Monday, March 4, 2013

The Highs and Lows of Customer Service

Ever long for the time when people cared about the product you purchased?  When they represented their product or company?  When they had a vested interest in your satisfaction as a consumer?  Sigh...

I long for those days, often pictured romantically in technovision, the corner grocer knowing your name and preferences, the milkman dressed all in white.  Sadly, our economy is so far from those sweet day dreams, where 16 year old teens care not about you or your purchase because, for them, this is just a means to and end, to get money to purchase more things.

Sometimes I'm struck by how terrible customer service can be and how, as consumers, we've just accepted it, how salespeople think its normal or worse, acceptable.  We recently went to Mattress Warehouse ( to purchase a new futon mattress.  We left having purchased a futon mattress, a fancy queen sized mattress, mattress cover, mattress frame, and much lighter wallets.  Upon receipt of these items, all looked fine on the outside.  Being the chaotically busy family we (and half the US) are, we didn't get around to setting up the futon mattress for several days.  When I finally did, it appeared that our mattress was defective.

Two and a half weeks later, after several phone calls and no results, I finally stormed back into the aforementioned mattress store.  They might be able to ignore my phone calls, but it would be nearly impossible to ignore an angry woman with a crying infant (thanks for playing your part K!). My only regret was that there weren't more people shopping in the store to hear me loudly stating my complaint (again, but in person this time) and throwing around the "defective mattress" phrase quite loudly.  The salesman quickly got to work putting our request for a replacement through and then asked if I would be able to transport the old mattress  back to pick up the new one or pay $70 for it to be sent to my house, company/manufacturer policy.  Um, what?!  Somehow, with a straight face, he explained to me that they were already going the proverbial "extra mile" by replacing the defective item, and now it was on me to figure out how to transport it or cough up $70 more dollars.  I tried to explain to him how that was not, in fact, going the extra mile and verbally tried to draw the following diagram for him:
When I related the incident to B, he might have been angrier than me and quickly called to get the contact information for the manager.  The response he received was that sure, he could call, but instead of picking up our new mattress 30 minutes away, we would be given the choice of paying $70 or driving an hour away, essentially a threat.  All in all, our hands are tied, and as a consumer, we have no power.  As a retailer of products that last a decade or so, they don't rely on repeat business or customer loyalty, so they effectively don't care how happy we are.  If it wouldn't cost us more money, we'd return everything out of spite.  Our hands are tied.  Except for the fact that we live in a digital age.  I can share my experience and reach hundreds of people, gasp, even thousands or more, and let everyone know what lousy service we had!  Oooh, the mighty power of the pen, or keyboard in this case!

At least, the second retail experience I had that day restored my faith in retail. I've been grocery shopping online through where I place my order and then pull up to the store to pay, while my groceries are loaded into my car.  Its a great time saver with two little ones and it has helped preserve my sanity, to say the least!  Once in a while, I receive an item that is less than satisfactory: bad produce, opened container, wrong item.  Every single time it happens, all I have to do is call the store and let them know and within an hour, one of their employees is at my door with a replacement, an apology, and a giftcard to make up for the trouble.  It has been such a great experience to shop with them that even with the few errors that have occurred, I'll keep going back, and, more importantly, referring my friends, who all need groceries and have to spend their grocery money somewhere.  And that is how we keep our retail system honest, by sharing our expereriences, referring the retailers that have actually gone the "extra mile", and loudly complaining about those that don't.

Mattress Warehouse ( = lousy customer service policies, bad expererience
Harris Teeter ( for groceries) McHenry Row = awesome people, great customer service, great experience

And now, onto to Yahoo, Google, etc. to file a poor review of Mattress Warehouse...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh Melissa, that's horrible!! Sorry you guys had to go through that, how very frustrating!!! Nothing worse than poor customer service.
On another note, that grocery service you use sounds wonderful! Very convenient.