacturers ever tried to match up sales with coupon redemption. Did anyone ever wonder why a rural grocer had redeemed hundreds of coupons for Hellman’s Mayonnaise?
Borr’s Store was strictly old-school. Their only ‘technology’ was an electronic adding machine. Computers were the realm of astronauts and engineers. Social media hadn’t been invented. Mr Borr didn’t spend any time wondering if he’d photographed his products in the right light, or if he’d accidentally tagged the wrong brewery in a post. He didn’t have to worry about a power outage messing up his payment processing. If you’d asked him about hashtags, he might have thought it was a new potato dish.
For modern retailers, those things are mandatory. We live and die by Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, not to mention Yelp, Google reviews, and email blasts. All of those things can be fun. And once learned, none are particularly difficult. But occasionally, I find myself longing for a Hellman’s coupon and a box of Bugles.