The Daily Ping

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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?"

"No."

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

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