I love August. Summer is in full swing, and the family and I have sufficiently adjusted to not having a school schedule. But more than anything, August holds a special place in my heart because it is the month I was born. Yes, August means my birthday is right around the corner, and you know what that means? …presents for me! [Yes, sad to say, it is still one of my “love languages” (Chapman).]

While I have to wait until the end of August for gifts from friends and family, my retail “friends” start showering me with gifts beginning August 1. They come by mail and email, but they all come wishing me a “Happy Birthday” and wanting me to “celebrate” at their establishment anytime August 1-31. In our family, we tease that we celebrate our birthday week. Well, my retail friends allow me to have a whole birthday month!

Now I have to say, not all retailers celebrate in the same way. My friends at Ann Taylor sent me a “$15 off” postcard, no strings attached, no minimum purchases to meet. Thank you, Ms. Taylor, this is a true gift and I will stop in sometime during the month to “celebrate” with you. My friends at Kohl’s also understand the true meaning of a gift as they sent me a $10 card, no strings attached, no minimum purchases to meet. Thank you, my good retail friends!

Anthropologie, one of my favorite stores, remembers my special day with a card for 15 percent off. Hmmm, I wonder if they realize that studies have shown that promotion thresholds for purchase intentions for this type of retailer would be estimated at 20-30 percent (Gupta and Cooper). And they are offering me only 15 percent? A minimum of 20 percent off is more effective to produce a purchase incentive for this customer. I’ll throw the card in my purse and if I happen upon an Anthropologie in my travels this month, I’ll stop by and check them out. But with gas prices as they are, I am not making a special trip over the hill in my Suburban to “receive” my 15 percent off…the gift isn’t worth it.

Webster’s Dictionary defines the term gift as “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” (bold emphasis added is mine). This is why gifts are so much fun. A true gift requires nothing from the receiver.

Sadly, I have to say that I am disappointed with Macy’s. What kind of friend sends you a gift, but in order to enjoy the gift requires you to spend $30? Really? And to make matters worse, it is the same card they send to customers with a Macy’s charge card once every six to eight weeks! The only difference in my birthday gift is that it includes a picture of a birthday cake and candles. So, not only is it NOT special, it is simply another version of their current promotional program that goes out to all cardholders.

My favorite bad example of a retailer birthday gift this year goes to OfficeMax. “Oh goody! Another birthday gift!” I blindly thought when I saw the subject line in the email. My elation at the thought of another gift (hey, a gift is a gift, whether it be office supplies or stylish fashion) was soon vanquished when I read their birthday wish to me. OfficeMax was giving me a $10 coupon and all I had to do was spend $50. Wait a minute, you mean for my birthday you want me to spend $50 on office supplies and you will give me $10 off? I hate to break it to you Mr. Max (or is it Ms. Max?), but that is NOT a birthday gift, nor is it how I like to celebrate. It seems more like a gift for you than for me. Yes, you hit the 20 percent off mark to grab my attention. But really? I think this one is going to backfire on you. What kind of friend would give you a gift worth $50 and then ask for $40 back in order for you to “qualify” for said gift? No friend of mine, I’ll tell you!

Now granted, I’ve also been taught that it’s the thought that counts. But frankly, I’m not sure much thought was spent on the Macy’s and OfficeMax “exclusive” gifts sent my way. Actually, by definition they don’t even qualify as gifts, just another ordinary everyday promotion. If they were looking to use this special time in my year to create warm fuzzy feelings and build loyalty, they failed miserably.

Yes, I love August, but it is increasingly clear that not all retailers love me in the same way. A gift should have no strings attached, or so I’ve been taught. Otherwise, isn’t it just simply a promotional ploy? But I suppose the words “promotional ploy” don’t seem quite as enticing on a postcard as a birthday cake.

Works Cited

Chapman, James D. The 5 Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1992. Print.

Gupta, Sunil and Lee G. Cooper. “The Discounting of Discounts and Promotion Thresholds.” Journal of Consumer Research 19.3 (1992): 401-411. Print.