As writers, consumers, we excel at telling our nightmare stories. I saw a statistic once that said that a dissatisfied customer tells nine others, while a satisfied customer only tells three.
Last Thursday my wife announced that our almost fifteen year old refrigerator was slowly defrosting everything inside it. With a family of five, this is not economically a good thing to happen so we decided to try and find a new fridge at about 7:30 in the evening.
We started our search at the Lowes (Higley & US60, Mesa, AZ) that has earned thousands of dollars of my business. We found a suitable model and flagged down the salesperson. My wife did what any good consumer should do and asked for a better price. The sales person said they couldn’t do anything, but pointed to the person that could. Maybe at this point I should have whistled and waved the thirteen hundred dollars in cash I had in the air. This other person was busy talking to another couple about a front loading washer and dryer, so we waited and discussed where else we’d look if we couldn’t make the right deal here. When finally intercepted, he, without even looking at us, acknowledging our existence, yelled “NO” loud enough for us to hear. My wife made a rather loud enough for him to hear comment about acknowledging customers and politeness. Looks like I’ll start spending my home improvement dollars at Home Depot!
Our next stop was at the right down the street at Best Buy. After a few minutes we located a model that would suit our needs and found a salesperson. “We can’t deliver until Saturday, probably Monday at the soonest.” No bridges burned, delivery won’t work. Our salesperson did mention that as far as he knew, only Spencers and Sears had next day delivery and actually looked up the location of Spencers while making several unsolicited remarks about their pricing. I was in sales and it’s considered unprofessional to make disparaging remarks about your competitors.
As we climbed in the car to head to Spencers, I mentioned that Sears (Superstition Springs Mall) was almost next door, so we headed that way. As we walked in, they announced that the store would close in 15 minutes. We walked through aisles of $2100 refrigerators, the only models we saw in our price range were the stripped down basics, until we were about to leave. We saw a discontinued model, a floor model, double doors, in door water and ice and to top it off, stainless steel doors! Oh yes, on sale for only $750!
We found Irma and showed her what we wanted. To our dismay she said the earliest it could be delivered was Saturday. We resigned ourselves to a day or so of using dry ice and moved forward. Irma mentioned that the computer said there were still new models in the warehouse and we could have one of them for only $50 more, we decided on the new one. Delivery was arranged, we would receive confirmation calls Friday evening and again Saturday morning. We paid the $830 or so in CASH for what had originally been a $1200+ model, happy with our decision.
Twenty pounds of dry ice later our limping along refrigerator was again cooling down. Friday evening we received the anticipated confirmation call, dry ice still keeping things crazy cold. Saturday morning the call came, a voice mail from the warehouse, “sorry but that model is not in stock anymore, you’ll need to come in and select a different model, we’ve canceled your order.” My wife and I looked at each other, no, this couldn’t be happening.
We climbed in the car and headed straight to Sears, rather perturbed at the message, we had things to do, lots of things. As we walked into appliances we saw Irma. We explained the situation and she checked the computer, it said there were units in the warehouse. She called and they explained it to her. “They canceled your order and you should receive your refund CHECK in 7-14 days. We explained that we’d been limping along since Thursday with dry ice because they’d promised delivery today. We explained that a refund check was unacceptable when we’d paid cash so we were either leaving here today with our CASH or another refrigerator, no other options were acceptable. Irma tried several more calls, I finally asked where the Store Managers office was and l headed immediately in that direction.
Irma could only do what Irma could do, she was a salesperson with limited authority. We needed someone with the authority to actually get something done. Laurie, the most senior person available that Saturday was aware of the situation and started making calls. She confirmed that the warehouse said there was stock available. My wife and I explained that we’d both served time in retail, me in management and we sympathized with their situation, it was a data error, not personal. Maybe this more than anything eased the situation with Laurie.
An hour or so later we walked out the door, happy with Irma, happy with Laurie and ultimately happy with Sears. It would be unfair and unthankful to Laurie to reveal the details. Our floor model, reduced a bit more because of the problem refrigerator arrived a few hours later and works great.
I want to thank Laurie and those that worked with her to solve our problem, this is what customer service is supposed to be about. It’s really too bad Sears doesn’t carry more home improvement supplies because Lowes, my old standby, burned their bridge.