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Thursday, January 29, 2009

What has happened to customer service?

WARNING: Long post ahead. Get a drink before you start to read!

News reports released today indicate that unemployment here in the U.S., where we are vacationing, is terribly high. So it should be a given that companies would place a strong emphasis on customer service to keep their customers and, as well, employees would do likewise to keep their jobs. Well, you'd think that. But two recent events have the captain and I just shaking our heads.

I mentioned in my last posting about our Days Inn dilemma. Add Walmart to the list. But first I have to point out that the gripes I have are not with the actual organizations but with individuals who should know better. Now, I promised you a doozy of a Days Inn story, and here it is.

I have stayed in many Days Inns. My girlfriend Lori used to get a discount there (Lori is, you may recall, the queen of memory wire jewellery) so when she and I travelled, we always booked ourselves in at a Days Inn. So the captain and I had no hesitation in booking the Days Inn here in Satellite Beach, Florida, for a few nights until our condo was ready for us. I also decided to splurge and book their best room, one with both a king-sized bed and a jacuzzi tub. At our hotel here last October we had a soaker jacuzzi tub and it was heavenly.

So we show up Tuesday afternoon to check in. Up the stairs we go and into the room. Oh my stars. Everything about the room screamed tacky. The carpet and comforter were old and dingy. The room smelled stale. And the tub I so looked forward to soaking in? Well, there was a regular bathroom -- AND a whirlpool tub right out in the open, almost beside the bed. Without even a privacy curtain. Yup, think of the sleazy ads for rooms in the Poconos and you're on the right track. Like I would ever in a million years get into that tub. Yuck, just imagine. Oh, how I wished I'd taken a photograph.

I bet you think that's the kicker? Nope, there's more. The captain made a comment about the room being dark and went to pull back the only curtains in the room. Guess what was behind the curtains? A cement wall! Yes, a wall. This room -- their best, their most expensive -- did not possess a single window. Not even a small one anywhere. The captain called it a coffin.

Downstairs to the main office he trooped, to complain. They switched us to a room without a jacuzzi tub, with windows and with a king bed. We schlep to the other end of the parking lot to enter a dreary, smelly room -- once again with old and dismal carpeting and linens. Honestly, I felt like such a prom queen but I told the captain I could not stay there. I try to be easygoing but this pushed me over the edge. Now it's funny, but at the time it was far from funny. As you all know I have been on a downward cycle and these rooms, I swear, would make even someone in a great mood feel gloomy!

Back to the car we go and the captain goes in to tell them the rooms are unacceptable. The manager insists he must charge us for one night and it is beyond his power to do otherwise. The manager. It is before 4 pm and we have been on their premises for a total of about 10 minutes. He gives us a computer printout that says we had checked in two hours prior (!) and checked out at a time later in the day that was still 45 minutes off! He tells the captain we must take it up with Days Inn customer service. The manager.

So before we left that parking lot we indeed called Days Inn customer service and told them the whole sordid tale. The gentleman the captain talked to was incredulous that we were given a room without a window! Like I said, it's funny now........

We were told that we would be credited with the charge the manager insisted he must put through. I will be watching our credit card account for that, you can be sure.

The captain also told me -- and told customer service -- that the whole time he was in there, the manager was also arguing with a bill collector who had come in personally because the account was so far overdue. As my husband told customer service, you don't carry on those types of conversations in front of potential hotel guests.

Anyhow, that all ended well because the captain immediately drove down to the hotel we had stayed at previously and, dear man, got us a room with a jacuzzi tub.

So today we're in Walmart, moving on to my second customer service issue. Let it be said right here that while Walmart has its detractors, I am not one of them. I shop at Walmart; I find the Super Walmarts here in the U.S. have excellent grocery prices, in particular. Anyway, today we were in Walmart in Cocoa Beach to look for a new cell phone case for the captain and a hairbrush for me. As we're leaving I decide I want to get something to drink and pick up a 4-pack of Starbucks Frappucino. Yum. There is a sign affixed to the shelf that there is a "rollback price" that is about $1.50 less than the posted price. But the drinks ring through at the higher price and when I point out the "rollback" sign, the cashier immediately dismisses it and tells me that's not the price, with barely a glance at the shelf, which was near the cash. So I tell her I don't want the drinks and I head over to customer service for an explanation. The cashier was bordering on rude and I was of the understanding that in Walmart, the lowest posted price is the one the customer gets. It's not the point of the $1.50, it's the principle. I even took the sign off the shelf with me. I hand it to the lovely young woman in customer service and tell her what happened. She looks at it, scans the drinks, and tells me that, yes, they will honour the lower price. I ask why this didn't happen at the cash. She asks me which cashier helped us and as the captain pointed towards where we were, a voice pipes up, "it was me." Amazingly, the cashier had left her station and followed us over to customer service -- where she not only continued to argue with me over the price of the drinks but proceeded to also argue with her fellow employees when they told her that the lower price is the price they must charge the customer.

It all just went downhill from there but, long story short, she got me so upset that tears welled up in my eyes. And when the captain told her she needed to apologize to us for her behaviour, she rattled off one of those "I'm sorry" mumbles that any mother is familiar with; the ones that are anything but sincere. And when the customer service people told her the lower price is the one that must be honoured, she muttered at them, "fine, do what you want" and stormed off. It was unbelievable. And here's the kicker: she is pulling this hissy fit in front of the customer service manager (a charming older woman who ends up patting my hand and telling me, "don't you worry dear, I'll deal with her.") And the two young ladies working customer service exchanged glances with each-other and the one says to the other, "she owes us an apology too, you know."

Now, with so many people looking for jobs, why would you risk yours by 1) not following company policy, 2) arguing with a customer over such a minor matter, and 3) making a fool of yourself in front of your manager -- why?

Those three women who did help me at the Customer Service desk were very pleasant to deal with and I will keep shopping at that store, but I will be on the lookout for that cashier and will steer clear of her, for sure. If she is still working there, that is.

1 comment:

Lost Aussie said...

Hope you have a lovely time in Florida, aside from the customer service debacles!

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