We had one of multiple bad experiences with complete lack of customer care in a national store last evening.

I guess I can’t say the name in case of libel, right? (PS. I always remember “libel” versus “slander,” because of the all-star film: Libeled Lady. William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow. How could you go wrong?)

Back to Thursday night’s episode at a store that’s been in business in the US for over 100 years. Perhaps it was once a catalogue store.

In 1986 due to poor customer service, I began a ban of this store that lasted at least ten years. I should have continued.

We tried to buy a mower there two summers ago. We wound up at Home Depot, where the kind gent helping us put Mower #27 aside for us and remembered that I wanted Mower #27 when we came back for it the next day.

Our vacuum’s—two of them—have sucked their last bit of dirt. They are old, tired, and non-HEPA. With my sporadic sneezing spurts, we’re looking for a good vacuum to help with the dust.

We found the vacuum we wanted online, available for pickup in the store. We went to Giant Eagle, bought gift cards for the store because you earn points toward gasoline. (There’s a correlation there, just go with it if you aren’t from Pittsburgh.) Off we went, convinced all was well in the universe.

There were three people working in the appliance area. All three of them were with other people. All three of them ignored us. Keep in mind that at 6’2”, my husband is not easily overlooked. He’s taller than the shelving units. One finished with her customer, spun on her heel, and walked in the other direction, still never looking around the area to see if there were any stranded customers. Ut oh, wrong choice on her part. Alex was off!

I’ve never seen anyone get his point across so well as my husband. Me? I’m too nice until I’m pushed to the brink of my sanity. His tolerance is much lower. My favorite time of year is when his satellite radio bills come due and he has his annual conversation with the carriers about the service, the bill, why they aren’t combined and gee—doesn’t he come away with a deal every time.

The Great Vacuum Escapade was not to end that way.

  • They did not have the vacuum in stock for pickup.
  • They could not find any of the specs in their system to tell us if it had exactly what we wanted.
  • There was not a comparable vacuum in the store for near the same price.
  • They could not get the vacuum into the store for us to look at before purchasing. (Keep in mind, we could have paid for the vacuum, gone to the store to pick it up, opened the box in the store, seen that it wasn’t what we wanted and returned it on the spot.)
  • The clerk, by this time knowing she had met her match, called the store manager. Husband asked him if he could get the vacuum in so we could look at it first. The manager shook his head, never apologized and said: “No.” He followed with, “I hate to lose the sale, but I can’t do that.”

Therein lies the problem.

Pay attention to the words: I hate to lose THE sale, but…

It is not a sale he lost, it is a customer. We made a pact that we would never buy anything in this store ever again except for two products they always have and that are always highly rated. Never again for anything else.

Good Service

Amazon is my favorite example of exemplary customer service in action … customer service the way it used to be … customer service the way it should be. I thank them every time they do the right thing by me. I hope they know how much it means and why I might occasionally buy from other vendors, but remain an Amazon customer for life.Another national chain that has me hooked forever is Apple. I became part of the cult in 2011 and I’m never going back to pc land. The equipment (two MacBook Pros, a MacBook Air, three iPhones, an iPod) last forever and are workhorses. And the customer service from sales help to the Genius Bar folks is extraordinary—combining friendliness and professionalism.

Locally, we have a hardware store we head to anytime we have a unique need. The staff always offer a hand and provide a solution. It amazes us, which shows what we’ve gotten accustomed to at too many other stores.

Apple is another excellent, customer-focused company. I have become part of the cult of Apple–iPod, iPad, iPhone, and MacBook. Yep, love the products, love the service.

What company is your favorite example of excellent customer service? We’ll let this blog be the example of the negative and move on to better things.


Read: A Tale of Two Companies