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I'll give you the moral of the story first: Don't mess with me.

And when I say "Me," I mean all of us. As consumers in a marketplace. Can you believe the economic slump that we are experiencing, there are businesses out there who still have terrible customer service? And excellent customer service is FREE! Why wouldn't you go above and beyond in the one area that costs you NOTHING in overhead. A SMILE, for God's sake!

I have two stories for you. I'll start with what happened Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, I had the misfortune of parking under a tree where what seemed like an entire flock of birds had just had a very hearty meal. This combined with all the road salt picked up on my holiday travels made my car EMBARRASSINGlY dirty. Stop-and-stare dirty. So I hightailed it to the closest drive-thru car wash that I know in hopes of washing off the shame quickly. Looking over the array of options, I went with the old adage, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right," and I purchased the most expensive package at a whopping $8.00. I proceeded through, the rinse, the wash, the rinse and then the wax. And what I came out with was bright, shiny... bird poop. I pulled around, got a paper towel and started to scrape it off by hand. It left behind, presumably because of the wax, a smeared, spotty car hood. I went inside and spoke with the manager. I explained the situation. That I didn't feel his car wash did a very good job and would he please just let me go through once more. He bluntly denied my request saying that the car wash wasn't capable of washing away bird poop.

"But couldn't you just let me go through, even at the standard level?"

"No, I can't do that."

And he let me leave in a huff with no offer of apology or sympathy for the money I'd just completely wasted.

One might expect that any manager who was willing to lose a customer over such a minuscule request was not hurting for business, so let me throw another factoid at ya: This was a BP. As in British Petroleum, as in the gas station just about everyone I know still goes out of their way NOT to patronize because of a little accident they had in the Gulf Coast.

Any franchisee of a BP ought to be falling over backwards to retain customers. And how much would it even cost him to turn on his car wash one more time? It's not like I was asking him to reach in to the register and give me my eight dollars back. I felt it was a simple, reasonable request, don't you?

Recanting this story yesterday to friends must have reignited a flame within me. I immediately proceeded to sign up for each and every review-a-business website I could find JUST to give this station the ONE STAR OF DOOM and tell everyone who might be searching my story. Now you can not look for a gas station in the St. Louis area without seeing my review. Now they've not only lost MY business, but anyone else who might give weight to my comments. Do I get some personal satisfaction out of this? Sure I do. And that's the beauty of the whole thing. I feel better about the manager being an ass to me and you don't have to waste your time and money with them like I did. Win-Win-Lose. But don't feel sad for the Loser. He completely deserved it.

Last night Tom and I went to the gym and since we had somewhere else to be almost directly after that, we decided that we needed to eat out somewhere quick, cheap and relatively healthy before moving on. As luck would have it, there was a Subway practically next door. When we walked in, there was a bit of a line, and it was moving at a snail's pace. There were two girls working. I'll start by saying that these are the conditions I expect at a Subway. There's a certain about of time required to make and exchange money for custom sandwiches. What I did not expect was to encounter two people who so obviously hated their lives AND their jobs. And I'll be honest with you. I might not be the happiest person in the world if I was working at a Subway either, but at every job I've had since I was 15, I put on a smile and I give people the respect they deserve. As a matter of fact, I was only 15 when I worked the drive-up window at a fast food establishment and one of my coworkers was mean to me and made me cry. With tears in my eyes, I smiled at each customer and told them - sincerely - to have a great day.

The girls at this Subway couldn't even manage to look customers in the eye. They could barely speak. Everything was under their breath and directed to the floor. I had to guess most of the things they asked while preparing my sandwich. So while they weren't overly RUDE to anyone, the UNfriendliness was so bad, I felt compelled to contact the store owner this afternoon. I wrote an email via the company website, asking why, in this economy, where everyone is looking for a job, would they tolerate two employees who so obviously did not want to be there? It was less than an hour later that the store owner called me.

And she, as you would expect, apologized profusely. She even gave me her cell phone and told me to call her any time I experience that type of behavior in her store again, even if I was still standing in line! She said that it makes complete sense that she should be able to hire people with customer service skills, but that the economy really hadn't improved the quality of her applicants. Then she made things a little more awkward. She was sitting in the office of that store and she yelled over at someone, "I'm talking to a customer! And she's complaining about YOU! You have such a pretty smile! Why don't you smile!" She went on to explain she's had an ongoing problem with this particular employee. Granted - not a totally professional way to handle my complaint (and I hate to even call it a complaint. I'd rather say it's a suggestion) but I appreciated her fervor nonetheless. And I will probably go back! Now see? Wasn't that easy?

I don't think I'm a particularly hard person to please. I'm just a little more outspoken than most people would care to be. But if everyone cared just a little more, we might start getting out of people exactly what we expect every time. I strongly recommend the next time you have a bad experience at a place you open up your wallet for, look for the customer service hot line. Find their website. Call the 800 that invites you to tell them "How am I driving?" It'll make the world a better place.

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:51 am (UTC)
No, I hadn't heard that story. How awful! But I dunno, it sort of still feels like a fluke. How can someone keep that up for long?

And I know what you mean about the certificate. I complained online about this new salon I went to and they found it, returned my money and gave me a gift card to come back. I gave it to my sister for Christmas that year.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
It's a valid point. I guess I've just always been the type to follow through with my threats. If I say I'm never going back there again, I won't. I'm very stubborn like that. Ever since I was 8 years-old and I closed my very first bank account. I wrote the bank a nasty letter saying it was because they let my parents steal all my allowance money back. And these days, if I ever decide to leave my credit union, it will decidedly NOT be for BoA because of all the terrible things I've heard from their customers.

The cable company was a little harder to shake. I gave them chance after chance after chance. Finally, when I'd had enough, I wrote in the memo line on my final check to them that I would never use their service again and I would tell all my friends to do the same. (Don't use Charter) I rent apartments and people ask me which direction they should go for their internet and tv needs, I direct them to "the other guy."

Once I saw a guy complain about Dell customer support, not on an open forum, but on his personal blog. Dell has representatives monitor that kind of thing. Before you knew it, someone with a Dell username left a comment with some helpful suggestions and a number to call for personal assistance. This kind of thing DOES matter to some big companies.

So, I guess what I should say is, "Put your money where your mouth is." Say what you mean and mean what you say. It may not be the easy thing to do, but you'll feel a lot better when you don't have to waste your energy on complaints and ill will.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 2nd, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
The longest contract I've ever heard of is two years. That's a long time, but it still has an end point. Around 1.5 years in to a service I hated, I'd be doing my research, trying to find the most suitable replacement. I'd probably do that research online.

Utilities, fine. I'll concede. You get what you get with those. (But even they have someone to answer to.) So if we can say the power/heating company, and in some areas the cable company, you have just about everything left where you are free to make your own choices. I talked about a gas station and a sub shop in this post. I'm certainly not tied down to either one of THEM. I'll bet everyone can think of a few places they could easily stop giving their hard-earned money to.
Dec. 2nd, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
Bird droppings are hard to clean, especially if they dry up. You'll have to do it by hand. You can't just wipe it off, either, since birds use sand/rocks to help digest food. You need to get the car wet and apply a cleaning solution; let cleaning solutions set for a while before trying to take it off.

As for the subway incident, it's not really much of an incident. That work, as you probably know, is exhausting and boring/repetive. Maybe the employee is/was depressed. Perhaps they have social anxiety disorder There is a wide array of reasons they may not smile at you but everyone is only human. Please show some compassion to others.

Was there anything wrong with the sandwich? Did you get the product you expected? Did they spit in it?

Was the problem really that your ego did not get the attention you want?
Dec. 2nd, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I was willing to accept that the droppings wouldn't come off in the car wash when he told me that. But what in the world would he have to lose by letting me go through again? He wasn't even nice or sympathetic in the least and maybe that's what bothered me the most.

The same with the Subway girls. I'm sorry, but you shouldn't work in a job like that if you can't even make eye contact with your customers. I don't need my food service to be extremely high energy and upbeat. If I did, I would be walking around angry all the time, because it's just not realistic. But these girls were in SUCH a funk that honestly, I felt the store owner should know the way they are representing her. It was REALLY bad. And no, my sandwich was fine, but that is only part of their job. Ego aside, it really makes me angry to think about all the people I know who are desperately looking for work and those two had no appreciation for their employment whatsoever. If they can't change their behavior, they should find a job where they can work in the back of the house and not interact with customers at all. That's the way I see it.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )