Recently, on the same day, two envelopes from David Jones arrived in our letterbox at home.
One was addressed to my wife, who has had a David Jones store account since before I met her 20 years ago. It contained a letter, addressed to her by name, and carrying a bold red headline that said "AN EXCLUSIVE INVITATION FOR DAVID JONES CARDMEMBERS TO OUR PRE-CLEARANCE SHOPPING NIGHT". The body of the letter read:
As a valued David Jones Cardmember, you and your family are invited to the David Jones Pre-Clearance Shopping Night on Tuesday 2nd June 2009 from 5pm to 10pm at all stores... This is an exclusive invitation for our David Jones American Express Cardmembers and David Jones Storecard holders...
The second envelope, which looked almost identical, was addressed simply to "the Householder". It contained a letter with a similar bold red headline, and read:
Dear Householder... You and your family are invited to the David Jones Pre-Clearance Shopping Night on Tuesday 2nd June 2009 from 5pm to 10pm at David Jones Doncaster store... Whilst usually reserved for David Jones Cardmembers... we are giving you the opportunity to enjoy great offers...
Over the years, my wife has sometimes attended "exclusive" shopping nights for David Jones Cardmembers. But our assumption has always been that an "exclusive invitation for cardmembers" means only cardmembers are invited.
Yet on this occasion, DJs clearly also letterbox dropped thousands of households in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne.
On the night, there was nothing "exclusive" about entry to David Jones' Doncaster store. If you showed an invitation - any invitation - you got in. And no roped-off VIP area for cardmembers.
So how was my wife's personalised invitation in any sense "exclusive"?
This isn't about whether cardmembers are forced to mingle with the riff-raff on a promotional shopping night. It's about stupid and disingenuous - and possibly misleading and deceptive - promotion on the part of David Jones.
Discovering that a trusted brand has engaged in such behaviour can be a powerful influence in undermining customer loyalty. And isn't brand loyalty the reason why stores like DJs have store credit and cardmember programs in the first place?