Start Up Blog

Nice idea, but what’s in it for us?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 28, 2010

I took this photo while shopping at Australian supermarket giant Coles yesterday.

I’ll start by saying not returning supermarket trolleys, or worse stealing them is not cool. It probably adds some cost to our grocery bills, albeit small.

But when I saw this poster up in my local Coles, I tweeted it and made the comment that it was reasonably amusing. Then Cameron Reilly, made what I thought was an insightful comment from a marketing perspective:

then I responded with this….

and Cameron finished it off with this 140 characters…

Which to be honest is probably the sentiments of most of Coles’ customers.

I’ll say it again – ‘Incentives shape behaviour’ – on this occasion there is no incentive for customers to care. How hard would it be for Coles to offer a shopping voucher for lost trolley returns? Or some other small incentive? In fact, it’s an insult to their customers to ask for help in a such a one sided manner. It’s very 1970’s marketing.

Startup blog says: respect your customers and reward the right behaviour.

9 Responses

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  1. Raph said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Even Safeway offers some incentive, from memory I believe you go into the draw to win a $1000. No idea how often its drawn, but as you say in your post at least offering an incentive as oppose to being one sided is the way to go.

    While this is big business doing this, how would you respond if it was the small corner store or a start-up asking a similar thing? And have you got some good start-up incentive style things as examples or maybe some suggestions on what a start-up could do?

    • Steve Sammartino said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm

      I’d definitely respond differently to help a small business or startup to a large corporate. In Australia and most companies it’s hard t feel sorry for multi billion dollar enterprises. it’s human nature.

      As far as startups go – most people like to support an underdog. And often social or recognition incentives are enough to get some help. Maybe providing customers with some kind of bonus which doesn’t cost alot…

      – Free delivery?
      – Small discount?
      – Promote their business?

      It would depend on the type of business, but no doubt the incentive wouldn’t need to be as big.
      Steve.

  2. Christopher said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    In keeping with the tongue in cheek tone of this article, I had a thought. Absolutely “Incentives shape behaviors” and also, in all case “Incentives incite fraud”. If Coles was to give an incentive for reporting lost trolleys, I could arrange to have 100 trolleys reported lost by 6am tomorrow morning. All behavior change needs a balance of (no I won’t say carrot and stick) reward and value. Yes a user needs an incentive to act, but repeat behavior needs an incentive-free value proposition. Otherwise two things will happen; some people will defraud the system, and others are going to demand greater incentives.

    What if, there is a reward, but not advertised for obvious reasons. Will someone call to find out?

    • Steve Sammartino said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      Yep, nice points – incentive needs to be there…. but tempered with a balance which doesn’t encourage the wrong behaviour.
      Steve.

  3. dekrazee1 said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Woolies had a $1000 reward option, chosen out of a draw. I once took the number down, but never made the call.

    If they gave $10 for each successful trolley received, I might have.

    Then again, that might’ve spurred the more entrepreneurial types to run away with trolleys and call in the tips…. damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess.

    In Singapore, they make you put a dollar coin in to unlock the trolley, and then you get it back when you return it. There’s an option for Coles.

  4. Tom Howard said, on January 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Remember that “incentive” doesn’t have to be tangible. For many people, the feeling of having done the right thing is incentive enough. This campaign seems to be appealing to people who already want to do the right thing, and just need a phone number to make it easy for them.

    To offer financial or other tangible consideration would not only encourage false ‘finds’, but debase the concept of just doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, which many people still subscribe to – indeed ideally more people subscribe to in this age of openness and transparency.

    Not everyone takes the Cam Reilly view that any corporation that makes profits for its (mostly mum & dad) shareholders is evil and unworthy of even so much as a quick phonecall to report its missing property without the offer of compensation.

    • Brett Connell said, on January 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm

      I agree with T.H. Doing the right thing, is incentive enough, and when people do the right thing, they feel good.

      No one wants to see a shopping trolley in the lake where they walk the kids.

      The free phone number (even from mobiles) is a ripper, in fact I would say it is the main reason for me to call. As if I am going to go home, look up the number, remember the address and then call. Ring now, from my mobile, no cost to me, Coles happy, I’m happy.

      Maybe my grocery price might drop a few cents….

      But I doubt it – I shop at Woolies!!

  5. Andre Sammartino said, on February 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    They are still doing a better job re: trolleys than our local Safeway/Woolworths which only provides trolleys with those stupid wheels that lock up once you cross their predetermined boundary. Alas the range for said trolley doesn’t actually extend to the surrounding on-street parking. If you don’t wanna park in their rooftop carpack than look forward to carrying your bags to the car…

    Now that’s bad customer service. If Coles were willing to build anything bigger than a defacto Express in the enighbourhood I’d be switching… or, (if only), Aldi were to open…

  6. leon said, on February 5, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Completely agree with you (for once), they haven’t explained the benefit to me, or for that matter the problem. Quite frankly I couldn’t give a toss if Coles has lost their trolley. The problem for the consumer/society is not that Coles doesn’t have their trolley (assuming the supermarket doesn’t lose all their trolleys) it’s that when the smack head who stole it leaves it on the street they ruin the street appeal of my suburb.

    This poster would work better if it said ‘Sick of your suburb looking like Shit? So are we, which is why we will come pick up any trolley you report on the street within 2 hours.’

    Sometimes the incentive is not money, sometimes it is pride. (and real estate values, nothing cheapens a suburb like shopping trolleys everywhere).


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