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The free gift with purchase promotion is a standard in cosmetics retail, and many women hold off on buying products from brands such as Elizabeth Arden and Clinique until the promise of freebies rolls around; some customers even spend more than they ordinarily would in order to score the gift. Knowing this, what then happens when the freebie that motivated the purchase doesn't turn out to be what was originally advertised?
Our friends at The Consumerist recently wrote about a reader's experience with an Elizabeth Arden free gift that fell short of expectations. The story goes like this: Reader Lauren had spent the requisite $65 at Elizabeth Arden in order to receive an advertised 33-piece Holiday Color Collection (pictured) of complimentary cosmetics with a retail value of $350. But what she received was a cheaper (by $100) and smaller 29-piece makeup gift set, and no prior notice of the substitution from Elizabeth Arden. While one can make a strong case that the "retail value" for the original item was certainly inflated to begin with, Lauren explained that the swapped-in gift lacked the "higher quality items (skincare items as well as makeup, larger compacts, and brushes)" that the advertised gift set had.
When Lauren called to inquire, a representative from the company informed her that they had run out of the original item. While technically not a "bait and switch" as Lauren suggested in her letter, and not as grievous a fault as Best Buy's canceled Black Friday orders, this practice of distributing a lesser-quality product (free or not) than advertised is a sure-fire way to upset customers. For many people, the free cosmetic gift set is a major factor in their deciding to buy a new blush or foundation to begin with.
This anecdote thus brings to light a few questions for all shoppers, regardless of whether you care for cosmetics; is it OK for a retailer to sub-in items when the advertised free gift goes out of stock? If they cannot fulfill the original offer, do you think the retailer should inform you of the switch before completing your order? Would you be less likely to buy from that store again? And have any of you experienced this with other retailers? [The Consumerist]