RIP Joann’s Fabrics

As some of you may have already noticed from my post on Facebook, I had a very disappointing experience at Joann’s Fabrics today.

Most of the time, I let this stuff customer service stuff roll off my back. I might grumble for a minute or two, but then I remember that we all have bad days. And so I really try hard to not take it personally when a cashier is a bit less than friendly – or even downright snippy.

But completely and TOTALLY unwilling to help? Like to the point of recalcitrance? I can get that for free. At home. From my eight year old. But in stores, from employees? That’s where I drew the line.

So, here’s my story.

This took place at about four o’clock, after school pick-up – so it was me and three less-than-thrilled-to-be-doing errands kids.

I was buying some fabric markers – three packages of one kind and one of a fourth. Joann’s now has e-coupons that you can save to an app on your phone. I actually debated printing them instead, but decided no – it says right there that you can save them to your phone and show them at checkout.

So, that’s what I did. I had one coupon “saved” to my account for 40% off any single item, plus another for 20% off your total order. I have always been able to stack these, but I figured if that proved to be an issue, I’d just pull out the most expensive item and run two transactions.

Well, stacking wasn’t the issue. The app was the issue.

When I went to show the coupon to the cashier, it kept giving me a server error with a bunch of gobbleygook code.

I showed her that the coupon was in my account, but that when I clicked on it, it wasn’t opening. Here’s what followed:

Me: “Um, what should I do? Your app program doesn’t seem to be working. The coupon is there, but clicking on it or any of the other saved coupons keeps giving this error message. See?”

Her, barely even glancing at the phone: “Well, I don’t know, but I can’t give you the discount without the numbers on that coupon.”

Me: “Yeah, I get that, but I can’t get the coupon to open. Maybe you have a paper coupon that you can key in instead?” (Knowing full well that she did.)

Her: “Nope. I am not allowed to do that. I have to have the coupon code from your phone.”

Me: “Yes, I hear that, but I can’t get your app to work. So, how am I supposed to get that for you?”

Her: “Maybe try going to the website again. There should be another coupon link there.”

So I surfed to the Joann’s website, as my three kids clearly began to lose their tenuous grip on store decorum (okay, fine, they had lost it 2 minutes earlier).

Me: “I am looking at the homepage now and there is nothing on here with a link to a coupon” (and y’all know I’m pretty good at spotting a link to a coupon!).

Her: “Well, I don’t know, but there should be a link somewhere. That’s what my manager told me.”

Me: “Any clue where?”

Her, dispassionately, as she checked out her finger nail polish, “No.”

Me: “Okay, well, I’d really like to resolve this and pay, but I’m gonna need you to call your manager because I need that 40% off coupon code to get worked out.”

The cashier begrudgingly called her manager, as the line grew longer, my kids grew wilder, and my red-faced humiliation mixed with steely dig-my-heels-in-the-sand determination. (Have I ever mentioned my stubborn streak?)

The manager showed up after three minutes, during which the cashier had avoided eye contact with me at all costs.

Manager: “What’s the issue?”

Me: “Well, you guys have this app and it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Manager: “I don’t even have a smartphone so I have no idea how that thing is supposed to work.”

(For real, she’s going with the I’m not responsible because I don’t have a smartphone defense?)

Me: “I see. Well, you are supposed to save the coupons to the app and then click on them at checkout. Only when I click on them, there is a server error – see? – which means that there is a technical issue on your end.”

Manager: “Well, I don’t know what to tell you, but we can’t give you the discount without the numbers on that coupon.”

Seriously, what is this? Groundhog Day?

Me: “Yes, I know. That’s why I am asking you to key in your own code since I clearly made a good faith effort here with the coupon and it’s a technical glitch on your part, not mine.”

Manager: “I can’t do that. I don’t even have another code. I mean, they are really cracking down on us. We can’t just be giving out coupons to every customer that comes in.”

Me: “I am not asking for you to give out coupons to every customer that comes in. I’m asking you to problem solve a TECHNICAL GLITCH ON YOUR END with one customer – Me!” (At this point, my two year old was repeatedly trying to strip off her jumper, as my six year old was ramming the cart into my eight year old, who is growling about how hard it is to be the oldest brother.)

Manager: Mumbling to herself for a good 30 seconds, inaudibly. “Okay, fine. I guess if my cashier wants to do you a favor, she can key in her coupon code. But we’re only doing this for you this once. You can’t do this ever again, got it?”

Oh yes. I’ve got it. And don’t worry. I won’t ever be shopping here again, so that won’t be an issue.

RIP Joann’s. Your crafty aisles are dead to me.


  1. I love that I am getting a Joann’s coupon over on the sidebar. The irony, the irony…..

  2. Sarah Leah says

    GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!

  3. Don’t feel bad about venting on your blog – you have earned the right to share your experience with your readers, it’s not a “bully pit”, it’s your experience. The “it’s more than my job’s worth” mentality doesn’t fly, especially not in this economy.

    I re-financed my car this week cutting my rate in half, shaving $70 from my monthly payments and reducing the term, no thanks to the loan broker who told me that “if I don’t like the numbers there are plenty of other places I could get a loan”. That’s what I did – and saved another percentage point in the process.

    Bottom dollar is important, but so is the customer experience.

  4. Goodbye Joann, and hello Michaels and Hobby Lobby. I will be taking my business there after hearing about your experience!

    • (Tho who knows if I wouldn’t have had an equally bad experience there? I do recognize that this was probably individual laziness/incompetence and not written-in-stone store policy.)

  5. I broke up with JoAnn’s after a coupon incident last month. I don’t like their new system. “No thank you, I would like to choose the items I want the discount on for myself!” It’s very frustrating.

  6. Celia Husmann says

    I think you should take this up to Corporate!

  7. Sara Bram says

    I agree with Celia. Write someone an email. I bet they’ll try to make it up to you ($$$) 🙂
    PS. In our local newspaper here in TX, Joann and Michael’s usually have competing coupons almost every week.

  8. If it makes you feel better, most teachers I know boycott Joann’s since they are very difficult to deal with ( for similar problems getting teacher discounts).

  9. You’ll like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s better anyway. They WANT you to use coupons – if fact they’ll try to figure out a way for you to use them…

  10. stephanie says

    I have friends who work for JoAnn’s and are horrified at the lousy customer service- talk to corporate. They will not be happy.

  11. Tag them in Twitter and on Facebook with a link to this post. I’d be surprised if they didn’t contact you with an apology and a gift certificate.

    Ungreen as I am, I am also a big believer in not wasting paper. I always opt for a smartphone coupon vs a paper one when it’s available, and I predict that in ten years, all coupons will be electronic. I think that it’s an essential part of cashier training to 1) know how to process coupons and discounts 2) know how to deal with technology, especially if it’s an option offered by your company! 3) stand by the credos “we aim to please” and “the customer is always right.”

  12. Definitely contact corporate. That is ridiculous. If they are providing the coupons, they shouldn’t make it so hard to use them!

  13. Here are two words that usually work for me…”That’s unacceptable”
    Never lose your cool. Let the other side do that. The one who loses their cool loses the discussion.
    Send a letter (and an email if you must) to the president of the company, with your local television station cc’d. Detail the experience and politely explain that you are a frequent customer and the experience has left you feeling unappreciated and less than enthused about shopping there again. Also, let them know that you often share experiences with friends.
    If you don’t get satisfaction, vote with your feet and your mouth. In your case Mara, include the link to your blog.

    In this day and age, customer service is crucial to any company, or should be. Letting corporate know of the specific store, manager and employee along with calmly explaining your experience will either get you satisfaction or confirm your decision to discontinue shopping there.

  14. They messed with my friend? NOT OKAY.

  15. I like that you used the word “recalcitrance”!!! And I agree with Celia, you should ABSOLUTELY take this to corporate!! If they allow coupons than they need to accept their coupons…if they allow “app” coupons than they should be prepared for when a customer has an “app” issue! Duh! Not brain surgery people! And as for the customer service, that’s beyond unacceptable!! I don’t even have words for that! Ugh.

    (p.s. – I’m looking at a JoAnn’s Fabric q on the side of my page as well! hahaha!!)

  16. You are a kindred spirit! I applaud your tenacity and your sense of “right” in this instance.

  17. I had a bad experience at my JoAnn’s in February when I went in to get a collage framed and no framer was on duty. If you advertise that you frame, one should be there at all times. Not the case with JoAnn’s! I went to Michale’s with the Joann’s coupon and spent quite a bit on my order as well as for two Girl Scout crafts for my troop.

    I called their 800 number and they had someone talk to the manager about it. I received follow-up from them in a few days. They take this seriously, so call.

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