Howdy folks, time for a quick change of pace. Figured you needed a break from the barrage of Indy Zoo pictures that have been thrown at you as of late. Randomly selecting a topic from the blog idea list resulted in today’s topic of Service. The irony is we usually spend our time railing against poor service against the larger corporations – the Bigs if you will. These larger outfits can usually weather any annoying complaints by their customers merely based on the overall volume of business they do. However, it is my sad fortune to recount a disheartening experience with a local establishment – or as they are commonly referred to… the Small. You may not know, but I do try to support Smalls possible. By definition I am therefore willing to sacrifice a little convenience and likely pay a little more for a given item due to being unable to leverage the high volume discounts of the Bigs. The trade off is we benefit a local establishment and in turn the larger community as a whole. The benefit to us – Smalls are more attentive to pleasing their customers and the service is rarely anything but outstanding. Let me repeat that for emphasis – Smalls are more ATTENTIVE to PLEASING their customers and the SERVICE is rarely anything but OUTSTANDING.
There are three Smalls I focus on supporting every chance I get. One is Running Central where almost all my running gear comes from. Although they have since moved a little closer to where I live, it is still a healthy trek to make it there. With the ever increasing gas prices (thanks current administration) this can add up, especially since we have a Big sporting store less than 15 minutes from my house. The staff is all runners themselves and are very helpful with all my running/nutrition/therapy questions. True to form, their prices tend to be slightly higher but walking into a store where they greet you with a smile and know you personally easily trumps that downside. Another Small Linda and I enjoy supporting is Emack and Bolio’s. If you have not heard of them, they are a gourmet ice cream store. Ours is actually located very close to Running Central making trips to get running stuff extra sweet. One could argue that it is a chain, but it is locally owned and the two guys that own it always greet us personally and make our experience quite pleasurable. If you are in the Peoria area, get yourself to Peoria Heights – you will not be disappointed (especially you Cold Stone people). The third small is a place in Bartonville called Presley’s Outdoors. They are a sporting goods, hunting, camping outdoorsy outfitter. Now getting to this location takes us close to 40 minutes and more importantly I pass right by two competing Bigs to get there. Not to mention 40 minutes in a slightly angled trajectory gets me to a Mega (as in pull from far and wide corporations). It would be significantly easier to purchase most of my goods at the Bigs I pass, but again… the intent is to help the Smalls survive in a competitive market. Last year I made some significant purchases at this store and although I have not gone back and tallied up the actual numbers (YET) the smaller purchases likely added up to a pretty penny as well. An amount that would represent a premium over the same purchases at a Big or Mega. From a business perspective, this inherently poses a risk. Breaking the trust or tarnishing the brand can result in loss of loyalty – loss of loyalty can make that 10 minute trek look a whole lot more appealing than a 40 minute trek. If you can obtain equally bad service in less time .. less time ALWAYS wins out.
Hit the jump to find out how a mighty Small crumbled
Getting a feeling yet where this is heading? Here’s a hint… my shopping travel time has now been reduced. Setting the stage, Linda put a firm edict down that no more investment in a particular class of merchandise could made until a.. ummm.. large file cabinet was acquired. To her credit, Linda is very sparse with her edicts so I tend to obey them (although the one about we move if any snake is found in the house seems a tad over-reactive in my opinion – as I say, if the snakes are away, the mice will play). Now I do not like to be restricted so the sooner this condition was met, the better. During the holidays we had the perfect opportunity to hunt down a suitable filing cabinet. It was difficult to locate a cabinet that fit my needs to the point we ended up a looong ways from home at another outdoor store – I’ll forgo the interesting experience we had there and simply state we did not find a suitable filing cabinet there either. Not wanting to wait anymore I opted to head back to Presley’s in hopes of finding a cabinet that maybe met most of my requirements. Adding to the long day we trekked back to Bartonville. Back and forth discussions finally resulted in us selecting a filing cabinet that was bigger than originally planned and definitely more expensive (~$900) than desired. Unlike a lot of places we visited, Presley’s provided a deliver to the driveway service for an extra $100. No brainer in my opinion even with the premium price. The clerk asked us when we wanted it and we agreed a delivery that day would be perfect. Two happy customers made their way to car .. and home to await the delivery.
And “awaiting” we did. Nobody showed up with the cabinet that Monday. Assuming it would come in a couple of days at most we opted to wait it out some more. Thursday we called and was informed that “nobody” informed “him” that there was a delivery expected. Seriously!?! I paid them an extra $100 – how hard is it to get that message to the right person. Spidey senses were starting to kick in. Linda continued her discussions with the clerk to hash out a delivery date. Eventually he offered up that Saturday but not long afterward took that back and said he couldn’t deliver it until the following Friday. Not only is this close to TWO weeks from when they said we would have it, it was now moved AFTER Christmas. This was quite the disappointment since it was impossible to keep my promise to Linda and still get myself a planned Christmas gift. Resigning to this setback I held off on my plans and went into wait mode again. Thursday finally arrived and once again the anticipation levels were peaking. We had the opportunity to meet up with some friends (David and Dr. Giselle) in Springfield which allowed us to drop in at Scheels (a Mega outdoor store). This is the second time there and both times were met with fantastic service and quite decent prices. They had the item I wanted to buy in stock prompting me to drool over it a bit before remembering my commitment to the Smalls – although this was starting to waiver based on the recent experience. Back in the case the item went with sadness and longing. Oh, and technically the commitment to Linda had not been met but there was some leeway in interpretation at this point. Leeway that was given significant attention overnight to the point where a trip to Presley’s was in order Friday morning. Given significant time and resources all conundrums can eventually be rationalized out. Even though they had disappointed me twice by now, I still opted to purchase a new item knowing a) the cabinet was due to arrive that day and b) my new item wasn’t going to be available for a few days. At the end of the transaction I decided to verify the delivery – the clerk called up the person responsible for the delivery and handed me the phone. Somehow that handset stayed in my hand when I heard the response “that is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow”. That would be a big hell no! This was immediately corrected to the point where he wanted to know if it had to be delivered immediately – in a brief moment of insanity I decided to be gracious and agreed it could be delivered anytime that day since we would be home. He did promise to call before he headed out. Off I went with me excitement over the new purchased now subdued.
At some point in the day I became focused on a Honey-Do that ended up being more involved that originally estimated (pretty much the norm for all my projects). Linda came home around 6 and asked me where the cabinet was. Oh crap, I forgot about and obviously they had not called. Now seriously peeved she grabbed the phone and made a call. The guy that answered informed her that the individual responsible for that decided they were not going to deliver it and left for the day. Too bad I was in the other room – would have been interesting to see how many shades of red Linda turned. Somehow she convinced them to give the cell number of the individual which she prompted dialed up to get to the bottom of the issue. Summary, sure enough he just decided not to deliver it without even giving us the decency of a call. Linda pressed him on when he was actually “planning” on delivering it only to get the stale response of we’re very busy blah blah blah. This was the final straw. Linda asked me what I wanted to do and I promptly responded with return it and threatened to return my other purchase (again a high dollar value) at the same time. Surprisingly he didn’t seem to care much about that. Once again pondering the issue, the outcome was I had been inconvenienced enough. The cabinet would be returned, but the later purchase would be kept. That Monday I went in bright and early and told them I wanted my purchase and was returning this file cabinet. The three guys standing there looked at me and uttered – “returning a fiiile caaaabinet”. Yep! While one went to get the purchase I was keeping, the other realized who we were dealing with and called him over to the counter. The younger kid that showed up expressed little concern and only asked if I was still good with the other item. “Yep, decided I’d been inconvenienced enough.” He ran the return, handed me back the receipts and left. With little remorse I walked out their doors for the last time. In my opinion I gave them more than enough opportunity to make this right -more than enough opportunity to stay off the list. One Small had just made a Big Mistake.
Just to complete this story, I found another file cabinet (at a Mega) that better fit my initial requirements and ended up being about $400 bucks cheaper with the same delivery options. In the meantime I found out that the kid was the owner’s son. Another friend of mine happens to know his father and relayed this customer experience. He felt strongly they should know how customers are being treated there and reinforce that people talk to people who talk to people – having them talk about how bad your business treated one of them is not the best approach to a successful business. Definitely appreciated him doing that for me. The owner did express an interest to talk to me, but quite frankly I’m not sure the interest is mutual. They have my number – guessing there isn’t a large cross section of customers that fit this return profile (well, hope not) but for now they are officially etched into the list.
By the way, if you are thinking to yourself … what’s up with the low tech logo – my apologies, but please take into consideration I free formed that image in Paint Shop Pro with a mouse… in particular a mouse in my non-dominant hand. I became tired of looking for the individual pieces on the web and decided to chuck it and whip one up. Personally think it came out a lot better than expected. Granted, the cabinet lines were built with the line tool, but the rest was a 2 pixel pen – If you need a challenge sometime try to drawing a decent diagonal line with your opposite hand .. maybe I’m just easily entertained.