Two instances of I'm sorry 'you need to spend (insert nominal amount of pocket change equaling less than a quarter here) more,' happened to me in the past two days.
Today, at Barnes & Noble, a lady was trying to find The Five People You Meet In Heaven, on cd, but the store was out. The lady was shocked when the woman behind the counter said they could order it for her, and ship it directly to her house... for free.
There were two copies available, one read by Mitch Album and another version read by someone else. Somehow, the one read by someone else was $30.00, and the one read by Mitch Album was $24.95 (and of course the lady choose the author).
"Oops," the woman behind the counter said. "I'm sorry, It's 24.95, we can only offer free shipping on purchases over $25.00."
Of course, the way things are, that lady couldn't have given the bookstore worker a nickel and called it even. Instead, she had to have the cd sent to the store....not a horrible outcome but not as exciting as the original offer.
When I'm back near the University of Washington, I often park and work at the bookstore for a few hours, because they have free, University-level (aka fast) internet in the Cafe there and I can get 2 hours of parking validated with a purchase (which of course you have to make to sit in the Cafe anyways).
I bought some holiday spiced apple cider something and a croissant...my total was 3.89. Apparently, the bookstore's policy is to only offer 30 minutes of parking for purchases up to 4 dollars, and anything over that you can get two hours of parking (the same amount of parking I'd get when I spent $500 on textbooks).
On paper it makes sense, to keep people from shopping in the area around the store then buying a pencil and getting two hours validated, they have a minimum.
However, I bought two things in the Cafe and was set to work there for awhile... and the college girl behind the counter made me buy a 60 cent five pack of crappy gum to get my extra hour and a half of parking.
What do these stories have in common?
Empowerment. The word i don't let startups use any more.
Different this time, this time, it's empowerment of employees. The girl at the bookstore could have easily said: "don't worry about the 11 cents, here's your two hour stamp (and no one would have known, they'd don't inventory the tiny 2 hour stamp in comparison with the 30 minutes stamp in comparison with the totals on the cash register)" and I'm sure there would have been an easy way for the B&N employee to enter some sort of code to give the lady free shipping, rather than using that 5 cents to make her come to the store again.
I understand that the minimums are there for a reason, and that once you let 11 cents slide you let 50 cents slide followed by more and more. But, an employee behind the counter, in both of these cases, is a customer service employee. They have to deal with people all day... the least companies should do is give them the power of discretion when it comes to negligible problems, especially that don't really hurt the company but make the customer's life a whole lot better.
It just makes cents (pun intended).