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March 8th, 2000

The lack of good customer service.

My friend Greg recently reminded me that there once was a time when people made livings on customer service in retail stores. Today, it’s a job dominated by 16 year olds.

I wonder if that’s what has affected the quality of customer service nowadays. As Ryan’s recent Pings demonstrate, it stinks! The customer is truly given the shaft when it comes to anything. You need a product? Get it yourself. You want help? Well, okay, if you insist. There are very, very few companies that actually encourage a solid customer service policy.

I found out recently that Sears, which is one of my favorite stores, isn’t one of them. It was about quarter to 9 the other night when I stopped by my "local" (15 miles away) Sears to buy some new shoes. By the time I made a choice, it was 10 to 9 and an announcement had already come over the PA saying that the store would close in ten minutes. So I took the New Balance shoe I liked over to a fellow in the department and said, "I’d like to try these in a 10."

"You’re going to have to hurry," he said to me with a slight look of disgust, "The store is officially closed."

I looked at my watch in front of him – still 10 to 9. He went back in the stockroom and I waited, coincidentally, about 7 minutes. I figured I’d get my shoe off in advance, to save time, you know? The salesman came back from the stockroom, said, "We don’t have it."

"You don’t?"


As I said no, he was already putting the shoe back on the shelf and ignoring me, so it didn’t matter anyway. As I put my cruddy old shoe back on my foot, I said out loud that I knew where I wouldn’t be spending my money. What’s great was that it was still not 9pm, when the store closed!

So, I was treated like garbage, and it was obvious that they didn’t want my $60 anyway. So I’m not giving it to them.

The problem is that this is common now. When customers are treated like real people, who value time, money, and service, it’s surprising. When an employee actually says, "Thank you!" or similar, you’re surprised. What happened? This used to be the way it was. The customer was king. The customer still should be king; without customers, a business can’t succeed. The thing is that most companies don’t know about this, or don’t care. So long as people who don’t care about customer service buy things from them, that’s all that matters.

I seriously think we’re heading towards a future where you buy things online and pick them up at a local warehouse. Storefronts will still exist, but not in the same quantity. Without the storefront, companies can save money and eliminate the need for employees. Customer service? Forget it. -pm

Posted in Consumer Commentary

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday March 8, 2000 -- 9:37:06AM
I think you hit the nail on the head in your first paragraph -- the problem is that the people in customer service/salesperson positions at these stores aren't expecting to be there in another six months. They don't care about a raise. They don't care about how the company does since they probably don't have stock options. And their periodic reviews? No biggie -- it's just a summer job, after all.

I think the trend will be (is?) that stores offering notably better customer service but charging a bit more for their products will win out. Stores like (the evil empire) Best Buy can only last so long with the current level of customer service.

One good customer service experience I had about a year ago was at a major chain, surprisingly: The Men's Warehouse. I needed a sport coat for a wedding (since I never wear them, I hadn't bought one since I was a freshman in high school). The salesperson helped me immediately, fit me, and when suggesting jackets, told me that the least expensive one of the bunch looked best on me. That and a few months later, he called me up to invite me to an open house barbecue they were having (sure, it coincided with the releasing of their new summer line, but hey, it was still nice).

Heh -- the Daily Ping is going to unintentionally become a consumer advocacy site. :) Go Ralph Nader!

Lsatly, I think two links from the Mighty Phonezilla are due: ... and ...

FROM: Aaron
DATE: Wednesday March 8, 2000 -- 11:26:38AM
Here is my Best Buy story.

Sadly, for the vast majority of consumer purchases, customer service isn't a factor in making the purchasing decision. It's pretty rare that someone will spend 10% more for an item at a business where customer service is better.

A lot of franchises make their money by hiring cheap teen labor. Take McDonalds as an example. A McDonanlds franchise has to sell their products as more or less fixed prices as set by the corporation, and almost all their expenses are set by the corporation: rent the land from corp, only buy supplies from corp-approved suppliers, etc. So how do they maximize profit? Keep employee salaries down, and the easiest way to do that is to hire pimply faced youths and pay them next to nothing.

FROM: Lynne
DATE: Monday July 9, 2001 -- 7:40:05AM
I went to get shoes in a big departement store chain with a friend who's a size 12[BIG], no-one would help but we found and old pair of dirty Caterpillar shoes[like Doc Martin's] in a back shelf, that were still in good condition. The old Cat's had been left by someone who tried on new shoes and walked out. The pity was that my friend did not fit them[his feet's too big] or we could have done the same. None of the staff came near us while we were looking. Huh.. no service to talk of.

FROM: Nouri
DATE: Thursday September 11, 2003 -- 5:02:12 am

It's your right to ask for a good serivce customer, but it wasn't pitty that your friend or you did not fit the new shoes as you mentionned in your comment...

I agree that every single customer is a king for the Business and I do understand we all facing serving and being served in our daily life, but we shouldn't ignore the fact, that as a customer, we should be kind and friendly to the person who serving us. It's kind of exchanging friendliness for a few minutes and earn the quality.

The person's serving has the accept customers anger and try to sort it out in order to make the customer happy, however I still think Quality service is something to share between customer and the client.

It doesn't matter who are you in the link customer<===>client, the customer is paying the business for the service and the person who's serving is payed from the Business for the service.

So, being positive and kind as a customer and/or employee will definitely help to succed a good quality service and give a move on to the Business.

Can I help anyone waiting, Please
Thank you, Sir/ Thank you very much Madam.
Have a good day and see you again.

FROM: GreenFish
DATE: Thursday September 11, 2003 -- 10:27:45 am
I've had some good experiences, and had experiences. And I've worked in retail, so I have experienced both sides of the coin.

First of all, I can definitely attest to the good customer service at Men's Wearhouse. I've brought my husband there several times to buy suits (one for our wedding), and each time, the salesperson was VERY knowledgable, very helpful, very polite. It's hard to find service like that at a lot of places. I also believe that the store is 'tailored' (excuse the pun) to men, who like to go into a store, get exactly what they want, and leave, for the most part, and the salespeople there work towards that goal.

I've also been at the opposite end (mostly warehouse/large retail outlets) where you can't find a damn person to help you - i.e., Home Depot. However. The occasional good employee can drastically change one's view of a place. We used to go to Lowe's to get hardware/etc when it was near our house, and generally, even for a chain store, they had good service. It's amazing how much that made a difference - I would pay slightly more to get some help when I need it.

But, at the same time, being polite enough to KNOW when someone is just looking ...

I mentioned previously that I have worked in retail myself in the past, and I alway believe in helping people out the best you can. People really appreciate good service. This, I believe is true, no matter what you do.

FROM: Goeswithoutsaying...:-)
DATE: Thursday September 11, 2003 -- 10:58:22 am
I agree we have to listen to people who have had some experiences in both sides of the coin. Experience does matter.

Highly experienced employee do help you right when u come as a customer. Do not pay slightly more, they will help you, friendly way and with good manner, when you need to be served and if you are not happy, they won't hesitate to help you more happily way.

You're right, People " Customers sounds better :-)" really appreciate good service, definitely.

Let us learn more from your experiences pls...

FROM: vernon burroughs
DATE: Wednesday June 16, 2004 -- 1:12:54 pm
Best Buy Inc. Kept my hi def receiver
three months! I had a five year service warantee that is now practicaly useless. HQ. was worse than local store for help. I moved to circuit city. They have been better .

FROM: Judy
DATE: Monday October 18, 2004 -- 7:05:26 pm
People who shop retail should realize that the staffing levels have changed. It is not uncommon at the larger Sears store in our area to find ONE emplyee serving ALL of the softline customers inb Mens and Womens departments.

DATE: Monday August 15, 2005 -- 8:08:59 pm
I honestly think your right about the shitty customer service. But some stores still have that service. I got a pair of Converse and my mom asked if the store had other sizes in this one color and the guy didn't respond with a great attitude.

DATE: Monday August 15, 2005 -- 8:09:00 pm
I honestly think your right about the shitty customer service. But some stores still have that service. I got a pair of Converse and my mom asked if the store had other sizes in this one color and the guy didn't respond with a great attitude.

FROM: ed
DATE: Saturday May 27, 2006 -- 8:11:36 am
People, I didn't see any mention that they had worked in any kind of cust svc position,did I?
How well do we treat or cust svc people?
Paid as little as law allows,catering to an unwashed,overfed,under bred hoi polloi!
Difficuly understanding me? Well,less bling and mo' learnin'
We get the cust service and government and neighbors we deserve.


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