Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is Customer Service - and Common Courtesy - Nearly Dead?

Have you noticed that getting someone on the phone with your cable provider, credit card company or other public or private bureaucracy is getting more fun all the time?    Dealing with big government is not our only problem – being stonewalled is everywhere, like a national pastime.

I recently went into Garden Ridge to buy a few things and found some lamps I was interested in.  The only one left had a broken frame and when I inquired as to whether there could be any sort of discount considering it was the last one and I would have to do some repairs, I was told it was corporate policy that everything is sold "as is".  Somewhat surprised, I left the store with nothing and promptly wrote the corporate office to which I received in return – you guessed it — nothing.

A little better was my experience at Pier One.  I moved a couple of years ago and had stashed away some expired coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond, Old Navy and Pier One.  Knowing that BB&B always allows these I made a purchase there, got my discount and proceeded over to Old Navy where they didn't even bring it up and honored my reward certificates.  But at Pier One, the lady at the counter couldn't even put theirs into the system.  So she asked her manager, who promptly told her "uh…NO" from the back and then went out of her way to come all the way back to the sales counter and inform me in a shockingly snide tone, "Yeah, next time you really ought to bring them in sooner than two years after they expire” followed by (yes, really)  "Oh, and by the way, your NEXT reward certificates expire 3 months after you get them so that should give you plenty of time to use them."
 < SMIRK >  REALLY?   That’s HER smirking and ME thinking “REALLY??” btw.

Well, needless to say I informed them that I really didn't NEED that fireplace grate and to please forgive my ignorance about the reward certificates but perhaps I would be back at another time.  Again, I promptly contacted customer service and to their credit, they expressed dismay at the behavior of their manager and said they routinely replace reward certificates through their underwriting bank.  It took me three additional phone calls to the bank, back to a Pier One supervisor and finally a bank supervisor to get the tickets reissued but they are supposed to be here around the first of March.  Yes, I had to work at it but the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.  Too bad Pier One doesn’t carry them.

This is the kind of experience most people have on a day -to–day basis and often say this is a good illustration of why the big bloated government can't run anything.  But it's big business and small business too.  And it's individuals – maybe that is WHY.

My father had showrooms at the Apparel Mart in Dallas for many years.  When I was little, missing an appointment was considered very bad manners.  By the time he retired, we way overbooked his appointments know many people simply would not show up.

The other day I found a chair for sale online and contacted the owner to meet so I could look at it.  He was very friendly and agreed to call me back as soon as he dropped off his kids.  He never called me back.  So I texted him and called him and STILL he never called me back.  Finally I e-mailed him and left him a voice mail, "Listen, if you've changed your mind that's fine but I'd really appreciate the courtesy of a phone call or message from you so I know you're no longer interested in selling the chair."  NADA.  ZIP.  ZERO.  Is this the “trickle up economics” or attitude from the bottom up as opposed to the top down?  Or are we just one incredibly flawed species?

But all is not lost – yet.   I had someone come over to work on my fireplace.  They charged me very little and sent a guy who is a trained engineer but working for a friend while he tries to get back into his profession.  Courteous, helpful, thorough…everything you would wish for in every transaction you partake in.  Well – keep wishin’ – all we can do is demand more…from our own kids, from adults we deal with and from everyone we encounter.  Encourage those around you to be excellent and TELL THEM WHEN THEY ARE.  I gave those guys a five-star rating on both Yelp! and Citysearch, believe me.  And TIP generously -- especially when you are served well.  My last waitress at Bone Daddy’s (A Hooter’s-like BBQ joint) was a former microbiology major studying to be a psychotherapist.  She was cute, sure – but she was bright, delightful and I told her “You go girl!” and gave her a big fat tip – not because her navel was pierced but because she did an awesome job.

I'm not sure what has happened to most of the decorum, common courtesy, and customer service in our society.  Sometimes you're trying to get help from an agency or company who just doesn't have the resources to hire people who are knowledgeable enough (or even plentiful enough) to solve your problem.  Sometimes you're just dealing with one inconsiderate jerk who doesn't care.  Either way, it doesn't bode very well for us.  Fail.

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