Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Customer Service?

Today I went to a local big-chain bookstore in search of a cookbook for a nephew who will be spending his sophomore year in college eating his own food and not the university's.

I had found the book I wanted by looking at the company's online store and had printed out the book and price. It was on sale online for about 1/3 of the retail price, even to non-club members.

However, when I asked a salesgirl if I could purchase the book in the store for the online price, I was told I could not. I was unhappy about this but I wanted the book and did not have time to have it shipped, so I decided to buy it at full price.

I told myself as I wandered the store that if I had been a store manager, I would have instructed my clerks to offer some kind of markdown in the event of a question like that, so that you did not have a disgruntled customer. And while I was not angry, I was little miffed.

Later, as I checked out, the young man behind the cash register asked me if I was a club member. You know, you pay them $20 to join and you receive a discount from the full purchase price of the book.

I told him I was not a club member and did not wish to be.

He then proceeded to tell me how much I would save and how if I bought books more than once a year I would save money.

I told him I was not interested and that the price for the club was too high.  I used to be a club member, back when it was not a small fortune, I explained, but I would not pay the price now, and particularly not when I could purchase the same books online at much cheaper prices.

He continued to pressure me about buying a card and went into a song and dance about "bricks and mortar" costing more than online sites and that was why the club was good. I finally had to interupt him to ask him to ring up my purchases.

You would think at this point someone would take the hint and let it go. However, he continued to try to get me to buy a card even as I slid my credit card through the little machine. I finally looked at him and said, "Keep it up and I simply won't be back here at all."

I picked up my stuff and walked out.

I used to shop this store a lot. I love browsing a book store but I fear that, thanks to visits like this and the ease with which one may purchase books online, that book-browsing as a past time will one day go the way of the rotary dial telephone.

I find myself in this store less and less, because each time I go in I am pressured about this club membership. It ruins the entire experience.

Customer service is an art, apparently a lost one. Today, the first clerk should have offered me the book with a 10 percent discount when I presented the online book price to her, and the second clerk should have stopped  pressuring me about the club membership the moment I said no. I don't expect to be greeted at the door with a Coke and a smile, but some acknowledgement that my presence in the store is valued might make a difference, you know?


  1. Boy can I relate to this! I guess everyone has a customer service horror story to tell. I love the ones on the phone where the rep has a script and doesn't listen to what you're saying. Such wasted time...such frustration! And for the businesses, such a loss in sales. I left ATT because of bad customer service. I can't figure out why they don't get it. Some do, but they are rare anymore.

    In regards to the loyalty card...I've always been amazed at how they charge for that card when they should be giving it away in an attempt to get my business vs buying at Amazon. Amazon's prices are lower...sometimes a lot lower. The loyalty card MIGHT be a way to get people to buy at the store even with higher price's. But to PAY for that?! Not me! It's a shame really since I do try to support brick and mortar storefronts.

    Guess you can tell this is a pet peeve of mine :-)

  2. My husband buys pretty much anything online that he can. He simply walks out of a store if someone offers to help him... heaven forbid anyone speak to him when out shopping. I always treat the store help with kindness UNTIL they get pushy. No one wants to be pressured.


  3. B&N almost got me to buy their "discount card" the last time I went. I saw the sign that said 40% off hardcovers so quickly did the math and thought maybe, just maybe it would pay for itself. When I went to check out the hardcover I was buying for my daughter I was told it didn't fall into the 40% category since it was a "teen" book. Huh? Forget that "discount card" then since she's the one that buys the books. I get most of mine from the library.

    It also annoys me to no end how so many stores give a much cheaper price on-line. Walmart is notorious for that, although they'll offer the same lower price if I buy it on-line and then "ship it to the store." I don't like using my credit card, especially on-line, never have, and never will. I still come from the old school, if you can't pay cash for it, don't buy it. I never thought that would be deterimental thinking!

  4. Anita, I appreciate your assertiveness and I hope the folks being instructed to sell sell sell the cards are giving feedback to the head honchos. I was in the same store today around noonish and they were really pushing the customers at check out. Customer service varies so widely in all stores. My pet peeve is when you finally get to the check out and the checker never speaks to you, continues a conversation with another employee, never greets you, only takes your credit card...mostly grocery stores where that happens. Having been in retail, I can't imagine this practice. What a great gift you are giving that nephew...a cookbook..good choice.

  5. I was always amazed that a company would ask you to pay for a discount card. We have a very new, very large Barnes and Noble store here and I avoid them as much as possible. They seems gimmicky to me.

    We used to have a Borders book store here but it has since closed. They were wonderful to deal with and the employees went out of their way to help you save money. No expensive discount card there, only 40% off coupons. Gosh, I miss them!

  6. One of the advertorials that I wrote for our business, Shop-At-Home Floors, that I put in The Laker, was about just this thing--bad service. It was kind of funny. I wish I knew how to put a link on here. It is my pet peeve. Especially nowadays when companies are going under all the time. You'd think people would try harder to be better so they could keep their jobs?! But no. So many bad workers out there. No one looks at the long term picture. That's the problem. Like that manager in the bookstore and the pushy clerk. They were obviously not thinking of the bottom line and that if this keeps up, sooner or later that store will be out of business and they'll be working in McDonald's next. If they're lucky.

  7. I'm with you. Why is it every store you go in now asks you if you want to be a preferred shopper or whatever? The only one I seem to really benefit from is Kroger and I don't even have their little thingy on my keyring. Which brings me to those annoying, dangling things? Who came up with this idea? As if keys aren't awkward enough now we have these neo-plastic, dangly things in the way. Sheesh...


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