Caramels, CVS and Warren Buffett

I love CVS. I also love Walgreens, so maybe I just love drugstores in general. I love CVS because it is everywhere. I am on the email newsletter list. I belong to the loyalty program. Trust me, no cashier ever needs to ask, “Do you have a CVS card?” If they do, they are not paying attention because I do not even approach the register without that card in my hand.

Delight your customer

I buy all kinds of things at CVS. Most of them might seem unusual purchases for a drugstore, especially since I do not actually take medication on an ongoing basis. Office supplies, milk and cream, nuts, tuna fish, spices and every once in a while I will buy a can (maybe two) of Chef Boyardee mini ravioli. You never know when the power might go out and you need to eat Chef Boyardee mini ravioli straight from the can. I regularly receive ExtraBucks from their ExtraCare Rewards program and I hoard them until I figure out a reason to go back and buy mostly random, non-drugstore items at CVS. They also have a generous return policy.

I can buy cosmetics and if I do not like them for any reason, I can return them. Sure, I might be able to do that at a department store’s makeup counter. I do not actually know; I have never even tried. But, to do that, I would need to go to the mall and not my corner CVS. They have some high-end cosmetics, which I can use coupons and my ExtraBucks on, so in addition to being less expensive, there is also no risk. I love CVS. It delights me. Which brings us to Warren Buffett.

Image: © Shutterstock

Image: © Shutterstock

Warren Buffett’s recent quote on the key to entrepreneurial success reads, “Tomorrow morning, when you look in the mirror, write — or just put it in lipstick or whatever you want — ‘delight my customer,’ not ‘satisfy my customer,’” said Buffett. “I don’t remember how much I paid for my last car, but I remember the experience,” Buffett continued, explaining that any business that delights customers can count them as an unpaid sales force. They will come back to buy your product, and they will talk about it with other people, he said.

The ‘caramel incident’

This is pretty straightforward, as Buffett is wont to be. It is also great marketing advice, which brings us to my beloved CVS. In practically every CVS I have ever been in, there is a “bucket” of caramels right on the counter next to the register. I know that they are for sale because, like I said, I practically live at CVS but it is an open container, more like a basket than a sales display. There is no lid. The sign describes the caramels and it says they are “three for 99 cents” but it is handwritten and it certainly does not stand out. They are good-looking caramels.

Elizabeth Mansfield
Elizabeth Mansfield

Yesterday I was in line to return my microwave egg-cooker. It was cracked on the inside and I did not want it to explode in the microwave. The couple in front of me had completed their transaction when the cashier told them that they owed more money. There was a bit of a kerfuffle. The cashier wanted to know how many caramels the man had eaten so he could charge him for them. The wife was open-mouthed with shock that they cost money and they were not giveaways. The man was very surprised but paid and they left. I was next and the cashier said to me, and the cashier next to him, no less than four times, “That is why I wish they wouldn’t put them on the counter!” He was upset. It had obviously happened before and seemed like maybe everyone was not as cordial as the guy who had just left.

Find your caramels

The whole “for-sale caramel masquerading as free caramel” scheme seems to fly in the face of CVS’s whole concept and their ongoing, proactive marketing efforts. When I got home, I told Tom that I thought maybe they made a lot of money that way. Why else would they do something so seemingly out of character? He thought I might be overthinking it.

Here is my question to you. Are you setting your customers up to be “carameled”? Have you set up policies, procedures, products, services that are specifically un-delighting people? I would check with my front office staff and the primary phone answerers. If there is a “carameling” going on, they will be the first to hear about it. Let me know what you find out.

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