Customer Service

I’ve come to have fairly low expectations, but sometimes a store will surpass them in ways I hadn’t imagined.

On Friday I ordered a sewing machine at sears.com. It was a slightly complex order as I was paying with my father’s credit card because it was a gift from him (he always lets me pick out my own, which I love). I got through checkout with no problems, selecting in-store pickup. After the sale was completed and the card charged, there was a note about bringing the credit card to the store for pickup. Well, crap, I thought. As there was absolutely no option given anywhere on the site-or in my confirmation email-to change the shipping options, I decided to go to the store and see what happened.

When you get to the pickup area at Sears (at least the one on Santa Monica near Western), there is a touchscreen computer that talks, loudly, instructing you on how to sign in. It asks you to scan the barcode on your receipt (my emailed receipt didn’t have one) or insert the credit card used for purchase…OR, “if you do not have your credit card or receipt,” to enter your name to search for your order. I think this bears repeating: the loud computer told me it was OK to not have my credit card.

Once you’ve signed in, your name appears on a screen which counts how long you have waited. After about two and a half minutes (well under their stated goal of five minutes) a young man appeared at the door (which, by the way, was kept locked, with the windows papered over) and asked me for my credit card and receipt. He did not, incidentally, distinguish between me and the other man who was waiting, just demanded my paperwork gruffly. I asked him to clarify whose order was ready and he said, “Yours.” Okaaaay. So I tell him that I have a receipt, but no purchasing credit card. This swiftly turns into a game wherein I try to explain the situation and he appears to listen, then asks me for the purchasing credit card. I became extremely frustrated; he refused to give me my merchandise. This would have been fine (if annoying), since it appears to be sears.com and store policy to require the purchasing card in order to pickup merchandise; I would probably have gone home and figured out a way to change it to home delivery, a waste of time but one which doesn’t even require ID last I used it; I might have written a complaint about the loud machine’s contradictory statements, but I probably would not have bothered. As I say, it would have been fine-but he was rude and would not listen to what I had to say. I asked to speak to a manager.

And proceded to wait for twenty minutes. Possibly longer. Which was not reflected in their customer service time-I still showed up as assisted in under three minutes. Ha ha.

When the manager finally showed up, he really didn’t listen to me either-because his only concern was whether I had some ID so that he could photocopy it to keep a record of who picked up the merchandise. He was polite and efficient and I was out of their in moments, with the sewing machine. I stress that I merely wanted someone to listen to me, not to bend the rules for me, though I am quite pleased that he saw that I clearly was not mounting some elaborate scam to liberate Sears of their sewing machine inventory. I also understand the the first man did not have the power to bend the rules. However, he did have the power to listen to me, and he refused.

I don’t think it was asking too much.

Here’s another one: This morning my husband and I drove to Santa Monica and went window shopping on the Promenade. We had a lovely time at the Puzzle Zoo (anyone know what’s going on with the remodel?) and wandered down, enjoying the lack of crowds at ten in the morning. I wanted a drink and my husband hadn’t had any coffee, so we stopped at Seattle’s Best-not the one in Border’s, but the stand-alone. My husband ordered a Latte and I ordered an iced soy chai. This used to be my regular drink, before I mostly gave up caffeine, and I was having it as a treat. But the cashier looked confused, and the other cashier leaned over and yelled at me that there isn’t any milk in an iced chai. Now, this was not the case the last time I had one. I know Starbucks and most of the other shops use a liquid concentrate while Seattle’s Best uses a powder (which, it occurs to me, probably already contains cow milk, but that’s fine because I am not vegan), but they have always added milk, as that is what makes it a Chai Latte, which is what it’s called on their menu. I could be wrong about the makeup of the drink, but I am fairly confident that it’s powder, hot water, and milk-steamed for a hot drink, poured over ice for a cold one. And I merely wanted them to use soy milk instead of regular. Instead I was spoken to the way some people speak to children-as though I am slow and not really worth explaining things to. She yelled and was mean, and I did not get any drink at all.

On the other hand, I was very impressed when I used the bathroom at Toys R Us in Burbank (the one on Voctory near Chandler) and saw that they keep a well-stocked chest of drawers with diapers and wipes for customer use. I sent a spy into the men’s room and there was one there as well, which is nothing short of a miracle. Imagine! Daddies change diapers too! While I am pretty obnoxious about using cloth diapers only, an emergency is an emergency and I applaud Toys R Us.

4 Replies to “Customer Service”

  1. Customer Service is key and it’s really amazing how few companies really emphasize that. Listen to your customers and do everything in your power to help people.

  2. Several years ago, a friend of mine worked at a phone center in Denver that was responsible for incoming customer service calls for Sears retail stores. Would it surprise you to know that the Sears store on Santa Monica had the worst customer service record of any Sears in the country? That was a long time ago, but I still avoid that Sears like the plague.

    Anyway, the thing that rankles me most about customer service issues like that is that all of those people would be mad if they received the same level of service that they provide. It’s funny how people can’t recognize ill behavior in themselves.

  3. That does not surprise me at all. I have been avoiding the store for three years (we bought our fridge there) and only selected it because I had to pick my husband up and it was on the way. Stupid! Oh well- thanks for the validation.

  4. Totally agree with you…almost 15y ago now, when I was interviewing for my 1st real job out of college, for an ad agency in LA (suits REQUIRED), I went out, at the suggestion of my father-in-law-to-be, to JCPenny’s or Robinson’s or some such store that sold reasonably priced men’s suits. After wandering around for a good 15m in the suits with my wife-to-be…NOTHING, not even a glance. The sales guys ran the other direction….sooo…..I wandered into Nordstroms, penniless college grad, wearing jeans and sneaks…and….got the best service ever, not only did they get me a good suit (that I still wear, mind you), but, they waived the express alteration fee and had it ready for me to pick up the next night for an interview the following day. I’ve never shopped for suits anywhere else (and I’m happy to pay a premium for this type of service).

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