Sunday, August 21, 2011

Customer Service Will Cost You in the End

Dear Jimmy,

Since my very first trip to the UK, I've grumbled about the lack of customer service. During said first trip, my sister asked if she could have onion on her cheese sandwich (we are very alike in many ways, a love of cheese sandwiches being one. The ability to function in society in an effective manner is where we differ, but that is another letter. Moving on.). The waitress looked a bit flummoxed and said, "There's onion on the salad, orrite?" to which my sister replied, "I know, could you also put onion on the sandwich?" The response was "We can't do that." Really? It's onion, it's all ready cut, just put some on the bread! We come, not from a land down under, but a land that guarantees that if you want a dog turd on a doughnut and are willing to pay for such, your wish will be granted. The customer is always right. The customer is king. That attitude is not just in retail either, we use it everywhere every day. If someone is walking through the office looking a bit lost, you help them find the correct cubicle in the maze of prairie dog homes in which we work. And so on.

I got used to being ignored when walking into a UK store and even dealt with the fact I would not be acknowledged until after my purchase was rung up on the register and money was demanded. I might then receive a thank you, I might not. I could do an entire day of shopping as a mime (with a beret but without the horizontal stripes as they are not flattering) and no one behind the counter would be the wiser - at least until I did the "pulling the rope" or "help, I'm trapped in a box." "Hrmph!" I mutter as I stalk out the store, "What this country needs is a store with great customer service that caters to the customer." Then I shopped at Harrod's (Harold's) and their customer service was exactly what I was used to (annoying or not, it was still comforting) - employees would ask if you needed assistance or provide a simple acknowledgment your presence on Earth with a nod or even a hello. Pretty simple stuff.

But there's a new owner of Harrod's and things have changed, and not for the better. As I struggled to find the bookstore (there's a lack of bookstores in London! Someone get on that!) I happened to stop in the Fine Furniture department as I saw a piece I really liked. I knew the logistics of me purchasing a piece of Fine Furniture from Harrod's was not practical - obviously it would have to be shipped, which is inconvenient and slow, and the fact the overall cost would be more than the Nap-Law estate is worth in today's marketplace. However, the sales staff did not know any of these internal debates nor my financial worth. As I looked at the Fine Furniture piece, the salesman yelled (yelled!) over, "Ya'lright?", which I interpreted as "Are you in need of my assistance, madam?", to which I replied in as haughty a manner as my travel-stained blue jeans, funny hair and randomly applied mascara would allow, "I am in no need of your services, thank you. 'Tis a lovely piece."

The best customer service I had during my latest visit? At the dumpiest souvenir shop near Victoria Station. I had need of the cheesiest London souvenir in existence and they had it. The man behind the counter welcomed me with a hello and let me go about my browsing. When I brought my cheesy purchases (which it must be noted, had nothing at all to do with cheese) to the counter he smiled, rang up my purchase and said, "Thank you, madam. Here is your change." I felt like a queen and I was glad his store got my money, even if it was only a few pounds. I only wish he'd been selling Fine Furniture as I might have actually bought the piece.

All for now, more later.

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