True stories with a twist!



It’s a ho hum subject. But we talk about it all the time, almost always in negative way.

We see salespeople standing behind counters gossiping to fellow staffers or sending texts to invisible friends.  We see salespeople glance anywhere but at customers, hoping to avoid helping them.

A satisfied customer will tell a friend or two about a positive experience but an unhappy customer will tell nine people about a negative experience.

Within the course of two days I had two diametrically opposing experiences that shouted out the differences in attitude toward customers between two small local businesses.

Yesterday, one of the stormy, rainy days that has overwhelmed May of 2011, my friends and I attended “Don Quixote” at the American Ballet Theater at Lincoln Center. We hired a driver to take us into the city and arranged for him to pick us up at 4:45 PM.

When the last encore ended, we trudged out to meet the car.  NYU’s graduation was also taking place, and the area was filled with graduates, their parents, and a medley of other attendees. Also present was the endless rain. What was not present was our driver.

So we called the company. “Your driver just exited the Lincoln Tunnel. He’ll meet you in ten minutes. ” Twenty minutes later we called again. “He’s inching his way toward you but battling heavy rush hour traffic.” In another fifteen minutes we called again to be told, “He’s right on the corner of your location, one block away, stuck behind a disabled truck. He’ll be there any minute. ” A half hour later, soaked, cold and frustrated, we called again. This time the operator screamed, “I have five other calls to take. Stop harassing me with your calls. Do not call this office again!”

It was obvious to us that the driver’s true location bore no resemblance to the “pretend” location we were given.

This Morristown based Taxi company lost all future business from any of us in that group. They also lost business from any people we know or have ever met! Lateness can be excused if the customer is treated with dignity, given an apology and an understandable reason for the delay. Their being almost an hour late and treating us rudely and as if the lateness were our fault is absurd. This is no way to attract new customers and build a good reputation as a new business in Morristown.

In contrast, this morning I received a lovely phone call from David of David’s Jewelry in Florham Park. “There’s a problem with the necklace you brought in for restringing,” he began.

“Here we go again,” I think, still smarting from yesterday’s experience. He continues, “I thought only one small section of the four strand piece needed to be restrung, but my stringer looked at it and said that the entire necklace has to be restrung.”

“That means quadruple the price of what one section would have cost”, I think.

Then David says, “I take full responsibility and I will honor the first price. I will absorb the full price of the restringing and charge you for only one of the four strands, just as I wrote in the estimate.”

I was shocked. I don’t think anyone expects to be treated civilly any more.

This kind, generous attitude of standing behind his original word was reassuring, and showed a dependable and trustworthy entrepreneur.

In this single act, David has won a life long customer.

This is the model that businesses should adopt if they want to build up a loyal clientele.

Ronnie Hammer

May 2011

Several businesses have responded to this article and would like to add their names to the list of responsible businesses that respect customer rights.

Among them are Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Vital Choice Seafood.

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