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Friday, September 4, 2009

Customer Service: Am I too Picky?

Ask. Ask. Ask.

That's the frugal mantra. If you need something, ask around. An acquaintance may have what you're looking for. If you have a problem with a store or the like, ask. You may get what you want. Or a rain check. Amy D. of Tightwad Gazette fame has a chapter on it. My frugal Dad always asked. This practice generally has a good time to savings ratio, at least in my experience.

Plus good customer service usually makes you a customer for life. When I sold things now and again on Ebay (a LOONNNGGGG time ago), I responded to the slightest complaint with a full refund. And, given the low volume of my sales, I wasn't expecting any return customers. It just wasn't worth setting into motion the bad customer service karma.

Places where I've had good customer service: Walgreens (managers often compensate for flaky employees), Belk (on my single purchase), LL Bean (shouldn't be a surprise).

So today, I decided to put my customer service chops to the test. This was inspired by a post on Ann Taylor at Une Femme d'un Certain Age (see blogroll to the right), which featured a very nice scarf. One commenter noted that the website didn't specify the fabric blend, so i decided to call the 800 # and ask. And I could not get through. And I tried twice. ByeBye Ann Taylor. Fix your phone system. There was no way to get an operator.

Then, I tried Garnet Hill. Miss Em and I wanted to buy a dress that is on special till Sept 15 from $68 to $48. This dress was very popular last year; it sold out, and there were many laments on-line: please bring back the dress! So I checked and discovered that "Yet once more" (quoted from the pastoral elegy "Lycidas" by John Milton) the dress was sold out in black and gray. And, no, Miss Em and I do NOT want rhubarb or blue. The site said "Limited to stock on hand." OK, but I just got my catalog with the sale price a few days ago.

So I tried the on-line chat. First try: disconnected. Second try: operator said that they were sold out with no back order date. I asked for a "rain check," saying that I knew it had sold out last year and that the sale price was good till Sept 15. I said I knew this was not their normal practice, but that the dress sold out within just a few days, blahblahblah. Answer: Sorry, we don't give rain checks.

Honestly, labor costs are so low that I bet GH makes a big profit even when the dress is on sale. So, for a rain check the company could have had my undying gratitude plus a 2 dress sale. Plus future sales. Did I go too far in my request? Should GH have accommodated my request?

Bad customer service from Hamilton Books a few years ago led to a complete boycott on my part.

Ditto for Dell Computer. I will NEVER have anything to do with that company again.

I don't think my Garnet Hill chat qualifies as bad customer service. But it does not qualify as good customer service. What do you think? Was I too demanding? Were they too inflexible? Did GH miss a chance to go the extra mile? Just wondering....


Duchesse said...

Frugal, as I understand the charming term "raincheck" I, the customer, expect the vendor to give me the sale price if they run out of the advertised item before the end of the sale.

I don't think there's any sense to "rainchecks" for a retailer: they are no longer clearing unsold inventory- so why sell new stock on sale? They have to make money.

I can see exceptions,e.g., a grocery store advertizes a promotion and the vendor is late supplying the item, so they give the raincheck.

Sometimes the inverse happens: retailers have so few of the sale item that customers believe it is false advertising: you go to the store only to find they have run out- a form of "bait and switch".

I think sometimes we confuse "service" with "discounts". GH has always given me very good service.

As far as asking goes, I sometimes ask if an item will go on sale, but for sized things like dresses, know I'm taking a chance. Now my main question is "Is there a senior's discount?" and believe me that one feels odd, LOL.

Funny about Money said...

I think in our state a retailer has to give a rain check if an advertised on-sale product runs out. That's because bait & switch used to be a standard operating practice around here.

When I was a new bride, my parents went into Sears to buy me a sewing machine, the groom being so tight he wouldn't even allow me to buy new underwear, to say nothing of dresses and separates. They'd seen a serviceable Kenmore machine on sale. Of course the advertised model was not in stock, so they were upsold to a more expensive model that they really couldn't afford. Sears was one of the worst offenders... The result was legislation.

I feel very strongly about customer service, myself. I won't do business with companies that dispense customer disservice, whether over the phone, online, or in person.

Chance said...

Dell. I even hear the word Dell and I start fuming, even now, 5 years after I decided to boycott them forevah. Suckholes.

In the modern day, I think catalogs should advertise sales and specials on their websites only so that when they run out they can just take down the page. You can't pull the catalog back. GH has always been good to me. I cut them some slack on the basis on previous excellent customer service.

See, this is another reason to do good service, people talk.

Agreed with Funny. Sears is infamous for bait and switch.

Duchesse said...

Funny, re "the groom being so tight he wouldn't even allow me to buy new underwear, to say nothing of dresses and separates"- are you still married to him?

Funny about Money said...

Duchesse: Nope!

In spite of his having convinced himself that the little woman was gunna spend all his precious pennies, he already owned a pile of revolving debt when we married (I was debt-free at the time). Twenty years later we were three-quarters of a million dollars in debt, about a half-million of it to a lender to which he had given his personal guarantee so that his crooked partners could buy the law firm's building.

Luckily, one of the senior partner's wives insisted that the contract they all signed have a proviso exempting all wives' sole & separate property. So when the bank called the loan, the small inheritance an aunt had left me was exempt, as was all my mother's furniture.

We were tens of thousands of dollars into credit cards, and he had no idea where the money went.

But otherwise, he was a nice man...

Funny about Money said...

oops: plural senior partner: senior partners' wives.

Though they did all have several wives. Litigators tend to be serial marriers.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Guess what! The dress has returned. And Miss Em and I don't want it any more....Strange, becuase if they had offered the raincheck, I would have placed the order then and there.

@Funny--You MUST write your autobiography.

@Chance--How can Dell stay in business? I have forgiven GH, also.