Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts is the latest company to learn that social media is not always a social place. Chances are when they launched their Teacher's Reward Program they didn't anticipate that there would be any kind of blow back. After all, they're offering a 15% discount to k-12 educators including those who home school.
That's all good, isn't it?
It's a program designed to save teachers some money and provide Jo-Ann Fabrics with lots of goodwill. It should be a win-win situation. Except that in a world where companies must now accountable to their customers thanks to social media, there is a bru-ha-ha over the company's refusal to include licensed family child care providers in that program.
What seems to bother the family child care providers the most is that Jo-Ann Fabrics offers the discount to parents who home school. So, if they do that, why not extend the program to licensed family child care providers?
That is exactly the question that family child care providers have been asking on the company's Facebook page.
Whether or not Jo-Ann Fabrics should change their policy, the way they have handled the controversy is to stone wall. They have an approved corporate response and regardless of the conversation, that's their story and they are sticking to it.
At this time, our Teacher Rewards program and special event days apply to currently state certified, credentialed or licensed teacher at any K-12 public, private or parochial school or higher education learning institution or an authorized home school teacher with current documentation or proof of membership in an official home school organization.
If this changes in the future, you will be able to find the information by visiting www.joann.com/teachers and clicking on "Sign Up."
Rose Grimes' comment on their Facebook page says it all.
Rose Grimes As a licensed childcare provider, I receive a teacher's discount from Michael's, Borders, Lakeshore, Discount School Supplies, US Toys, Hobby Lobby, Office Max and Office Depot, just to name a few. We count on these discounts to keep costs down for the parents in our care.
About 18 months ago, when a group of family child care providers from Kansas were told we didn't qualify for a teacher's discount, I contacted Jo-Ann's corp. office. Sadly, I was given the very same "standard line" that everyone is being told now. "Watch our website and see if we change our policy."
Too often, when companies decide to have a Facebook page they forget that social media is not traditional advertising or public relations. That it's not just a place to get brand name exposure. When you take away all the fun tools, social media is really about having a conversation. It's about listening. It's about engaging your customers and building a relationship.
However, the customers at Jo-Ann Fabrics are finding that they might as well be talking to a wall because Jo-Ann Fabrics is trying to handle this situation as if it were old media where they can issue a corporate statement and hope the situation blows over.
Social media doesn't work that way.
Unfortunately for Jo-Ann Fabrics the conversation is happening without them. Tom Copeland,who is one of my clients, and the nation's leading authority on the business side of family child care joined the conversation after reading Jacqueline Crocker's comment about the situation. He wrote a blog post about it last week.
... she sent the store management an email asking them to include licensed family child care providers in their teacher promotions. After receiving no reply she posted her complaint on the company's Facebook page:
"I am a preschool teacher and could really use a discount at Jo-Anns. We make very little money and don't get much for supplies, any discount would help us out. Would you please consider extending the teacher appreciation discounts to preschool teachers as well?"
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft responded by repeating that their policy excluded family child care providers. Jacqueline replied: "When a retail giant like Jo-Ann's tells us we do not have the 'right credentials' to buy the consumable items we need for our curriculum we are insulted."
As of today, family child care providers are continuing to post comments on Jo-Ann Fabrics Facebook page. Jo-Ann Fabrics is saying nothing.
Image credit: JoAnn Fabric and Craft Website