no big deal

I recently came across 2 different items that I left me similarly unimpressed.

The first was a sticker on my Hertz rental car folder, announcing the company was now offering to re-fuel my rental at market prices (instead of the $9.99 or whatever they used to charge.)  Upon further investigation, I learned this was part of an “innovative re-fueling program” Hertz introduced last month. For customers who don’t refill the fuel tank before returning their rentals, Hertz will charge local market fuel prices plus a one-time Refueling Fee of $6.99.

The second was an article about Whole Foods seeking a more budget-friendly image.  Apparently the company is hurting as consumers pull back on discretionary spending, so they’re offering deeper discounts, adding lower-priced items, and emphasizing value in their messaging.  Such efforts are intended to win back customers who’ve defected to lower priced alternatives and to reinvigorate the company with Wall Street who’s pummeled their stock price in the last 24 months.

While there’s a part of me that is glad to see these companies making an effort to help strained customers, I find myself generally underwhelmed.  Basically Hertz is foregoing their usual price gouging which they should be ashamed of — and Whole Foods is waking up to the reality that $39.99/lb triple cream goat cheese is just not on most people’s shopping lists.  These companies — and many others like them which are struggling to maintain their relevance in today’s economy — should have been treating their customers more fairly and offering great value all along.

Brands gain credibility and develop strong relationships with customers when they do the right thing consistently — not just when the chips are down.  Am I wrong?

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  • Denise — I couldn’t agree more with you on the “Whole Foods” doing the right thing issue. I find it amazing, and aggravating, that more companies simply aren’t doing the right thing. This falls clearly into the category of taking care of your customers, not just for the sake of gaining loyalty, but because you really DO CARE about your customers. This gets to the heart of questioning the authenticity of such brands.

    Yes, yes, I can hear those who would comment that this is business and all the excuses any company can make to drift from their core values and ethics. I’d suggest that companies have a responsibility to themselves and to their customers to be authentic and take care of the hands that feed them.

    I’ve been seeing more talk around this issue of “brand ethics” (not just trade issues, but values-based branding and marketing). A quick Google search with yield some info.