retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe & this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

First, let me warn you. This is a rant.

Here's the thing. My 19-year-old daughter loves meatballs. Always has. And over the years, we've found that it makes sense to keep a supply of meatballs in the freezer, just in case she's in need of some comfort food. The brand she loves is Rosina's, which makes Italian-style meatballs that just require warming up in a little vodka sauce. Give her some Rosina's Italian meatballs and some vodka sauce at pretty much any time of the day, and she's a happy person.

The problem is that Stew Leonard's, the store where we've always bought the Rosina's meatballs, has stopped carrying them during the summer, I'm guessing because most normal people don't buy them when the weather is hot. But we're not normal people. I realized the other day that our supply in the freezer was running a bit thin, and since I'm going to be gone for the month of July, I figured I'd try to lay in a supply to get my daughter through the summer.

I figured there were two ways to go about this. So simultaneously, I reached out to Stew Leonard's and to Rosina's.

At Stew Leonard's, I told them that I'd be willing to order a case or two, and they said they'd be happy to accommodate me.

At Rosina's, it was not so simple.

First of all, the website is a disaster. In order to ask them anything, you have to fill out this long form with SKU numbers and the like. I just wanted to buy frozen meatballs, so that seemed silly. And, there was no ability for online ordering.

So I called the customer service number, got a recording, gave them my name and phone number, explained the situation and that we were enthusiastic consumers of their Italian meatballs, and asked where else I might be able to buy them in either Fairfield or Westchester counties.

I didn't get a call back, but a few days later I did get an actual letter in the mail ... which was interesting to me since I never gave them my home address. They had to look me up.

Now, maybe one could argue that this meant they were trying to provide some old-fashioned service by sending an actual letter ... but that would be a crock. Because the letter was a form letter. It took four paragraphs for them to tell me all about the wonderful products they make, and one short paragraph to tell me that they were including a coupon. Which was not, by the way, in the envelope.

And then, at the bottom, there is a short handwritten note: "You can find our Rosina Italian style meatballs at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk." And it was signed with a smiley face.

Really? First of all, I hate smiley faces. (I know I sound like Lewis Black here.) But if they'd listened to the damned voice mail message, they'd know that I already knew that Stew Leonard's sold them. I was wondering about the other options. And they blew it.

By being completely oblivious to what I was asking, Rosina risked turning a happy, longtime customer who was willing to drive a considerable distance for their damned meatballs into a customer who is totally ticked off.

This stuff isn't hard. But it does require actually paying attention to what is going on around you. It is hard to be a smart marketer when you are purposefully deaf, blind and dumb.

Now, we're still going to buy Rosina's meatballs, because the retailer, Stew Leonard's, saved the day. But let this be a cautionary tale for any marketer.

Because here's the thing. These days, when you tick off one customer, that shopper is likely to share that negative experience with dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of people.

Like I just did.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: