While walking back to my car this weekend from the Portland Marathon Fitness Expo, I had the chance to swing by the Columbia Sportswear flagship store. I love that place, and I love seeing their new displays of fantastic products.

Unfortunately, one major marketing failure made Saturday the exception.

Lately, I've been on the lookout for a new utility pack. Something small and functional to balance my large trekking backpack - something I can use for a weekend travel bag with just the essentials. Ideally, I'd like something rustic, too. I don't know why, but a classic rucksack appeals to me.

As luck would have it, Columbia had one prominently displayed in their window. Not one, but two. With a great lifestyle shot showing a woman travelling in style on the train, too! It looked like exactly the bag I was trying to find.

So I sacrificed a few minutes - I was on my way to another appointment - to head inside and look for the bag. Who knows, my birthday is next month and maybe I've found a gift to give myself.

For one, the customer service in the flagship store is fantastic. I was barely through the door before a woman came to help me.

"Can I help you find something today?"

"Yes, actually, I wanted to get a closer look at one of those bags you have on display over there."

"Oh, those? We don't actually sell those. It's just part of the display."

No, I'm not kidding. Those were her exact words. The flagship store - the store who's sole purpose is to show off the newest and best products the brand has to offer - is displaying a product they don't even sell.

If the hook that gets your customer in the door is a product you don't even offer, then something is seriously wrong with the way you're taking your brand to market. Here was a good $150-200 that Columbia forfeited to REI over a simple bag. Multiply that by the number of people walking by and through their flagship store and it's a significant loss to the company.

Is your marketing helping or hurting your attempts to work with customers?