Should customers pay for Kmart’s mistake?

Kmart recently published an online coupon ($10 off a $20 purchase) intended for three specific markets but worded to appear valid nationwide. There was apparently a lot of friction in stores where management refused to honor the coupon. Retail Wire panelists were invited for their point of view on how to deal with the issue, and here’s my opinion:

A simple (although not cheap) solution to this problem: Honor the coupon. This was Kmart’s mistake, not the consumer’s, and it’s disingenuous at best to try explaining to a customer in (say) Dallas that the coupon was intended for people who live in Chicago. The costs of bad publicity and ill will are potentially much higher than the extra markdowns driven by the online offer. I hope most retailers have the sense to own up to their own proofreading errors (and correct them quickly), instead of suggesting that the customer is doing something wrong by walking in the store.

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