U.S. businesses are increasingly courting women customers. And it’s easy to see why.
More and more women are taking an active role in managing their family’s finances, and 44% of all females in America are the primary breadwinners in their households, according to a 2014-2015 study from Prudential.
Perhaps that why salespeople, business owners and marketing execs in every industry – from banking and pharmaceuticals to retail and transportation – all want to know what makes women tick financially.
In fact, in the field of behavioral economics, there’s a growing amount of research devoted solely to figuring out why women buy and what motivates us to spend.
I obviously can’t speak for all women. But I can say what’s a true turnoff for me when I’m considering spending my hard-earned dollars.
Here are 10 horrible business practices – including several inspired by my recent summer travels – that instantly make me shut my purse and never want to buy certain products and services.
1. The Ever-Changing Dis-Loyalty Rules
So many companies claim they want to “work hard” to gain my loyalty. But that’s just their words. Their deeds are totally different.
I can’t tell you how many airlines have lost my loyalty because they decided to devalue my frequent flyer mileage, change the rules midstream or in some way, or mess with the miles I’ve bought or earned. That doesn’t speak to me of business integrity. In fact, it makes me question your business ethics altogether. And I don’t like doing business with companies I can’t trust to keep their word.
2. The Dynamic Pricing Dud
I also hate it when I’m going online and shopping for something – most recently, it’s been airfare – and I find that prices are constantly fluctuating. Yes, I know that dynamic pricing is all the rage and that companies employ small armies of analytics specialists to figure out just the right combination of pricing, discounts and so on to entice customers, as well as boost revenues. But for me, it’s really just a pain.
If I see a price quoted online, don’t change it 5 minutes later, so that by the time I run to get my wallet for my credit card the price has shot up inexplicably. That’s a turnoff and I’ll just take my business elsewhere.
3. The Lipstick on a Pig Technique
Here’s another thing to the airline industry: Please don’t send me a nice, glossy letter in the mail telling me the “wonderful news” about how my 200,000 frequent flyer miles have now been devalued but I have “greater options.” OK, so basically you’re saying my miles are virtually worthless, right? Hello! I can see right through your slick marketing lingo. You’re really just trying to put a happy spin on bad news.
If I’m losing a perk and it’s not being replaced by something as good as or better than I had, can’t you just be honest about it? If you can’t afford to deliver a benefit any longer, just deliver the news straight out and say that. Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to slap lipstick on a pig and calling it a kitty cat. It’s still a pig. All your marketing hype makes me think you’re just being piggy too – as in greedy.
4. Price Gouging Gone Wild
I understand that companies are in business to earn a buck. Really, I do. And I get it that certain firms – especially publicly traded ones – are under pressure to post ever higher earnings to keep Wall Street and investors happy. That’s all fine and good. And when I get really good experiences, quality products or excellent customer service, I’m happy to pay a premium for those things.
But there’s a huge difference between me paying a “premium” and me getting price gouged. If I even think that you’re charging an unreasonably hefty charge for something, I’m going to resent it. Even if I do grudgingly pay a certain fee under duress, simply because I have limited or no options, you can be sure I won’t be back – or if I do return, I’ll come up with a clever way to bypass your ridiculous charges in the future.
So marketers need to think long and hard moment about pricing: it’s not about how much you can get away with charging, or what the wealthiest among us can afford. For most products and services, it’s about delivering good value and still being reasonable.
Is it reasonable to charge $25 for a locker rental at an amusement park?
Is it reasonable to charge $150 per passenger just to change an airline ticket – above and beyond the difference in the fare?
I don’t think so.
5. The “Catch” in the Marketing Hook
Don’t try to confuse me by saying there’s a special promotion, a discount or freebie available – when you know that 99.9% of all possible customers will NOT qualify for that price break. Sometimes, women are pitched these offers as “buy one, get one free” or 50% off deals. Legitimate offers like these are fine. But if I have to jump through ridiculous hoops to qualify for any deal, that’s no better than a bait-and-switch move – another one of my buying pet peeves. You might as well say: “Hey there! We have a big sale going on, but it’s only for left-handed people age 70 and older who were born on Christmas Day in Topeka, Kansas with the last name Mecklenberg.”
6. The Crazy Opt-In Tactic
Don’t slam me into offers that I didn’t ask for; that’s unethical — whether it’s a new credit card, a magazine or newsletter subscription, or a 30-day trial offer for some vitamins. So make sure that the stupid little box to “opt in” to something isn’t already pre-checked or selected when I’m about to make a purchase. I want to control what I opt into – not you.
7. The Never-Ending Pitch
Here’s one for retail stores: I shouldn’t have to repeatedly tell some pushy cashier that I don’t want your credit card to save 10%. I understand that you have to train your sales associates to ask if I want your store credit. But cut out the hard sell already. Once I decline once, don’t keep asking me the same question seven ways from Sunday or telling me about all the benefits the card offers. Keep doing that and I’m liable to put the entire purchase back and walk out the store empty-handed.
8. The Rabid Robocalls
I really shouldn’t have to say this one, but I will – and it’s to all the businesses out their pitching their wares and services by bugging me and basically using the telephone as an instrument of complete and total harassment.
Do you really think I’m going to buy anything in the world from you when your annoying robocalls have dialed my house at exactly 7:05 a.m. every single day for the past two weeks? Are you nuts!?
I tell you what: send me a list of all the products and services you sell. That way I can be a truly informed consumer. And I promise you this: I will do my very best to avoid ever buying anything whatsoever from you – for the rest of my entire life.
9. The Spamming or Cold-Calling Chumps
Speaking of the phone, if you’re spamming me with text messages, you can really forget about landing me as a customer. Are you completely crazy? Do you know how many scammers are out there texting, emailing and making cold calls? I assure you that my credit card and I are not going to come near your company with a 10-foot pole if you engage in these business tactics.
10. The Impossibly Hard-to-Find Fine Print
Lastly, don’t make me search Google to find out how to cancel a subscription, end a service, get a refund or make a change when it comes to some product or service for which I’ve paid. All this info really should be easily and readily found on your website. What do you think an FAQ’s section is for? If I can’t at least find it there, now I’m really ticked off because now you’re wasting my time and I feel like you’re playing games with me.
When I want a refund, a cancellation or some kind of change and I can’t find it quickly, the only thing going through my mind is: How come your sales pitch is in 48 point font in BOLD, RED LETTERS on page one of your corporate site, but the process for cancelling something or making a return is God knows where in the fine print or buried deep in some technical area?
Use some common sense and have some respect for your customers: If I buy something online, the same the page that I used to place an order should be the same page where I can easily find out how to cancel or make changes to that order.
So these are 10 horrible business practices that drive me bananas and cause me to shut my purse.
Related articles on the web
- The slow demise of the frequent flyer program (washingtonpost.com)
- Attention all passengers: Frequent flyer miles are on the descent (news.yahoo.com)
- IRS Eyes New Ways to Tax Frequent Flyer Miles (taxprof.typepad.com)