The past few days have brought me grief dealing with some retail. Not talking big box like Target or Staples, but small independent retail and one small chain. All businesses that I go to regularly. Now they seem to be forgetting this thing called customer service. Maybe they ate too many Easter eggs.
It all started on Saturday when I headed down to the Danforth shopping area in Toronto – it is called Greektown although many shops aren’t Greek. But the area’s charm includes it is not a mall but all street shops, the majority small, independently (sometimes family) owned.
My first stop was the shoe repair I had been going to for years. Usually the two brothers who own it go out of their way to help customers. One even delivered a mended purse to my door because it wasn’t completed at the time promised and I couldn’t return an hour or so later as I had a client meeting.
So imagine my surprise and dismay when I found a “Sorry, closed Saturday” sign on it. True, it was Easter weekend, but Saturday was not a stat. holiday. I had to carry my running shoes around with me as I did my grocery shopping. This closure seemed to get the bad vibes and bad service going wherever I went. And no, I wasn’t expecting that.
Among other items, I had to buy gluten-free rice crackers as I’m one of those supplying the snacks for an event this evening. I knew that No Frills carried them at a price I could afford, but I was trying to avoid that extra trip to another area.
Next stop was Healthy Planet to get some health supplements. While there I looked at the rice crackers selection and found one only 60 cents more than those at NF. The cashier rang them in – with sales tax. Excuse me. I told her there is no tax on rice crackers. She said they are a snack so there is tax. I said “Rice crackers are not a snack. I don’t pay tax on rice crackers when I buy them elsewhere.” She said something about that’s what they are set up in their (computer sales) system. I refused to pay for them, left the crackers and walked out.
I checked a couple more places for rice crackers. While no bad service, they sold only expensive rice crackers. I’m on a budget.
I also went to Strictly Bulk to get some Fisherman’s Friend. Those throat longezes cost much less there. They didn’t have the original version, just the cherry. When I asked if there were any in back, I got a no and when I asked when they would be getting in, the young clerk said, “next week.” She couldn’t narrow it down to what day but did finally call her supervisor. The supervisor’s answer? Sometime next week. They are doing business with the public and they don’t know when their supplies are delivered? (mental picture of me scratching my head here).
So, I finished my Danforth shopping, took all those groceries home on public transit, put the purchases away, and headed out the door again for No Frills Grocery chain store. Fortunately it is not far away from me. So I walked the three-quarter mile each way instead of taking the bus. Yes, they had rice crackers and even somewhat fancier ones than I usually buy at a price lower than those at Healthy Planet. So I bought two boxes.
This tale of bad service doesn’t end here. Yesterday, which technically was Easter Monday but only governments and schools had it as a holiday, I returned with my running shoes to the shoe repair shop on the Danforth. It was open but only one brother was there. In a somewhat unfriendly tone he said that his brother was away for a week so he wouldn’t be able to fix my shoes until next week and it would be better if I waited until then to bring them in as then they would only be in for two days. I mentioned I had brought them down Saturday and the place was closed. All he said was “I know.” No apology.
Sheesh! I can understand the brother taking a week off at some point. But around a long weekend? And it might have been better to stay open at least the Saturday to get some of the work done.
I’ll probably bring my shoes in there next week but I’m considering looking elsewhere after that. Don’t know where. There is a shoe repair closer to home – in a mall – but last time I checked there they wanted all the cost paid before they did the work. The excuse? People just left their shoes and boots there. Well, they could charge a small deposit. I do with my editing clients.
I can’t help comparing this to when I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s – there was an independent shoe repair place a 10-minute walk from home. You could sit and wait while they fixed your shoes. Now, I’m not expecting this anymore – way too many people needing service for shoes, etc.
But a little empathy and understanding for the customer might help. And what happened to apologizing in person?
All this makes you want to stick to the big box stores only.
Anyone else have some bad customer service experiences with small retail?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes