Black Friday Success

As a man who feels himself in charge of his own destiny, I have developed a set of rules that help me to more effectively enjoy life.  For the most part, if I do not want to do something, and it does not hurt my family, then I do not do it.  For instance, I do not do garage sales.  I find them to be an extreme whipping, and I would rather just give my old useless stuff to a deserving charity.  So, I do.  Another activity that I have chosen not to take part in is the greatest shopping day of the year, also known as Black Friday. 

This year, I have been completing the game room in my home.  This includes a beautiful bar with a pub theme, a couch, bookshelves and seating.  The only thing that was missing was a television.  The plan had been to wait until I received this year’s tax refund, and buy an LCD HDTV, which would be my first.  However, after reviewing our finances, my wife and I had decided to buy one for Christmas, and finish out the room.

We traveled to my in-laws’ house on Wednesday, and prepared for a long Thanksgiving weekend with our little girl receiving loads of attention.  However, when we told my father-in-law of the plan to purchase a television, he went into internet action. 

I had looked at some prices in the past week, and had decided that I would probably be buying an off-brand 40 inch, 1080P for around $800-$900.  My father-in-law, being a veteran after Thanksgiving shopper knew that I had an opportunity to save a significant amount of money.

He looked at several sales, including online sales, and found some good buys.  Then, he ran across the sales ad for Sears.  It had several great buys on televisions.  I was interested in the 46 inch Sharp 1080P LCD HDTV for $899.00.  This was a $500.00 savings, and suddenly I found myself more motivated.

Unfortunately, my in-laws live about 80 miles from the nearest Sears, so my wife and I got up at 3:00 a.m. and set out for Lawton, OK.  First, I needed gas, and that meant finding a station that would sell it to me in Altus.  After three attempts, I obtained gas, and, more importantly, coffee, and we were on our way.

I began to get worried when I passed a Wal-Mart on the outskirts of Lawton at about 4:00 a.m., a full hour before their sale was to begin.  The parking lot way already half full.  Then about 4:20 we got to the mall, and saw that J.C. Penny which opened at 4:00 a.m. was already a madhouse.

We drove around the corner to the Sears, and I felt a little better when I saw the line waiting outside was not too long.  We placed ourselves in the line in the 40 degree weather behind about 60 people, and I was sure that they were all there to buy my television.  As time drew on, the line grew to the end of the building, curved down another wall, and then out of sight around another corner of the building.

The store opened promptly at 5:00 a.m. and the crowd briskly dispersed throughout the store.  We went directly to the televisions.  When we got there, there were already about 50 people roaming around, and grabbing the tags that referenced the various televisions.  We made a great decision when we decided to seek out a salesperson first.  We went to the register where the sales people were quickly devising a plan for dealing with the mayhem.  Their plan was to simply to form a line at each register and deal with the customers two at a time (one at each register).  Luckily the line just materialized behind us, and we ended up being third in line.

I paid close attention, and quickly realized that we had a problem.  The first question that the man at the register asked was what the SKU# was.  We had simply printed the front page of the ad off the internet, and the small print was illegible.  Therefore, I sent my wife in search of the correct SKU# and prayed that she would find it quickly.  She found the only Sharp 46 inch 1080P LCD HDTV on display, and quickly returned with the number.  The man looked it up and said that there were four in stock.  We were relieved and completed the transaction.  He informed us where we needed to go to find the Customer Pick-up department.

We drove around, and easily found the loading area with one empty space still available.  I did not plan this as a commercial for Sears, but let me say, their pick-up department has its ducks in a row.  There was a nice man there who showed me where the machine was that I needed to scan my receipt through.  There was a beep, and I looked up to see my name on a screen just like at an airport.  It showed how many people were in front of me (four), and how long I had waited.

We were waiting patiently when tragedy stuck.  My wife looked at the receipt and realized that we had been charged $1296.00 for the television that was supposed to cost $899.00.  I felt a little sick.  I suddenly had visions of the lines that we had left- the ones that had about fifty people in them apiece when we left several minutes earlier.

I showed the receipt and the ad to the nice man who had helped us a few minutes earlier, and he offered to get the dock manager for me.  The dock manager, Robert, quickly determined that I had bought the wrong Sharp 46 inch 1080P LCD HDTV.  There were two different ones.  I felt sick again because I knew it was my own fault.  I quickly developed an exit strategy.  I would just get my money back, admit defeat, and buy another television that we saw on Amazon.com that was a 42 inch Sony for the same price.  However, before I could even say a thing, Robert said, “Come this way, I can fix this.”  He quickly reversed the charges on the first television and sold us the new one.  After thanking both men profusely, we were loaded and on the road in only about five more minutes.  We drove back to my in-laws’ house and climbed back into bed at about 7:00 a.m.

Success.

Customer Service

I have always been big on customer service.   I work in a service industry and I am proud of the service that I provide for my customers and my customer service skills.  I must confess that there are times when I may have not shown the greatest skills in customer service.  For example, there was the time when I owned my own business that I told a nun to take her “laptop and get the f*** out!”  It should be noted that as a businessman I had already broken several of my own business policies in an attempt to give this particular person extraordinary service.  Suffice it to say that if Jesus were indeed married to this particular woman, it would explain why he spends so much time in heaven.  I do hate an ingrate, but I can say that I probably could have handled the situation better at the time…, maybe.  So, disclaimers aside, I thought I would deal with the issue of good customer service, and treating a customer well in today’s post.

As I drove to work this morning thinking about this, I was transported back to high school over twenty years ago.  I remember working at a Minyard’s Food Store as a bagger when I was in high school.  It was a nice and growing experience.  I remember once when there was an incentive program to encourage employees to be courteous to customers.  If an employee was seen by the manager doing something extra in the form of customer service for a customer, the employee received a star on a button.  At the end of the program, the employee with the most stars got $50.  I still remember going to the back of the store and getting a chair for an old woman to sit in while she waited for her ride to pick her up after shopping.  That particular $50 seemed to spend better than the other money I earned after I won it.

I also remember an episode of bad customer service that happened to me during this time.  We closed the store at night, and were usually finished cleaning up around 1:00 a.m.  Since we had only had one 15 minute break since 5:00 p.m., most of the guys I worked with were hungry when we got off work.  Lucky for us, the only fast food restaurant in town that was open that late, a Burger King, was in our parking lot.  I usually gave a couple of the guys a ride home, so on the way out we would swing through the drive-through and pick up a few burgers.  The other benefit was the fact that two or three of the local hotties worked the late shift at the Burger King, and we would flirt with them.  We did this pretty much every night, and honestly, we were the only business that they had between 12:30 and 2:00 when they closed.

In high school, there were times when I could be a bit of a knucklehead, and one night I decided to put my knuckleheadedness to work for me.  On that evening, knowing that the particular hottie that I liked the best was working, I decided it would be cool if I drove through the drive-through backward.  We did this without incident, and when we got to the window, there she was with a sweet little giggle.  I could tell she really thought it was funny, as did the other employees, except for the manager.  He walked over to the window, and yelled at me saying, “If you guys ever do this again, we won’t serve you.”  Here I was, his only business, and he was threatening me.  I looked right at him and said, “You won’t have to worry about that” (I really think this college-age punk was just jealous that we were pulling away some of the attention from his bevy of high school hotties).  To this day, I’ve never been back to that particular Burger King, and I subconsciously choose the other burger joint whenever I see a Burger King and another fast food place together.

When I was in college, I received a crash course (almost literally) in customer service when I road Greyhound one weekend to go home from school.  It was bad enough that the bus took 10 hours to make a 3 hour trip, but I swear the driver was on methamphetamine as he drove, and I was not the only one of the passengers to notice.  I stowed my baggage, and watched them put it on the cargo hold.  It held almost all of my cloths which, like any college student, I was bringing home to be cleaned for free.  The baggage was labeled as mine.  The ride was truly frightening, and I was glad when we got to my destination in Denton.  It had been obvious for most of the trip that the driver was running behind, and that he would have used a hyper drive to make the bus go even fast if it had been available to him.  When we got to Denton, he played his customer service card.  He informed the ten or so of us that there was no record of our luggage on his paperwork.  This, of course was a lie.  He simply did not want to take the time to get our luggage off the bus.  It told him which baggage compartment my luggage was in, and that it was labeled with my information.  He refused to even look for it.  Since most of my worldly possessions consisted of clothes at this time, I was reluctant to lose them in this manner.  It told him that I would not leave the bus until he looked for my stuff.  He actually touched me trying to get me off the bus at one point, but quickly let go, and threatened to call the cops.  Eventually, I relented.  I wish to this day that I had pushed it further and seen what the highway patrol would have had to say to him…, or me.

Of course, it was a holiday weekend, and my mom had to drive me to down-town Dallas, and spend about four hours of the weekend that I wanted to use for rest and recuperation retrieving my luggage.  They did not even offer an apology.  I informed my parents that we would be finding me transportation or I would not be going back to school.  It was an empty threat because I liked school, but it worked.  I have never considered riding the bus anywhere since then.  In fact, I will go out of my way to tell people of the awful service I received from Greyhound.  Don’t ever user this company (how’s that?).

I guess the best example that I can find has to do with car maintenance.  Since I was in high school, Just Brakes has run commercials touting brake service for $100 for each set of brakes.  Anyone who has ever been to this place knows it is a lie. 

I had to get my brakes done one day, and I could not get a ride, so I was stuck at Just Brakes for several hours waiting for the work to be completed.  I proceeded to watch them up-charge every person who came through the door.  It was shameful.  The pitch was the same every time.  They would insist on replacing the same “worn-out” items on each car that they serviced (including mine).  It was fascinating that every car regardless of make, model or year would have the same problems with their brake systems.  For instance, they recommended replacing a particular spring on every car that came in.  The spring was $30 and the labor was extra.  As the day wore on, I watched every person who came through the door get charged over $600 to get their brakes done.  Anyone who balked at the price was told that if they did not have all of the recommended service done to their cars, then Just Brakes would not warranty them.  Of course, Just Brakes had already done work and labor by this time, so they had these people (including myself) over a barrel.  I thought about refusing the warranty, but something about the people who ran this particular outfit made me think that doing so would simply make me a good candidate for the example they needed to scare everyone into paying their fees.  You know, the guy who did not pay for the warranty, and oops, his brake line was worn out, came apart and led to his untimely death.  So, I sat there awaiting my fate like a WWII gypsy, and when my turn came, I paid their exorbitant fee.  But, I determined never to go there again, and I encourage you, unless you like to be lied to and have your money stolen not to use them either.

A good mechanic is hard to find, but since I found one, and his service is the best example I have ever seen of consistent, great service combined with a fair price, I will mention him here.  The business is 40-M Tire and Alignment in Lewisville, Texas (He does more than just tires and alignments).  His great service, often doing things such as plugging a tire for free, has led me to recommend him to every person that I know.  My whole family and many friends still use him.  I will still drive the 40 miles to get service from him if it is possible, and I can even trust him not to take advantage of my mother’s lack of automobile knowledge.  He treats her very well, often refusing payment for his services.

The best example of great service from him occurred when I was getting some work done to my vehicle.  I asked to have the front brakes done, an alignment, and an oil change.  On the way out the door, I remembered that I needed to get an inspection that month so I asked him for that also.  He said that the rest would be no problem, but that he did not do inspections.  I said, “Ok, just do the other stuff.”  He called me before 12:00 noon that day and told me my vehicle was ready.  When I went to pick it up, he said, “I went ahead and took it down the street and got it inspected for you.”  He did not even charge me anything extra!  Now that’s service!  And, this was all coming from a guy whose lot you could barely park in because of the amount of business he did.  I guess there was a reason for that.

 

If you have customer service stories (good or bad), please feel free to tell me (and the world)about it in the form of a comment.