What to Do When You Can’t Deliver: 3 Ways Brands Kept My Loyalty

Were you one of those hundreds of people that stood in line to buy a Nintendo Wii, Tickle Me Elmo, or Furby only to be met with disappointment? Did you wait breathlessly for an eReader and then curse as shipments were delayed? I know we’ve all been the kid just behind the one who gets the last pudding cup.

So what happens when there’s a demand and vendors can’t provide for it? If you’re a big name company like Nintendo or Disney, you can shrug and move on with your next market-crushing product. But if you’re a smaller brand, you can’t afford to lose any customers or loyalty.

In one weekend, I had this happen to me three times. However, all three of the brands associated with my problems went out of their way to rectify the problem.

Low on stock?

Make up for inconveniences by offering something extra to customers.

1. Top Cow Productions

Problem: During the first day of Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, I stumbled upon Top Cow Productions’ booth. However, compared to the other publishing companies present at the convention, their product selection was fairly lacking: they only displayed a handful of titles.

I expressed my concern to the man running the booth, and he apologized, and then explained that their product was running late. To compensate for the inconvenience, he explained that he was offering a deal of “Buy two, get two free.”

Solution: If you’re low on product, first apologize for the inconvenience. Then offer a discount for what product you do have.

Sea of t-shirts

A little discount goes a long way!

2. Stylin Online

Problem: Later that weekend, I went into one of Stylin Online’s massive shirt forts on a mission to find an Avengers t-shirt. Not only did I find a cool graphic tee, but it was sparkly. A sparkly Avengers shirt? It must be mine now.

I asked one of the employees to help me locate said shirt in my size, but sadly, the mission was unsuccessful. They couldn’t locate the t-shirt at all, let alone in the right size. But before I could even pout, the employee handed me a card for their online store with a promo code.

Solution: If you’re completely out of stock, offer your clients a discount or coupon for a future purchase. They’re more likely to buy that item when it’s back in stock and maybe even add a couple extra products to their shopping cart.

The Aesthetic

Giveaways extend goodwill to customers.

3. The Aesthetic

Problem: In my single non-geeky jaunt during the weekend, I attended a concert at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. One of the openers, The Aesthetic, slated the show as their CD release show. However, due to some sort of production problem, there were no CDs to release.

At the beginning of their set they explained the situation and promised that everyone who bought a ticket would receive a CD. I didn’t even go to see that band and I’m already a fan of the goodwill they extended.

Solution: If your out-of-stock product doesn’t cost much to produce, but has the potential to create long-lasting fans, consider giving it away for free. People enjoy receiving items for free, especially if they didn’t expect it.

Ever have an experience where you couldn’t get the product you wanted when you wanted them? Did the brand offer anything in return? If not, did it stop you from purchasing anything else from them?

Image credit to C1ssou.

Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. amy

    Great solutions to these problems Mandy! Fortunately whenever the product I wanted wasn’t available there was always a store that had it. Some places offer free shipping to the store if the item is only available on-line or free shipping to my home address too. Love these places and I always make it a point to do any return shopping with them first.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Agreed! I want to say that Best Buy does that. I was browsing in a store with – no joke – only about 4 rows of DVDs/Blurays, but they had a sign about free shipping to your house from their website. As much as I would prefer a larger selection, the option was nice.

  2. JPorretto

    These are great tips Mandy! If you ever watched Mike Holmes on HGTV his motto is, “Make it Right.” That’s really all I’m looking for as a consumer. If you wrong me, just make up for it. That doesn’t seem like much to ask, but sometimes can be so hard to find.

    For example, I wanted to buy a phone at Best Buy. I waited in line, the ONLY one in line, for over a half an hour. No one even said hello to me. I found a manager to talk to and he offered me 15% off their overpriced phone cases… that of which they had none for the phone model I was trying to purchase. Adios!!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Geez! Best Buy really didn’t want your business, did they? That’s so crazy! It’s so unfortunate when brands doing the “wronging” don’t own up to their actions.

  3. Jill Tooley

    Goodwill goes a long way in my book, too. I recently read an article about the millennial generation and their opinions regarding brands and corporations, and one of the main points was that millennials simply wish to be acknowledged in some capacity. It’s the interaction itself that truly matters, whether that acknowledgement is a simple coupon, a free product, or a meaningful apology. When the people in your examples made an effort to right the situation, they were doing exactly that! They could have taken the easy and proud way out by shrugging and waving you away, but they didn’t. That extra effort made all the difference in these 3 situations!

    Kudos to these companies or individuals for getting it right, and kudos to you for summing up your experiences.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      That’s really interesting – and so true! I always appreciate when I get an actual apology and not a canned message. It makes me feel so much better about a poor customer service experience and continues my brand loyalty.

      I think I mentioned in a blog comment a few weeks ago about my terrible experience with EA (over my beloved Sims). I was super frustrated and about to throw all of my Sims games out the window, but all was resolved! I got a genuine apology and a free neighborhood. Thanks, EA!

  4. Bret Bonnet

    Mandy, great post.

    It still amazes me the lack of concessions and understanding retailers show when an out of stock situation arises. Don’t they realize that’s a lost sale?

    I think I’m going to get:
    “The kid just behind the one who got the last pudding cup.”

    Tattooed on my forehead as that’s been the story of my life!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Bret!

      It amazes me, too. Sometimes retailers try and offer similar products at a discounted rate, but those situations seem to be few and far between.

    • JPorretto

      I think it’s best that you skip the pudding cup anyway 😉

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    Strangely enough, it’s been a long time since I’ve personally endured a situation where the product I wanted was out-of-stock. Of course, now that I’ve said that, EVERYTHING I want to purchase for the next several months will probably be out-of-stock. Maybe I should just backspace past the last sentence or two before I jinx myself.

    Nah, too late.

    Anyway, awesome post here, Mandy! 🙂 I like your solution for Stylin Online’s problem. So true — customers will be much more likely to “add a few extra products to the shopping cart” if they’re already getting a discount on their first item. I know I would! In fact, I’ve burned a LOT of extra money that way in the past. More than I’d care to admit. 🙁

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m right there with you, Joe. For some reason, to me, “Save 40%” turns into “And then buy 40% more stuff.” People should give me coupons all the time, because I would buy more than I could ever want/use/need. I definitely bought more than I needed from Stylin Online…

      Let’s hope that you haven’t jinxed yourself. Or if you want to save money, I hope you do. 🙂

    • Amanda

      Same with me Joe…Hopefully we don’t become jinxed.

      Great post Mandy! These places did a great job at fixing the problems presented. =)

  6. Rachel

    Great examples, Mandy! At a different Comic Con t-shirt vendor that weekend, I too could not get a shirt in the size I wanted because it was out of stock, though they did not offer me any discount to buy it online. I did get a little scrap of paper with the web address printed on it, but I couldn’t even find the particular shirt on their website when I checked the following week. It was kind of a bummer, but I guess it helped me save money! 😉 Anyway, obviously I was not impressed by how they handled the situation. As others have mentioned, how a company responds when a customer can’t get what he/she wants can make a world of difference. Glad to see that you had good experiences. 🙂

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      They didn’t have that shirt online? 🙁 I’m sad for you. That was a cool shirt. It’s the vendor’s loss. That’s one less sale (and I imagine they probably lost out on a few sales) that they didn’t make.

  7. Jana Quinn

    Awesome post, Mandy. There are absolutely zero perfect companies out there. Astoundingly few have protocols in place when they make mistakes or even if they don’t *technically* make a mistake but fail to prepare in order to satisfy customers.

    Customers have even stronger loyalties to businesses who respond well to screw-ups than those that always deliver. Why? Customers, too, know that every business has flaws, and every human makes mistakes. When their “worst case scenario” has a cushion to the blow, there’s always a better sense of security in working with that company.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      You’re absolutely right, Jana. Companies that are willing to admit they did something wrong/something just isn’t right really gain points with consumers. Being infallible isn’t natural – and perfection is untrustworthy.

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