Ask The Readers: Bad Customer Service At Old Navy?

April 22, 2008 by Kyle

I am looking for some feedback on store coupon policies. A couple weeks ago my wife bought some summer clothes for our 3 kids at our local Old Navy store. She found some nice deals and ended up spend a little under $50. A couple days later we got an Old Navy coupon in the mail that was good for 20% off your order when you use your Old Navy credit card, which we have.

So my wife says, “Bummer, I just bought the kids some clothes from Old Navy a couple days ago.” Which I responded, “Not a bummer, I’m sure they will honor your coupon.” In my head I am reasoning this with a few things.

  • First, since we are Old Navy credit card holders, I am sure they will bend over backwards to keep us happy.
  • Secondly, it is just good customer service to honor a coupon in this way.
  • Thirdly, they would never say “No” because people would just return the merchandise and buy it again with the 20% off coupon.

So my wife agrees with me and the next day she goes back in the store with the coupon and clothes in the original bag. I should also point out that the clothes still have the tags on them and have not been used or washed. She walks up to the register, where she actually got the store manager, and the conversation goes like this:

My Wife: I was just in here a couple days ago and bought these clothes. Then I got this coupon in the mail for 20% off and I was wondering if you would be kind enough to honor the coupon on this purchase.
Old Navy Manager: Sorry, I can’t do that.
My Wife: But I just got this coupon in the mail.
Old Navy Manager: Sorry, ma’am, that is just our policy. But you still have a couple weeks to use that coupon on another purchase.
My Wife: What is to keep me from just returning it and buying it back with the coupon?
Old Navy Manager: (Glaring at her like she is a cheap, crazy woman.) Nothing I guess.

Ticked off, my wife left the store and called me. I had a few choice words for Old Navy customer service. Not helping the situation, she hung up on me and decided she was just going to return the stuff. Then maybe in a couple days go back in and use the coupon. She returned the clothes and we have yet to go back into the store. It just left a bad taste in our mouth. I don’t think we are swindlers or cheap people. Or are we? Or is Old Navy just acting on a sound business model by not honoring the coupon in this way? What is you opinion?

It reminds me of the whole Apple iPhone thing when they lowered the price $200 overnight and essentially said “tough luck” to those loyal Apple users who bought the phone at the original price. After taking a heat wave of criticism, Steve Jobs finally offered a $100 store credit to anyone that bought the iPhone at the original price. In my example, we are the loyal user who is left holding the bag of clothes at full price.

So give me your opinion! Do you agree with the Old Navy coupon policy? Have you had a similar experience with a different outcome at Old Navy or another store? I look forward to your comments.


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Kansas Mom

I think a smaller local store would have honored the coupon, but I’m not surprised at the actions of Old Navy. They’ve never done anything like that for me when I’ve asked. I also find I have to watch the prices of everything very carefully as it rings up because they often do not show the lowest price. Finally, I think they’re return policy isn’t as flexible as many other stores.

That doesn’t keep me from shopping their clearance racks, especially for pajamas for the kids.

Daphne (One Mom In Alabama)

It seems to me that they would want to keep their customers happy. I’ve never encountered this, but I wouldn’t be happy with them at all!


I sorta don’t understand this. You say it was just a few days between purchase and the coupon in the mail, but how long could elapse before you wouldn’t think to do this? A couple of weeks? A month? Longer?

You guys were willing to spend the money that you did when you did on the clothes. The coupon was a bonus.

I feel like you grab the deals you can when they are available. (This is one reason why I am not a “first adopter” with electronics. Wait a little bit and the price almost drops.)


I am wondering did you call corp. office of Old Navy to find out there “real policy?”

I think they should had honored it. I would had returned it, then re~bought it using the coupon right then!

Shanti @ Antishay

I’ve had varying experiences at Old Navy. I had a pair of shorts start unraveling around the pockets the day I bought them, and they accepted the return no problem. I’ve also tried to do a back-refund with a coupon like you just did to no avail. *shrug* They’re not horrible, but I think it was dumb that the manager didn’t just do it for her.

By the by, you’ve been tagged to do the “memoir” meme πŸ™‚


When I worked in retail we had a price protection guarantee… if the item went on sale within 30 days and you came back we’d honor the sale price. But the way we had to do it in the system was to return it and sell it at the lower price. I don’t know why the woman at Old Navy couldn’t have just done that. Maybe she was having a cruddy day. She shouldn’t take it out on customers, but it does happen. I agree with contacting their corporate office and asking them about their policy.

Mrs. Micah

I thought (fuzzily, because I’ve never tried it) that stores honored coupons retroactively during the return period….for just that reason. I don’t shop much for clothes (except thrift stores, which don’t have coupons), so I’m not too familiar with which stores do and don’t take belated coupons.


Hmmm…I have never had this kind of experience at Old Navy.

But the stores here honor Stuff & Save for your *entire* purchase, even if it doesn’t fit in the bag. And Old gives you 20% off your entire order with the coupon code STUFFSAVE until the Stuff & Save promotion ends.

Alison @ This Wasn't In The Plan

I’ve seen “not valid for previous purchases” written on coupons before. Could that be the deal here?

Homemaker Barbi (Danelle Ice-Simmons)

I am not surprised by your experience, although I can empathize since I have received similar treatment over both coupons and rainchecks at other stores. It is shocking that in this shaky economic situation, stores will not do more to keep the customers they have!

The Happy Housewife

I’m not surprised, but disappointed. As an FYI Bed, Bath, and Beyond does honor their 20% coupons retroactively.


I have done this many times at other establishments.

Just last week, I bought stuff at Target. I then found I had a $10 off coupon. I went back to the store ( didn’t even have the merchandise with me ) and took my receipt to the customer service desk.

I asked them if they could honor the coupon, or if I needed to go get the items. They said not to bother, and opened the register and handed me a $10 bill ( didn’t even credit my credit card…bonus for me, because I then still got my points ).

I have also done this at Linen N Things, Bed bath and Beyond, etc.

But, believe me…I am not above returning and rebuying. I have also had to do this at stores, when I have had the items beyond their store price adjustment time frame ( most stores seems to be 14 days to a month ).

I agree totally…return and rebuy.

Hey, and don’t be afraid to write their customer service. I do this all the time, when things like this happen.

I make my emails nice, and explain the point of view from a consumer, etc. Make a recommendation and make it sound like you are making a nice suggestion. I get gift cards, coupons, etc in the mail all the time for free products when I do this.

Most stores want feedback…especially if given nicely. They do NOT want disgruntled customers like you are now. Most of the time, corporate will bend over backwards to make it up to you.


I hate Old Navy!! Years ago I was buying over $200 of clothes and decided to sign up for the store credit card to save 10% and they declined my application! I had no idea why, I had decent credit and no problems getting any other cards, auto loans, etc. I also had a mastercard declined several months after that, and I was shocked! I stepped out of the line, called my mastercard’s 1-800 number who told me there was no problem with my card, I had over $2000 credit available on it, and it should be accepted anywhere. I told the cashier this and asked her to swipe it again. She did and it was once again declined. I haven’t shopped there since except for a couple times, and paid cash. I do not understand what is going on at that store, and I don’t like it one bit!

Kristina Cant
Kristina Cant

I’ve worked retail for a long time, and my husband still works retail. Stores think that most people will just accept the answer that is given to them and not argue, which sadly, most people do. There is a small percentage of us that will put up a fuss, to get what we want, and most of the time we do. The key is to be persistant and if you have to, ask for the corporate number. Most managers do not want to hear from the corporate office, because most corporate offices do not stand up for the store, but for the customers. Also, remember kindness is a tool. If you are kind, but firm, do not get upset, managers are willing to do for you. If you go in upset with an attitude, they will automatically shut you down. If all else fails, do what your wife did and return the item. Sometimes, it’s not worth it. Most employees who work in the stores don’t care what you do. Again sadly, customer service has gone out the window. Lastly, if you are bothered by this, call the corporate office or write them a letter. This usually works, you may get a sympathetic coupon in the mail. Whether, you use it is up to you.


I shop Old Navy online, and I have not had very good customer service. I bought a polo-style shirt for our youngest child (a boy), and the size they sent was too large. The outer plastic wrapping said 12-18 months, but the shirt was clearly tagged 3T. When I called to return it, Old Navy said they couldn’t send out an exchange or a pre-paid envelope, because the problem was “at our distribution center.” I would have to wait for them to contact the distribution center, investigate the problem, and then they would email me the pre-paid label. Of course, they offered, I could just “purchase another shirt right now and wait to return the shirt in question.” Huh?

So…. I gave the shirt to our 3rd daugher (it was a boy’s shirt, but in a girl-acceptable yellow stripe), and gave up on Old Navy. I never received a pre-paid envelope, although I did receive an email stating that the problem at the distribution center had been corrected if I’d like to re-order the item. I’ve been wary of Old Navy ever since.

Honestly, their clothes don’t hold up very well anyway. I’d rather shop the online sale pages of Gymboree, Land’s End, and Children’s Place for longer-lasting clothes. At my house, clothes need to make it through three girls and then one boy (if not too “girly”) to get respect.


I don’t shop at places that treat me like crap anymore. If they want to keep their customers in good standing they should have honored their coupons.


I am surprised that the store wouldn’t allow you to do that. I rarely have a problem using coupons at Old Navy or Banana Republic. In fact, I get coupons and rewards points a lot from them and I think I definitely get my moneys’ worth. I don’t blame you for being annoyed though. I would have done the same thing. I am still mad at Office Max from months and months ago. πŸ˜‰


Everyone here seems to think of cheap old navy clothes as a bargain. But there are “externalities” involved in such production. Goods are produced very cheapy in China, with poor environmental and labor controls. As a result, there are HUGE problems with air and water polution in China–I was just in a factory outside of Shanghai for work and saw this first-hand. I really encourage other fruglies to think of the TRUE cost of cheap consumer goods – to the planet. These are costs our children will pay. Are $3.99 (poorly made) kids’ polo shirts really worth that??


I’ve worked retail for the passed five years and it’s very common for people to go in a couple of days later with a coupon wanting to use it on a previous purchase. Of course, the manager’s first response is no because technically it is the store policy. Also, it tells you on the coupon not on previous purchases however, being as that may we usually did honor it because in retail the customer is always right. The only thing the manager would say is, we’re not suppose to do it but i’m going to do it for you this one time only. Also, the only time the manager wouldn’t honor it was when the customer was very rude and very demanding from the get go. The final thing i want to say about retail is, every manager is different. Some are lenient and some are very hard to break. I think they should have honored it, but once again every manager is different.

Old Navy employee
Old Navy employee

I know this has not been active in 2 years, but I came across this post and felt the need to give my opinion on this subject.

I’m an Old Navy employee, and have been working in retail for almost 6 years now.

Some quick info about working at Old Navy:

–We’re trained to work and communicate with the customer “with ease”–meaning as quickly and efficiently as possible.

–During our shift, as well as working the register, we’re responsible for:

1. Keeping the store in order (folding, putting things back in their proper place)
2. Assisting the customer with finding merchandise
3. Assisting the customer in the fitting room area
4. Assisting customers on the phone
5. Getting as many customers as possible to sign up for the email list
6. Getting as many customers as possible to sign up for the Old Navy credit card
7. Processing shipment
8. Doing returns and exchanges, etc, etc.

As with any corporate retail store, we’re often extremely busy and extremely understaffed, making it near impossible sometimes to complete all of these tasks as efficiently as possible.

In a perfect world, the economy would be flourishing, the company would provide the right amount of hours for coverage, employees would be paid well and not taken advantage of, and so things would run more smoothly and in turn, produce happier customers.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in today’s world, and anyone who believes that a store should “bend over backwards to make them happy” is either sadly misinformed or just plain narcissistic.

Nothing makes me blood boil more than when I hear people complain about, “Whatever happened to good customer service?”

What’s happening is this:

The employees come in to work and are immediately bombarded with stressed out managers who are pushed by the corporate office to meet impossible quotas over email captures and Old Navy Card applications, and as a result, overlook simple things like putting people in zones, which makes the entire day disorganized.

Plain and simple, the economy is bad, which means less hours, fewer employees, fewer raises, etc. Obviously this also that ten employees have to do the job of what twenty employees should be doing at less pay, which makes it more stressful and demanding for everyone. And raises are few and far between, or almost unheard of.

When an employee is doing 12944793 tasks as well as ringing up a customer, we also have to ask for an email address, ask for them to sign up for an Old Navy card, listen to them scream at their children, try to communicate with them effectively while they’re on their cell phone, explain why a sign that says, “$5 Shirts” doesn’t apply to the pair of pants that they want, explain to them why a coupon that expires in 2005 won’t work in 2011, enforce store policy, and then listen to them act like a five year old throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way while their unsupervised children destroy the entire store, which we have the pleasure of cleaning up later.

And I’m waiting for this question:
“If Old Navy is so terrible, than why do you work there?”

Old Navy is actually a pretty good company to work for, especially compared to former companies that I’ve been with. Any problem that I’ve experienced seems to originate from the corporate level. Despite retail worker stereotypes, I’m not lazy, stupid, or have a bad attitude. I have a four year degree, and am going back to school, and I also happen to be pretty friendly and a hard worker. Old Navy isn’t a career choice for me–it’s a part time job that pays the bills until I receive my degree and move on in life, which is the case for most people in retail.

I firmly believe that all retail companies should integrate a new policy into their stores that goes something like this:
“Our employees are trained to be efficient, respectful, and friendly towards our customers–thanks for treating us the same!”

Again, unfortunately, in our time, that will never happen. My belief is that things will only get worse as the economy changes and people get used to “getting their way” by calling the corporate office and having their bad behavior rewarded with a coupon.

I’m confused about why you think you and your wife (and anyone else on this page) believe you were treated unfairly and received poor customer service. I suppose that you think poor customer service means upholding the company policy, which I find to be absolutely ridiculous.

The manager did not seem to be behaving rudely towards you or “having a crappy day and taking it out on a customer”, and I’ve done plenty of “returns and repurchase” in similar situations as yours without incident. No one told you that you could not do that, you simply decided to make an issue over it by yourselves. And the fact that you have an Old Navy credit card suggests to me that you’re a frequent shopper–you received the coupon after you made the purchase and did not want to “return and re-buy”–realistically, why would it be so hard for you to save the coupon for the next time you were shopping?

Anyone who wants customer service “like the good old days” in modern corporate America is kidding themselves, to be blunt. Low prices are in demand, so you’re going to get what you pay for. If you want someone to “bend over backwards for you,” maybe you should stick to local stores, boutiques, high end department stores, etc.

Everyone in retail is pushed for time and overworked. We clean up the tornado of clothes after you and your children leave the store. We explain simple company policies to you countless times with no avail. We compete for your attention with your cell phone just to do our job. We deal with your temper tantrums when you don’t get your way.

Not every customer is this terrible, but for those who are and then complain about “horrible customer service”:

Why on EARTH would you think that we would EVER want to “bend over backwards to keep you happy?!”

My hope with this comment is that it provides insight into the minds of those who believe they are “being treated unfairly” and probably never worked a day of retail in their lives.

Sincerely Frustrated,

An Old Navy employee.

Old Navy employee
Old Navy employee


I think you may have misunderstood the point I was trying to make about customer service, so I’ll try to explain myself further.

I (as well as anyone else I’ve ever worked with in retail) have no problem with the basic level of customer service that I’m required to do as part of my job. Basic meaning: greeting the customer, being friendly, inviting them to join the email list, inviting them to sign up for the Old Navy credit card, helping them find items, assisting them in the fitting room, looking for sizes in the backroom, etc.

However, I DO have a problem with: ridiculous demands (“I want the size you don’t have and I want it now!”), general rudeness (cell phones, bad attitudes), people who think store policy doesn’t apply to them (trying to return things past the 90 day return period, returning items that have clearly been washed and worn), people who abuse the coupons, etc.

How do I treat “difficult” customers compared to the “normal” ones? Exactly the same–same greeting, same questions, same service. THESE, however, are the people that I refuse to “bend over backwards for” because that’s NOT part of my job requirement. If a situation arises, we are trained to call a manager over to deal with it, and they can settle it as they wish.

And quite honestly, it’s not my job to “bend over backwards” for anyone–my job, defined by the company I work for, is to sell the product, abide by company policy, and provide customer service in the ways I listed above. It is not defined as “bend over backwards trying to please every customer who walks through the door, completely ignoring any company policy, and letting them do whatever they want just to keep them happy.” That sounds the job description of a nanny who is hired to watch a spoiled child.

Again, poor customer service does not equal not abiding by the store policy, and I find it a bit odd that you think that to be the case. It is there for a reason. To be honest, I’m not sure of the exact reasons–all I know is that my job is to enforce it. Imagine if someone had purchased something two years ago, and wanted to use a coupon they received yesterday on that purchase.

I do not see myself as rude or as having a pessimistic view on customer service. Anyone I’ve worked with is the same way. I have worked in retail for years and have never really had problems with my job. There are annoying and difficult customers from time to time, but it usually does not bother me, and often makes for a good story among coworkers later on. I’m not sure how long ago you worked in retail or where you worked at–perhaps your training in customer service was more extensive than mine–but I’ve never worked anywhere where they trained you to “bend over backwards.”

And just in case you were wondering, if I had been the employee that your wife had spoken with at the register, the conversation would have gone something like this:

“Hi, did you find everything you were looking for today?”

“We got this coupon in the mail, but bought a bunch of clothes the other day, and wanted to know if we could redeem this coupon for our previous purchase.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but with the company policy, you are unable to do that. But you’re more than welcome to hold on to the coupon for another time.”

“Why can’t I just return the clothes and re-buy them with the coupon?”

“Oh, that’s fine, did you bring your receipt with you?”

Again, I do not see the big problem with your situation. Clearly, you could have returned the items and repurchased them with the coupon. And even if the manager was extremely rude towards you, why is that such a big deal? The world goes on, and not everyone is going to treat you fairly, even though it would be part of her job to do so. If it bothered you that much, don’t shop there anymore. If the policy you don’t agree with bothers enough people, then you know the company will eventually change it, because you are right–customers do keep companies in business. And in being rude to you, she would have clearly overstepped a boundary–but you were doing the same in thinking that the store policy did not apply to you.

It makes me wonder, why did this situation leave such a bad taste in your mouth when clearly there was a simple solution (return and re-buy the items)? Is it because you think rules and policies don’t apply to you for some reason? If that’s the case, then I feel bad for all of the customer service related people you will encounter in the future.

I may be coming off as harsh, but I’m hoping that my comments help you see things in a different light from the other side of the counter. I deal with about 10 similar situations as yours each day, and rarely does it seem that anyone leaves the store feeling mistreated like you did over something so incredibly minor. From my point of view, it could have been easily fixed and really did not have to be a such a big deal for anyone involved.


Just try using your old navy rewards from your credit card – if they sell you an item online and there is a problem with the order -example not having a size after you’ve ordered or having a defective item and not having a replacement – you loose the points. This has happened to me twice now, so why should I use your crappy visa card to accumulate the points if you’re not going to give me full credit for them. I’ve emailed and phoned and never gotten anywhere with them. I’m so canceling their card and shopping elsewhere – and I’ve been a card holder since 2000. They don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves!


Normally the coupons state. Exclusions as well as saying presented at the time of purchase. No adjustments on previous purchases. Not to be combined with other discounts.

I would inform the guest of this.
I would let them know as a courtesy, I would allow it at this time.
I would also let them know that any previous sales which they had gotten may not apply today.
Normally when coupons go out, prices are different.