I was at the London Heathrow Terminal 4 last Friday evening, waiting for my plaine back to Paris. So to kill the time, I did what most people do - wander around the shops, looking for interesting things to buy and bargain. I ended up in the the HMV store, where I bought the new Playstation Move, Navigation Console and Eyetoy for about £64 (very cool stuff!).As I paid, the store assistant asked me whether I had the Pure Card - which is their Loyalty Programme. I replied that I did not, and that I lived in France so that the card would likely not be of use to me or even accesible to me. The assistant assured me that it was not an issue, so I decided upon this advice to buy the card for an extra £3. When I got home, I went online to their website to finish the registration process. Much to my surprise, I was not able to join the loyalty program, because I live outside of the UK. Funnily enough, you do get the option to choose your country when you enter your details... I do go to the UK on a regular basis and shop there and in general I'd say that the people are happy to take my money - so I see no reason why I should be able to join up. Furthermore, I paid for a Loyalty Card that I will never be able to use, based on bad advice from a shop assistant who works at the HMV London Heathrow Airport and he should've be aware of this!
It is not as though I am the first and only foreign resident that shops at an Airport - why can't HMV and other retailers think it through a bit more! People travel all of the time and all over the world, and frequently shop. It can't be that hard to devise a Loyalty Programme that keeps track of and caters to the needs and expectations of international customers. The HMV customer database even already has the fields in there!
If it is an issue of legislation, they could be lobbying with their Trade Organisation to change it. This is the European Union after all, there should be no technical barriers to the freedom of movement of goods and associated services!
To be fair HMV, is not the only company facing issues with international customer service issues. It is a shame though that not more attention is paid to these, as millions of people in other countries shop abroad (the latest figures from 2008 indicate that Duty Free Sales is a market worth around $37B ).
Please leave a comment to tell me about your experience shopping as an International Traveller!