… or why I probably won’t make BlogHer this year.
I wrote a long, creative piece to tell this story, but sometimes I think it is best to just write things in a boring, just-the-facts manner. So, here it goes:
A year ago, Sophia read about this Father’s Day promotion online:
“Buy $125 dollars worth of Dockers pants from JCPenney and receive a “free round-trip ticket within the U.S.”
So, off we went to JCPenney, where I spent two hour trying on different Dockers pants, each time parading in front of Sophia like a male runway model, waiting for her sign of approval. Did it fit in the back? Was it the right color? Finally, we made our choices, mailed in our reciepts, and received the official brochure in the mail.
From the brochure sent to me by
1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
“This complimentary round-trip airfare allows you to visit one of these ten exciting cities: Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, or Dallas. Name your destination; we just named your price: FREE.”
The promotion had some odd stipulations. You had to choose —
“Different first, second, and third choice destinations.”
“Different first, second, and third choice date preferences for both outbound and return travel.”
“That’s weird,” I thought. “This free ticket is not very useful if you really need to get somewhere important, like for business. It’s a bit of a crap shoot.”
I decided to try to use it to go to BlogHer in San Francisco this year. I joked with some of you that I might end up in Chicago or Dallas during BlogHer, but I was fairly confident that I would get tickets to San Francisco. After all, there are dozens of flights from the New York area to San Francisco/Oakland. Surely, there was room in one of them during the days I gave them, even if I had to do a stop-over.
The brochure gave further instructions:
“A Representative from TLC Marketing will contact you within 14 days of receipt to book and confirm travel itinerary.”
A few weeks ago, I received two automated voice messages. One said that my completed form was in order and to expect a call. The next offered me other options besides the free ticket. I could receive a $125 rebate or $150 in “restaurant coupons.” It was a bad deal. Coupons to what — Olive Garden? I took the flight. Still, a red light went on in my head. It was sneaky of them, because in the brochure they clearly write:
“TLC Marketing may substitute another reward of equal or greater value if promotional availability runs out.”
Free ticket to SF does not equal Olive Garden coupons.
Time passed. It was now two weeks before BlogHer. I called the TLC Marketing “Dockers Concierge” number to find out what was going on. A few months ago, I had spoken to a woman in India at this number who helped me correctly fill out my form. Now, there was no one to talk to. All that was left was a message that participants would get a call by “July 3rd.” It is now July 9th. I already missed BlogHer registraion.
I was as if the promotion has been taken off of TLC Marketing’s agenda.
I googled this promotion online and quickly found out why. This promotion was an ongoing PR mess for TLC Marketing. There were already 500 complaints issued with the Better Business Bureau of Massachusetts against TLC Marketing and their company president, Walter Osterman.
There were problems from the get-go, even from those customers who received their flights. Their free flights ended up costing them $90 in taxes and and processing fees, which might be considered legitimate if the airlines themselves didn’t charge $50 in taxes and fees. Why were customers being charged this extra money?
Now, customers couldn’t get flights. Was the promotion defunct? Why would Dockers offer a promotion that they can’t fulfill? To get customers to buy $125 dollars of Dockers pants at a time?
And who needs so many Dockers anyway?
I sent emails to Dockers (owned by the Levi Strauss co. of San Francisco) and JCPenney, but received useless automated responses. I phoned them and received more run-arounds. The customer service woman at Dockers said she would ‘present my information to upper management.” The woman at JCPenney gave me some phone number in Florida to call.
“Who is this that I am calling?
“It is the number that can help you with this promotion?”
“And who is it?
“Just call them?
“Do they have a name? Is this someone at JC Penney.’
“I can JUST give you this number.”
I called the number and no one answered.
Both JC Penney and Docker seemed to point the finger at TLC Marketing I’ve seen this before – a corporation not taking responsibility because they chose to deal with a incompetent company.
The moral of this story is the same as the one about my cheap, useless, not-Vista compatible web-cam from a few days ago.
You get what you pay for.
So, unless someone at Dockers or JCPenney reads this and is embarrassed by this post, I won’t be at BlogHer, even if I was mostly going just to flirt with girls at the parties.
I take responsibility for my dumb mistakes — of being cheap and trying to use a free ticket. I wish some companies would take responsibility for their own stupid mistakes, like offering promotions with tons of restrictions, and then not keeping their part of the bargain.
If I don’t make it to BlogHer, I blame myself AND —
DOCKERS (R. John Anderson, CEO Levi Strauss)
JCPENNEY (Myron E. (Mike) Ullman III CEO)
TLC MARKETING (Walter Osterman, President)
Hey, Consumerist — here are some links of others who are pissed at TLC Marketing, Dockers, and JCPenney.