The Caring Company, and Other Myths

So long, Tooth Fairy.

My oldest daughter just experienced one of those universal moments of childhood disillusionment, thanks to a killjoy friend who couldn’t wait to pull the plug on Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

I don’t think it came as a total shock to her. We had been dancing uneasily in that gray area of “I won’t tell if you don’t ask” for some time, most recently after a hilariously bungled tooth-for-toy exchange. But she wanted to believe, and was intent on believing until someone forced the issue.


*Photo credit

I can relate. I had a similar epiphany, not two weeks later, concerning chairs. A pair of weathered, splintered, broken Adirondack chairs, to be specific.

I bought them from an established web retailer, not some fly-by-night company out of someone’s garage. I’d shopped there before, uneventfully. And if I’d had any concerns, their Satisfaction Guarantee would have allayed my worries: “If we are fortunate to earn your business, we promise to make sure this is one of your best online retail experiences.”

Their product description for the chairs was equally compelling, with talk of “superior craftsmanship” and “weather resistance” and the clincher: “Asian fir construction ensures that it will last season after season with a consistent level of premium comfort.”

So last spring, I took the plunge and bought two chairs and a table. Twenty months later, both chairs have had at least one slat break and the armrests are cracked and splintering as well. The chairs are good for DIY acupuncture and emergency kindling, but nothing else.

We all get lemons, though, right? That kind of stuff happens. So I contacted the retailer to see what they could do for me. The answer? Nothing… because the chairs were out of warranty. They were polite but firm: I was out of luck.

And then, not 30 seconds after my final email exchange with their customer service department, this completely unrelated tweet popped up in my stream to rub salt in the wound:


*Tweet from @IAmLucid

In other words: so long, Tooth Fairy.

I’m no idiot. Deep down I knew @iamlucid was right. But just like my daughter, I really wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that they cared about me, that they cared about my experience with them, that they would truly go above and beyond to ensure my satisfaction.

That, in a nutshell, is what good marketing will do. It will make your customers want to believe. It will create a sense of trust, of caring, of relationship. Good companies build on that foundation by following through with excellent products and great customer service.

But there’s a flip side. Good marketing builds expectations, and the greater the buildup, the greater the potential for disappointment. The greater the disappointment, the greater the backlash.

It’s one thing to sell me two junky chairs on sale. I can shrug that off, figure I got what I paid for, and tell myself to be more careful next time. That’s a failed transaction.

But if you sell me “the absolute best online shopping experience” (as their Satisfaction Guarantee also promises) and then fail to deliver, I’ll never spend another penny with you. That’s not a failed transaction, that’s a failed brand promise.

The lesson: be careful how you follow through on your promises. Your customers want to believe in you… but no kids go back to believing in the Tooth Fairy once they find out she’s not real.




  1. Eli Rose Social Media | Tooth Fairy and the Caring Company | The Common Uncommonly - [...] I’m over at Eli Rose Social Media today.  What does the Tooth Fairy have to do with brand promises? …

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