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Points of Articulation

yo go re
yo go re
An Open Letter to Toys R Us

Hi, Geoffrey. Do you have a moment to listen?

I'm getting increasingly frustrated by your business practices, and it's finally time to speak out. After all, unless I tell you directly, how can I expect you to change?

Now, there are several things you're doing that deeply aggravate not only me, but every shopper who hears about them. For instance, your "Bump Up" program, in which you selectively raise the shelf prices in stores located in affluent neighborhoods. There's nothing illegal about the practice, but it's still undeniably scummy. Yes, you're mostly putting the squeeze on people who can afford it; "mostly."

It might not be so bad if you weren't already artificially inflating your prices, but you are. It's hard to claim you're only passing along price increases from the manufacturer when manufacturers list their SRP on their websites, you know? I'm not saying you have to try to undercut Walmart's prices, just play fair with your consumers. That's all we're asking.

Alternately, you can keep up with the same pricing strategy you have now. I'm sure KB Toys would be happy to tell you how well it worked for them.

Now, I'm sure you're going to ignore that advice, TRU. We've written four of these "Open Letters" to different companies over the years, and none of them have ever listened. We have no illusions that you'll be the first to change your ways, even though we've been proven right every time. Asking a large corporation like you to change its fundamental pricing strategy is like trying to turn an ocean liner on a dime. But there's something else you may be more willing to consider.

I went shopping at Toys Я Us today, and spent $100 on action figures. I don't mention that to be one of those idiots who claim that they spend X amount, which makes them more important than the moms who buy toys for their kids, and so you "owe" them - that's stupid. I only mention it to provide context. I spent $100 on action figures: superheroes, videogame characters and a Transformer.

Now tell me, what about any part of that makes you think I need baby coupons?

After every purchase, your registers spit out a receipt, a gift receipt, and a string of coupons longer than my arm. Look at these insipid things:

Value boxes of diapers? Powder formulas? Two 20% off coupons that are only good on baby items? Well guess what, my baby wants NECA's Predators figures. Go on, prove she doesn't.

Now, I've never bought baby items at Toys R Us. Let me repeat that: never bought baby items. You know why? Because I don't have a baby (present tense). I'm not going to have a baby (future tense). I will not have had a baby (future pluperfect tense). Stop giving me baby coupons.

Look, Toys Я Us, I know what you're trying to do. We all read that article about how Target can identify a woman is pregnant before anyone knows, and thus capture her loyalty for years to come. We know that people find that kind of attention creepy for some reason, and we can figure out that the reason you give baby coupons to everyone is that you don't just want to give them to some people.

But you know what? I hate it. Hate it. Look, I have an "R Us Rewards" card; I know you track all my purchases. You send an email every time I go through the checkout, specifically listing every item I bought! Every Christmas you have that promo where if I spend over a certain amount of money during the holiday shopping season, I get rewards and coupons in exchange. (Coupons which, by the way, were all for baby items this year; thanks for making me feel like I wasted my money, Toys Я Us.)

Anyway, I know the reason you can run this promotion is because you're tracking my purchases. And let's be clear: I don't care. Track what I buy all you want, but only if it helps you serve me better! If I spend $200 in a month buying action figures and Legos, why do you not then send me coupons for action figures and Legos? What, do you think I already have all the ones I want? I don't! I'll buy more! And I'll buy them from Toys Я Us instead of Walmart or Target if you give me coupons for them. But if you give me coupons for baby items, I'm going to throw them out and buy my toys somewhere else. Last year I personally bought 122 things at Toys R Us. You know exactly what every one of those things was, and more importantly, you know what they weren't - they weren't anything for babies. I'm not some faceless custmer to you; I'm a customer with a clear buying history, and if you keep pretending you don't know that, I'm going to have to give my money to your competitors because you're spamming baby coupons and not paying attention to what I'm actually buying.

And hey, maybe if you quit wasting so much register tape, you'd save enough money on paper that you could put the prices back down where they belong.


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