Coupons that can’t be used on sale items. Coupons with a list of exceptions longer than your arm. Coupons that are not actually valid on toys (for real). Toys “R” Us is well-known for its confusing and convoluted ways with sales and coupons. But now, in what will come as a relief to perplexed toy shoppers everywhere, Toys “R” Us is promising to change.

The profit-challenged toy store chain has unveiled a new improvement plan that it’s calling the “TRU Transformation” strategy. According to company president Hank Mullany, “among our highest priorities will be to deepen our focus on the customer, build meaningful relationships through loyalty and targeted marketing programs, and improve the shopping experience both in-store and online.”

That effort will include cleaning up and decluttering stores, improving out-of-stock issues, speeding up checkout and “improving price perception by developing a clear pricing strategy and simplifying promotional offers.”

It can take a while for even the most seasoned Toys “R” Us shopper to decipher certain deals. For the infrequent shopper? Forget it. For instance, as of this writing, Toys “R” Us has a “Friends & Family” coupon for 20% off. It’s even good on sale items. But it’s not good on clearance items, because those aren’t the same as “sale” items. It’s also not good on any “Red Hot Deals”, because that too is different than a sale. So are “Hot Price” items, which are also excluded, along with nearly two dozen specific products and product categories.


Got it?

Too many people don’t get it. So part of the transformation plan is to transform all that terminology. “We need to simplify pricing initiatives like Price Match Guarantee and communicate them clearly, and re-evaluate the complexity of some of the deals we offer, which cause confusion and lower customer satisfaction,” Toys “R” Us spokesperson Jennifer Albano told Coupons in the News. “This will include making our coupon offerings easier to understand and limiting exclusions associated with those offerings.” (Just not too easy and exclusion-free, as Toys “R” Us learned the hard way a couple of years ago).

Either way, it turns out that confusing its customers has not been especially good for business. In its latest earnings report released last week, Toys “R” Us revealed that it lost a billion dollars in fiscal 2013. One billion dollars. With losses like that, no wonder the store can’t afford to let shoppers combine coupons with “Red Hot Deals”.

But the store also can’t afford not to. Unless they’re seeking out a specific deal, many toy shoppers haven’t set foot in a Toys “R” Us in years. Places like Target and Walmart have plenty of toys, not to mention Amazon.com and other online stores. And making a special trip to Toys “R” Us, coupon in hand, only to find out that the restriction-filled coupon is useless, doesn’t exactly encourage repeat business. So the “TRU Transformation” plan aims to better emphasize Toys “R” Us as being the toy experts, with the newest releases and the most knowledgeable sales associates.

And fair prices. Not necessarily the lowest, but prices that are fair and easy to understand. “One of the key issues we face is price perception,” Albano said. “Toys ‘R’ Us has big opportunities for improving customer relationships and becoming a customer-centric business.”

“We’re listening to customers much more than before,” Toys “R” Us CEO Antonio Urcelay echoed. Listening to customers – that’s certainly better than the alternative, which just cost the company a billion bucks.

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