Ever wonder why some retailers or restaurants put on their coupons, “Valid at participating locations only”? It is a very glass-half-full way of saying, “Some locations may not take this coupon, but go ahead and try it anyway.”

Based on this, three questions come to mind:

  1. Why do marketers want to promote an offer that is not being accepted in all units? Is it an example of semi-deceptive advertising, where marketers think consumers will like the offer in general and visit the store anyway?
  2. What does disappointment do to the customer? At the very least, it irritates the customer, but it can also make them irate. Even though the customer may still buy something because they are in the store, trust in the brand starts to erode, a pillar of customer loyalty.
  3. What position does this put the employee in? It forces the operations employee to say, “No”. The employee has no chance to succeed and wow the customer when they are put in a situation where they cannot say “Yes”. An employee who is embarrassed by saying “No” to the customer and a customer who is upset is not the recipe for building a brand.

These kinds of marketing offers pop up everywhere. Consider these situations:

  • A customer fails to read the fine print and realizes only after coming to the store that they must make additional purchases for the offer.
  • The offer is only valid for specific times of the day or week.
  • To receive the discount advertised, the customer needs to pay full price and then get a store credit or coupon in the mail.


Marketers must take on the responsibility of setting expectations that can be fulfilled. Recently, Louis Vuitton produced an ad featuring Angelina Jolie with a bag that has been out of production for the last six years. Of course if the ad is successful it will make customers come to the store to purchase the bag. But what happens next? The store employee is forced to say the bag is unavailable, creating one very disappointed customer.