Canadian Tire promo turns out to be a bust for consumer

TORONTO — It looked like a spectacular retail deal when it arrived in Ann Siebner’s email inbox last month.

“I thought, wow–that’s a great, great offer. You never get points when you redeem,” said Siebner from her home in Keswick, Ont.

The Canadian Tire customer is a member of the retailer’s loyalty program, which offers Canadian Tire “money” to those who shop at the retailer. The money is offered in cash form or electronically to customers who are registered.

Last month, Siebner and other customers received the offer that read:

“On October 3rd, redeem e-CT ‘Money’ right at checkout and collect 50X on the amount you redeem.”

Siebner says she interpreted the offer to mean she’d receive a big payout. So she went shopping and bought two items totalling $34.20, and spent $25 from her Canadian Tire CT-Money account.

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“I redeemed $25 — I was supposed to get 50 times that amount. To me, that was $1,250,” Siebner said.

One of Canada’s most prominent marketing experts looked at the advertisement and agreed.

“It doesn’t make sense, it’s not reasonable to assume you’d get $1250, but that’s what it seemed she’d be getting,” said June Cotte, associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ontario.

Canadian Tire did not explain the meaning of the offer to Global News when asked. But in a statement, a spokesperson said: “We regret the confusion this caused and we will reach out to the customer to make sure she remains a customer for life.” Siebner says from her perspective there was no confusion.

She says Canadian Tire initially offered no additional points or dollar; later, when she called to complain and the company opened a file, they made an adjustment.

“They ended up depositing $6.56 in my account,” she said, adding the company offered no explanation.

Cotte says misleading advertising offers can damage a company’s brand because consumers may not trust the retailer in future offers. Clarity is important in advertising copy, she said.

“Especially if you highlight the number — 50 times is the main part of that ad so it should be clear,” she said. ‘Fifty times is the main part of that ad and it’s not clear there.”