Haagen-Dazs Wants Your Business. But Not You.

Published August 06, 2010   permalink

Visiting Charleston, SC with friends and family, we were walking around downtown when we saw the familiar Haagen-Dazs logo. We headed toward the store. The first indication that this experience might not be all we hoped for came quickly: Walking up to the door, one of the kids in group pressed what appeared to him to be a door buzzer. (It was, for special needs assistance.) Just as we were about to walk in, one of the Haagen-Dazs associates stuck his out the door and barked "Who pushed that? It's REALLY annoying!"

We apologized, and walked in. As I looked around, I noticed the following:
1) Water fountain was taped over with plastic, and marked "Out of Order. Not a Trash Can."
2) On the wall was a hand-lettered sign "No Public Restrooms."
3) Near the entrance, above the sit-down benches, was one of those Dymo-strip lettered labels saying "Benches are for Haagen-Dazs Customers Only."

Just to be clear, we didn't ask for water, didn't need a restroom (we had just come from lunch) and didn't sit down. Instead, we all ordered ice cream, and not just the little cups either. We were good customers, and tipped the waitperson in appreciation.

To be equally clear, it was obvious that Haagen-Dazs wanted our money more than it wanted us.

On the one hand, I'm sure that a lot of tourists walk in, needing a restroom and a drink of water: Charleston is hot, and both are in short supply. On the other hand, Haagen-Dazs specifically and knowingly set up shop directly in the middle of one of the busiest tourist areas of old downtown. Having done so, in exchange for the premium location and the traffic it produces, a sort of quid pro quo is established: "As a merchant, we'll be part of your community in exchange for your support of our business."

But the opposite was what we experienced. "Go away. Don't expect relief here. No free stuff (like water) either. Just order, pay and leave."

The lesson here? When creating customer experiences, think through all of the touchpoints, and all of the messages you may be inadvertently be sending. Haagen-Dasz franchisees have the right to run their stores as they deem appropriate. Likewise, customers have the ability to recount these experiences in forums like this one, and to choose whether (or not) to return. On the day we visited, It was in the high nineties and we were the only people in the store. I'm guessing that was a sign, too.

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