Your brand is your brand

…or, the $1.75 reason why Jo-Ann Fabric just lost a customer today.  Behold:

The $1.75 reason why I won't shop at Jo-Ann Fabric anymore

This arrived in a larger order from yesterday.  It was in a plastic bag with a few other spools of thread, and the missing pieces from that spool were not in the bag, so it was clearly broken before whoever packed the order put it in there.

No problem, I thought -  I can take this to the local store and get an exchange.  So, in the process of running errands this morning, I swing by the local Jo-Ann Fabrics to make the exchange and pick up a few other small items.

From the start, I have a bad impression: the store is beyond dingy.  It is dirty and run down.  The stock is disorganized and untidy.  The clerks’ uniform shirts are uniformly dirty.  It is not long after opening, and there is already a long line and only one cashier.  This is not promising, but I am already there, so I pick up a few small purchases and resign myself to the wait.  To the store’s credit, they slowly add staff members to the registers.   Even so, it takes quite a while, and when I get to the front of the line, I quickly explain that I have a bad spool from an online order.

“Oh – we don’t do returns from online orders.  It’s not really the same store.”

“Really?  Because they have the same brand.”

“No – somewhere on the website it explains that.”

Let me explain something as clearly as I can to the people who make decisions that create these kinds of conversations:

Your brand is your brand.

If you want to benefit from a brand name that has customer loyalty attached to it, you have to be prepared for your customers to view that brand as a whole entity — online and off.  Your customers neither know nor care about your corporate structure. Beyond that, when a customer is faced with an employee (your corporate spokesperson, like it or not) explaining that their broken item must be mailed back to the online entity for the approximate replacement cost of the item itself, it makes your customers… unhappy.  And that unhappy experience creates a very strong impression.  Call it a brand association.

As a result, I now associate the entire Jo-Ann Fabric brand with dingy, disorganized stores, unhelpful employees in dirty uniforms, and a corporate policy that is a paragon of customer-unfriendly “gotcha” rules.

Congratulations, Jo-Ann Fabric branding team.  That’s a clear picture of a store I won’t shop at again.

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