Monday, October 31, 2005

Bad Customer Service, Part II

It happened again. Poor customer service is the norm these days, but I feel that I have to take a moment to mention exceptionally poor customer service.

Some quick background: A few months back, I bought a file cabinet. The bottoms of the drawers were made of a cardboard-like material that could support about 1 or 2 pounds for a few weeks before buckling and splitting in two. Having this knowledge in hand, I proceeded to put about 10 or 15 pounds in each drawer and hope for the best.

Well, this weekend, the proverbial straw finally broke the camel’s back and my drawer's bottom. I was sort of expecting this, so I knew that when the time came, I'd simply go to Home Depot, get some sort of panel board, and re-build the bottoms of the drawers. So off to the Depot I went, thinking this would be a simple, uncomplicated trip. Wrong, wrong, wrong…

Upon entering the store, I make my way over to the wood section, gawking that they already have Christmas trees on display! I quickly find the boards that I need, and begin my search for an employee. They must know when you're looking for them, as when you don’t need one, you will have at least 3 or 4 of them ask you for help. Finally, after waiting in an ad-hoc queue, I got my turn.

"Hi, I need these two boards cut down to 12 ½ inches by 26 ½ inches please."

"No, not today."

"Why not?"

"Our saw is broken."

"Don't you, like, sell saws here, too?"

"Yes, they are different."

"But the ones you sell – they cut wood, no?"

"Yes."

"So not THAT different."

"No, but ours is broken…"

This went on for a couple more minutes, as I could tell that some other customers were quite amused by the irony I was pointing out. I can’t imagine that I was the only one who needed a piece of wood cut that weekend, and for them to simply accept the fact that their saw was busted is just poor customer service at its best. Luckily for me, I have a good neighbor who has every tool under the sun. He gladly helped me out and cut the boards down to size in just a few seconds. They fit perfectly, and my file cabinet is now back up and running, so to speak.

Competition has its benefits. It fosters alternatives and good service. Take away competition, and there goes the alternatives and good service. The Home Depot that I frequent is just a couple of miles from my house. The nearest Lowe’s are anywhere from 9 to 13 miles away. Not really that far distance-wise, but if you know the DC area, you understand that a drive from Vienna to either Sterling or Alexandria on a weekend day takes most of that weekend day. It's all about travel time, not distance.

The people at the Home Depot know this too: no matter how poor their service is, its still better than dealing with the Mixing Bowl or the Dulles Toll Road.

Thus, another day, another miserable customer service story. This one doesn't have as happy an ending as my other one, as I will likely go back to that Home Depot many times in the future, because it is just so close and convenient. If someone from Lowe's is reading this, you now know where your next store needs to be…

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is nuts!!! Good story. Congrats on the new biz!

Anonymous said...

Why are you even bothering with a big chain store? I am sure there are small businesses out there more willin g to go out tof their way to help and probably even provide better advice than someone unmotivated on minimum wage...

The moral of the story should really be doing business with people who you can meaningfully interact with, whether is computer hardware or handman hareware or any other products and services...

Scott said...

Why are you even bothering with a big chain store?

I typically go to the local hardware store, which is closer and the staff is always willing to help, but I didn't think that they would have what I needed - thus, I sucked it up and went where I knew I would at least find the materials.

The moral of the story should really be doing business with people who you can meaningfully interact with...

I agree 100%, and will always go back to places that do have good customer service, even if they are further away and/or cost a little bit more.

Tysons Jeep, the place where I bought my Grand Cherokee, is a good example of a business who values customer service. They are always willing to go the extra mile, stay open a little later, explain what they did, etc. I'll even take my car there for oil changes once in a while, as I know that if something is really wrong, they will let me know.

- Scott -

John Scott said...

That reminds me of the time I was looking for a door hinge for a refridgerator and none of the "big" supply stores had any. I eventually found a little Olde Worlde type of hardware store that sells everything under the sun and the conversation went a little like this -

Me: "I'm looking door hinge for a concealed fridge"
Him: "A what?"
Me: "A hinge....for a fridge door"
Him: "Why do you want one of those? Don't they normally come with the fridge?"
Me: "yes....but mine broke....I need a new one"
Him: "Oh I see....what sort of hinge is it?"
Me: "like this" (I pull out the broken hinge
Him: "Oh...one of THOSE!"
Me: "yes!"
Him: "We don't sell those, you'll have a hard time trying to find one of those, we get loads of people coming in trying to buy those"

I never could understand why he didn't try and stock them since there was obviously a huge demand for them.

Scott said...

John,

And THAT reminds me of some bad customer service via software: The ATM/Money Machine here is the only one on the planet that doesn't take my bank card. It took me some time to figure this out, as I would enter my PIN, it would accept it, then I would select my Checking Account, then select an Amount, agree to the $2 fee, and then - ONLY THEN - would it say "Transaction Cancelled".

I called my bank, and they were equally perplexed at this. Finally, after dialing in and accessing my account over the phone and also logging in to the bank's web site we were able to conclude that the ATM in this building is truly useless to me.

Lesson learned: bring cash to work if I want to eat.

- Scott -

Joanne said...

Very funny Home Depot story - been through the exact same experience there - baffling. I recall one old hardware store in Vienna next to the Vienna Inn, is that still there? Out here in Purcellville, we have Nichols and they have a little of everything, are really helpful, and will order anything they don't have. The only bad thing about the place is the people who come in in such a hurry that they huff and puff in line too impatient to wait for the owner to finish telling a sometimes lengthy but always amusing story. I sure hope they can survive the box store invasion...

Scott said...

I recall one old hardware store in Vienna next to the Vienna Inn, is that still there?

I don't believe so. There is still Stallcup's, which may be what you're talking about. They are now next to the Jammin Java, and I try to go there for the basics, as they are less crowded, it doesn't take 20 mins to find a spot, and its nice to support the local businesses.

- Scott -

Anonymous said...

I sent this to their “online, customer service” department… Don’t expect a response though….

I was just at your Ashburn VA store and had the absolute WORST customer services experience EVER. It started when I asked the customer service person to get an associate to help answer my questions regarding a lawn mower. Keep in mind that the store is not all that busy considering it is the middle of the day. I waited at least 15 min. and no one showed up…. I went back to the CS desk and asked to speak to the store manager; I waited and waited at least 20 minutes more Your store manager never showed up, the lady at the customer service desk (at the time) finally gave up and left… (Went to lunch, I know this because I saw her returning from lunch when I left the store (sometime later).

I went back to the service desk and someone else called for the manager….. A few minutes later 2 men showed up, one never identified himself and the other said (when asked if he were the manager) replied “no…Not really.. when I told him I wanted to speak to a manager, because I had been waiting for such a long time he said “Well I am here now, what can I do for you” he answered 1 of my questions and told me to call the manufacture regarding the second ( the question was regarding the belt for the mower that I just purchased a week ago, from the same store)…. By the way, he never thought about appolaging for any inconvenience.


It is important that you know this because while I was waiting no less then 2 customers left the store in disgust. The last time I check stores don’t last long with BAD customer service. I remember Home Depot winning over customers from Hechinger’s because their CS was so poor. Now t looks like Lowes will take from Home Depot.

I have always been a loyal customer to home depot, after this; not any more…. I will drive farther and go to Lowes.