Saturday, October 16, 2010

How I Lost Money with TheGotSpot and MB Financial Bank

I'm reading: How I Lost Money with TheGotSpot and MB Financial BankTweet this!

We all know that any deal that sounds too good to be true probably is. But since the launch of Groupon and any number of competitors, along with services that aggregate those fab daily deals into a single email, I've seen some amazing offers.

Typically, I watch them come and go through my inbox, but last week I jumped on deal too good to pass up: a $50 MasterCard gift card for only $25 through MB Financial Bank. Not only was this a good deal because I'm not far from a branch, but I'm also on the lookout for a mortgage provider. At any rate, until we find a house, we've got a down payment that we're keeping liquid for said purchase and are on the lookout for the best spot for our money.

That said, the TheGotSpot certificate did not mention the need to talk to a banker in order to receive the gift card (see image). Even though it wasn't a requirement, I was up for it. I haven't stepped inside my local MB branch in a decade or so.

So in I walked at two minutes after noon on Saturday. After waiting a minute or so to speak with a teller, I was told I needed to speak with a banker, which required a wait.

Granted it was a Saturday, but time is money, no? At 12:17, having spent 15 minutes waiting in the bank, I began to wonder how much this $25 in the form of a gift card bonus would cost me.

I would have walked out at 12:30 without my gift card, but I did sink $25 of my own money into the deal plus I'd invested nearly 30 minute of my time, so I waited, but I realized I was losing money on this deal.

Shortly after 12:30 it was clear MB was losing a future customer as well.

In turns out that, depending on which employee I spoke with, one or two bankers had gone home sick. It's totally believable based on what's been happening in my own house this past week.

But I had to be I had to be back home at 12:45, so I could take my dying cat to be euthanized.

I approached the teller again. "I'm told I'm supposed to speak with a banker, but I have to get my dying cat to the vet. Do you think I could just get the gift card?"

No. I'd have to wait for a banker.

When I was called by a banker around 12:32, I told her I didn't have much time. "Oh," she apologized, "I need to speak with you for 15 minutes."


"I don't have that kind of time. I need to get home to take my cat to the vet to be put down," I said.

"Well, she replied, "There's another branch just down the street, there might be less of a wait there."

Um, why didn't someone tell me that 30 minutes ago?

Also, what part of "euthanize my cat in 20 minutes" did she not understand?

I mentioned something about my down payment money, looking for a home and my anger at having been left waiting and stormed out of there close to tears not only because I'd wasted more than 30 minutes of my time, but also very aware that when I got home I'd be collecting my tiny, frail old cat that hadn't eaten in three days and bringing her to meet her maker.

It's vulnerable moments like this that provide a chance for an otherwise cold bureaucratic institution an opportunity to show a human touch, but as the bank's tagline notes MB Means Business. Not compassion.

However, if, for example, had the banker responded,

"I'm so sorry. Let me give you the gift card and please come back to talk to us during the week."

they might have had a chance with me. Sure, she would've risked my not actually following through. But kindness breeds kindness. Chances are I would have made good on the deal if only to see if they could suggest a better way for me to invest our down payment money that's sitting around earning lousy interest.

Instead, I spun out of that parking lot furious for having wasted my time, missed lunch with my family and filling my heavy heart with petty matters at such a crucial time.

Yes, I will stop in at a branch of the bank to get my gift card; I do have $25 invested in it, after all. But figuring about an hour of my time will have gone into acquiring the bonus $25, I figure I lost money on this deal.

Caveat Emptor. (My second lesson from the Brady Bunch this month!)

I know that vendors that partake in these Groupon-like deals can easily be overwhelmed by the response. They need to be prepared for the traffic that such deals bring (I was not the only person at the bank with a coupon).

And the coupon provider need to be clear about the restrictions, i.e. "in order to redeem the coupon, the holder must speaker with a bank representative for 15 minutes."

Edited 10/16 to add: Just heard from a friend who pursued this same deal. She popped into her to her local branch, picked up the gift card and was out the door like that. What gives?

Edited 10/19 to add: I see a lot of folks from MB Financial have stopped by to read this. I encourage you to read through the comments, where I share some of my thoughts after being contacted by MB.

My first foray in to "coupon madness" was pretty disappointing. Is it worth another try?

P.S. Fortunately, everyone at the vet's office was really wonderful and supportive; they could not have been kinder with the cat (or me!).


Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

So very sorry about the loss of your cat. And for this experience too. You're right, they could have just given you the card and told you to come back later.

Stacey @ Tree, Root, and Twig said...

See, this is what makes me a little nervous about all the coupon deals. I still have the savings widget on my site, but figure maybe there are more savvy (and patient?) people out there that know how to handle it.

And I'm so sorry about your cat. Just weeks before we moved from Oregon to Texas, our precious, 4yo kitty died suddenly and unexpectedly while playing with the kids. It's was a horrific experience. Taking her to the vet to be cremated was surreal, but we knew we could not leave her in Oregon when we would be so far away. I'm sorry for your family's loss.

Kim Moldofsky said...

@Melissa Thanks. I've since edited the piece to note a friend of mine stepped into what I assume was a different branch and was basically just handed her card. Wow. That cheeses me even more.

@Stacey The sudden death of a pet must have been horrible. This was an old kitty. Yesterday I was ambivalent about making the call to the vet, but she could barely hobble around and stopped drinking late yesterday. At least we had time to say goodbye, though that was hard for all of us.

I have some friends who really score with these coupon deals. I guess I'm going to remain skeptical for a while.

Sara (from Saving for Someday) said...

I'm so sorry you had this experience on the heels of dealing with such a profoundly personal matter. My condolences on the passing of your cat.

As for MB Financial, well someone needs to school them not only in customer service but also how to deal with honoring their deal. It's not like they don't offer promotional deals. I looked up their twitter - - 68 followers and they're following no one. Why even set up a twitter?

I suggest you send an email and a link to your post to Ms. Karen A. Perlman - - she is Sr. VP of Marketing for MB Financial. Here's her LinkedIn.

I got your back, girlfriend!

Melisa with one S said...

I'm sorry for your loss!!

And the bank thing is ridiculous. I've bought a few Groupons but just for local attractions and such: haven't had any trouble whatsoever....

Kim Moldofsky said...

@Melisa - thanks for your note. I was thinking about your book on pet loss, but I think my boys are a little old for it.

@Sara - I'm glad you got my back but I was a little squeamish about publishing a comment with Ms. Perlman's linkedin because I don't like to call out individuals that directly, but gave it the green light because it's public info.

What you say about Twitter is true for many companies. In this case, it certainly applies to both @TheGotSpot and @MBFinancialBank.

Twitter can be used for marketing, building relationships and customer service. If a brand does not have a consistent and interactive presence, Twitter serves little purpose. I think having a minimal and occasional Twitter presence may be worse than none at all. You?

a little bit more about me said...

Kim: First, please accept my condolences. As a cat owner, I know how much my cats mean to my family and can’t imagine the stress and sorrow that you felt on Saturday to have to say goodbye. I was distressed to read, too, that MB didn’t ease any of your anxieties that day when you dropped in to redeem your Got Spot coupon.

I work at MB and am one of the people who helped develop the Got Spot campaign. Our intent with the offer was to create a positive buzz by essentially giving money away – not something banks do so often! We felt that this was a fun way to attract those in the communities we serve to stop in and allow us to introduce MB and, hopefully, begin to develop a supportive, new relationship. We felt that a start to any good relationship is a good conversation. In sitting with a banker, you’d be able to have a quick, one-on-one chat about your financial needs and concerns so that your MB banker could offer tailored solutions to consider.

We regret that this was not your experience and are very hopeful that you believe in second chances. Because we do “mean business” when it comes to our efforts: Our sole purpose is to offer you money management tools for your business – whether that means your household, your business, your future, your mortgage…

Every good business recognizes, as you pointed out, that time is money. To ensure that you do not lose on this deal, MB would like to add to your gift card. If you could please email me at and let me know what banking center you’ll be stopping in at, we can arrange for this special gift card to be ready for your pick up. I look forward to hearing from you and making right on a situation that should have been right on Saturday.

Diane Shaughnessy, VP,
Marketing Communications,
MB Financial Bank

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks for your comments Diane. I will contact your privately and I thank you for your offer. I don't need special treatment at this point, though I really could have used it on Saturday.

When designing deals like this, it's very important to set expectations up front. In this case, that would mean noting that a conversation with a banker is required to redeem the coupon.

Again, I was actually open to talking with a banker, I just wasn't expecting to wait 30 minutes to do so. And yes, the bank staff had extenuating circumstances, but so did I.

I actually popped into the same location this morning. I approached a teller who told me I'd need to speak to a banker. I know one banker was busy with a customer and I saw one customer who appeared to be waiting for a banker and told the teller rather brusquely that I was not going to open an account and could I please just have my gift card, but she told me she was not authorized to give them out, only bankers could do that.

This was informative in I know understand that the teller (today and Saturday) was not at fault, s/he was simply not empowered to intervene. The banker on the other hand....

Sara @ Saving For Someday said...

Kim, Thank you for publishing my comment as provided. Had you edited it, I'd completely understand.

I think it's shameful for any business to set up a twitter (or facebook for that matter) account and then allow it to stagnate. Those two aspects of social media say to the public 'We are here'. And I understand it's not always possible to have it monitored 24/7. But if a business just wants to reserve the name or save it for another day then there is the ability to make it private.

I'm glad you're going to get resolution to this issue. Lack of authority for tellers is not unique to MB Financial nor is lack of customer service reserved for potential clients. I've banked at my financial institution for almost 20 years and have multiple accounts and at least once a year I swear I'm going to take my money elsewhere. Someone up the chain of command always makes it better. Although it shouldn't have to be that way.

Jodi said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your cat, Kim.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Just wanted to offer an update that many folks from MB Financial have stopped by my blog (Hi! Poke around and see the "about Kim" page so you know I'm not some ranting lunatic).

I've exchanged emails with Diane from MB and shared a couple of thoughts that are worth noting here.
1) The coupon should have stated that a meeting woth a banker was required for redemption.

2)If a person with a coupon waits 15 minutes, the bank should waive the meeting requirement as that person is not getting a stellar impression of the bank anyway. Better show flexibility and understanding than stand by rigid rules and scare the person off from future contact.

3) The BIG ISSUE here is not the bank's innovative foray into the social space, but rather the issue is old school customer service. Or perhaps the banker's actions reflect a rigid organizational culture that prevented the her from feeling empowered to flex the rules for me. Or maybe her own cat got put to sleep last month and she wasn't allowed time off of work to be there and was taking her resentment out of me.

Who knows?

My point is this should not discourage the bank from delving further into the social space.

Every biz-to-consumer organization should encourage their public-facing staff to imagine that every customer is going to blog/tweet/ or share their experience with their Facebook friends. The days of telling 3 friends about a good experience and 10 about a bad one are over. Social media amplifies everyone's voice.

Delight people. Give your customers a reason to say wonderful things about your organization.

Kim Moldofsky said...

One final update. In full disclosure, though I said it was not necessary, MB did increase the value of my gift card an additional $25, which was nice.

The branch I went into to redeem my coupon was notified that I'd be stopping in this week, but did not now what day or time. Heck, I didn't know what day or time.

But when I stopped in, I literally didn't even make it to say hello to a teller before someone turned to me and said, we'll have that gift card for you in just a second. Yes, I was holding TheGotSpot paper, but she gave me the specially loaded gift card, so she knew who I was.

That's service. I was very impressed!

Meowmie said...

My condolences on the loss of your cat. So sorry to hear that.

Karen Hartzell, Graco said...

You are not the first or the last to lose money on those things. I think they count on that. To date I have lost 2 prepaid deals. I need to step away from the daily deal emails for sure.

Condolences on your cat too. I am sure it was a rough day not made easier by the situation.