Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Godiva Chocolates for (Almost) Everybody!

...On the lighter side, I was encouraged to add this humorous letter that I sent to Godiva Chocolates to the blog...This answers the question, "How do I get $200 worth of Godiva Chocolates for free?"

Richard C. Starkey
5269 Roland Drive
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

February 23, 2009

Ms. Jenny L. Bultman
Store Manager
Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.
Circle Centre Mall
49 W. Maryland Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Re: Truffles Purchase on February 14, 2009

Dear Ms. Bultman:

I am writing to you to convey my disappointment over what turned out to be an unpleasant and rather bizarre experience I recently had at your Circle Centre store. I have frequented your store over the many years it has been open in Circle Centre, often collecting treats for my children and wife as “unexpected” gifts throughout the year. They are always a big hit, as your packaging and quality puts you above the rest. Further, I always purchase truffles for my wife, children and niece for Valentine’s Day, and it has become the standard treat to which everyone in my family awaits…it’s “Godiva” truffles for Valentine’s Day!

Not anymore.

On this year’s Valentine’s Day, as I have in the past, I purchased five boxes of four hand-picked truffles (in each box). As I was leaving the store, I realized that the boxes had not been wrapped with the usual red ribbon. Thinking it was an oversight, I asked the gentlemen behind the counter if I could get five red bows on the boxes. I later found out his name was Kyle, and that he was the Associate Manager. Our conversation went, literally, like this:

“Oh…I just realized that the boxes don’t have your usual red bows. Can I get bows put on the boxes?”

“No, not today,” he replied.

“Not today?” I responded, thinking he was joking (this is Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking…of course of all days of the year you would want a red bow is Valentine’s Day!)

“No, not today” (no explanation).

“You mean just today? Or you don’t put bows on boxes at any time?”

“No, we’re just not putting on bows today” (still no explanation as to why this might be)

“You mean if I come back tomorrow, and buy five boxes of truffles, you will put bows on them?”

“Yes.” (still no explanation)

“Okay” (now I’m getting frustrated and wondering if I’m on Candid Camera. I theorize in my mind that this “no bow today” policy is because they had a team meeting and decided that they would be slammed on Valentine’s Day and wouldn’t have time to put on bows…but there’s only one other person in the store, and he came in after all of this conversation started!).

“I’ve bought boxes of chocolates here for years and they’ve always put on bows on the boxes.”

“I understand,” Kyle says. “But we’re not putting on bows today.”

Kyle walks over to the wall where boxes of chocolate are stacked and points to one of the four piece boxes with a red bow. “If you buy these, you can have a red bow.”

“But I don’t want those…I’ve already bought these and picked out which truffles I wanted.”

By now, I was clearly agitated and realized that I had entered into some sort of twilight zone. I was half expecting Rod Serling to be standing in the corner saying in his melodramatic tone, “He thought he was just buying chocolates for his family…but he had entered a different dimension, one in which nothing is as it seems…one in which reality can only be found by searching for that which is not there…he had entered the twilight zone…”

“Okay,” I finally said. “Could you please give me five bows and I’ll put them on myself,” thinking that surely would end this ridiculous conversation.

“Yes, I can do that. But you have to buy the bows.”

“What??????” I exclaimed! Now this really was too much. “You’re kidding, right? Nobody has ever charged me before for the red bows. I get these boxes all of the time!”

“The bows are fifty cents a piece.”

“Oh, come on. You can’t be serious.”

He was. He was serious with a smile. “If people in the past sold you boxes with bows and didn’t charge you, they would have been cheating the Company.”

I stormed out of the store, walked three stores down, and thought, “Did this just happen? In this economy where people are probably not going to continue to pay $47.50 for twenty chocolates anyway? Where you think retailers would be bending over backwards to accommodate the dwindling number of customers that they have?”

So I turned around, and went back to ask for your name so that I could relay to you what had happened. As I walked back in, I couldn’t help noticing Kyle quietly snickering with a fellow employee, and couldn’t help but thinking that he was snickering at me.

Fast forward five days, where I have a meeting with a non-profit board of which I am a member. The director suggests that we have it at the South Bend Chocolate Factory on the Circle. “Okay, I thought. I don’t go there often, but it’ll be worth checking out.” As I walk up to the store, there is a middle aged gentlemen in a suit sweeping the salt (from the previous night’s ice) out from the front sidewalk of the store. When he sees me approach the store, he quickly puts down the broom, and rushes to open the door for me. “Welcome to my store, and thank you so much for choosing us for your business.” I thought that was nice, but didn’t give it too much further consideration.

Near the end of our meeting, I order small hot chocolates for everyone. Once delivered, I see that they are medium hot chocolates, and when I ask about this, they tell me the owner upgraded us to mediums. The gentlemen who opened the door for me comes into our room (which is in the store) and introduces himself as the owner from South Bend and again tells us how much he appreciates our patronage. When I thank him for his upgrade, he says, “In these times, everyone needs a little extra, and we need to show how much we appreciate our customers.”

Wow. He’s made a customer for life.

And Godiva has lost one for life.

However, I would be curious as to what Godiva management is thinking in deciding not to accommodate requests of customers…especially on a special holiday like Valentine’s Day. Was I correct that you thought you would be slammed on that day so there could be no consideration of any kind of accommodation? Have you removed the frontal lobe of Associate Managers like Kyle so that they have no leeway in making decisions? There were so many opportunities for Kyle to make the correct judgment and say, “Look, we’re not supposed to put on bows today…but I clearly see that this is important to you…so I’ll make an accommodation.” That clearly was not an option for Kyle. To his credit, he kept smiling when we were in this argument, but I wasn’t sure how to take this either. It was like his training to be pleasant to the customer had overridden all sense of his reality. He was the twilight zone zombie reciting the rules of the store…with a smile.

The good news in all of this is that I have a great story for all of my friends. At first, I was reluctant to share it, thinking that perhaps I was foolish in making such a big deal about five red bows. But once I told it to my initial group of five friends, and seeing their mouths drop open as I shared the conversation, I realized that they too were outraged. This has continued with the forty or fifty other people I have shared the story with, and we have all had a good laugh. With each group, the universal question that is asked after I have finished is, “What is a luxury retailer like Godiva thinking when they intentionally turn away customers in an economy like this?”

Perhaps you can tell us.

Very truly yours,

Richard C. Starkey


  1. Brilliant! I've heard the story three, well, four times now and it never gets old. The South Bend bit was a stroke of genius.

  2. hilarious Rich- now I understand the copious amounts of free chocolate you were talking about on Sunday- the same chocolate that you neglected to bring to our Open Hand meeting- I too love chocolate!!

  3. Shitz Rich......what were you thinking - spending that kind of money on Chocolate!!!!! That money could have bought two bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey....shame