Saturday, April 04, 2009

Taking Care of Business

This evening I took time to stop in to two area businesses.  Neither visit went exactly perfect, and yet I left the two stores feeling very different about the experiences.

The first trip was to Benny’s Cycle Works in Silvis.  A little bit of background is is probably in order to explain why I was there.  When I had picked up my bike from the service department nearly two weeks ago, I asked for a couple of copies of the key.  John Brenny, the owner of the dealership, cut two copies and went out to test them in the bike.  While I was still waiting for something else inside, he brought the keys to me and said they work, but stick a little. 

I spent a little over $400 that day, most of which was for labor in the service department.  Some of it was parts, and $16.02 was for these two keys. 

Today, I was back there to ask for a refund on the keys.  When I explained to the guy behind the counter that I could only get them to work intermittently and wanted my money back, he called John up from the back.  I explained again to him that I wanted a refund and why.  John looked a bit put off, and gave me the feeling he thought it a ridiculous request.  He didn’t say as much, but his attitude and expression did.  He refused to refund my money, and said I should bring the bike back in and he would adjust the keys to work.  Now, that might have been a very helpful offer, had it been presented differently, but it left me disappointed.  The more I thought about it, as I drove away, the more upset I became.  It’s not the money that bothers me, but the way it was handled.  To me, it seems that refunding $16 for two keys (which probably cost them about $.50 each for the blanks) would be well worth it to satisfy a customer who has spent well over $1000 in labor alone with my store in the last couple of seasons. 

My next trip was a sharp contrast to that.  I went to a large, national chain store, instead of a small locally owned shop.  I wasn’t there to make a return, but to pick up something I had already ordered and paid for.  I was not a regular customer of the store, and in fact probably haven’t bought anything from there in the last year or two.

I had actually placed my order through the store’s web site a day or two prior, so when I went in the store to pick it up I just scanned my receipt at the pickup station, and according to the sign on the wall I should have my merchandise in 5 minutes or less.

It actually took about 15 minutes from the time I scanned my receipt until I had my merchandise in hand.  During that time, I was asked no less than 3 times what I had ordered, by a confused worker who didn’t seem to know how to handle web orders.  However, at the end of the 15 minute wait, I had my items in hand, and a very nice, polite worker apologized for the delay.  Her tone of voice left me believing that she actually cared about my experience, and wanted me to leave as a happy customer.  She even gave me a coupon for $5 off my next purchase, since they didn’t meet their self imposed 5 minute time limit. 

The store in this case was Sears.  Generally, I don’t expect a much in the way of quality service from national chain stores.  That left me surprised to have been treated so well, especially considering the relatively small amount of my purchase.  It’s funny, how sometimes we don’t always get what we expect.  The stereotype for small locally owned businesses vs. large impersonal national chains is that you will get better treatment and better service from the small business.  If you’re dealing with the owner of that business, that is usually even more true.  I’m disappointed that my experience with the local business didn’t live up to that stereotype.

In the end, I will probably do business with Brenny’s again.  They are, after all, the area dealer for my brand of motorcycle, and I really like working with their service guy, Mark.  He treats me well, knows his stuff, and is willing to explain it to me in simple terms when things get over my head.  However, while I might do business with the service department at brenny’s again, I probably won’t look there when I need parts, accessories, or other items I can find elsewhere or order online. 

On the other hand, I find myself inexplicably tempted to browse over to right now and look to see what else they might have that I need. . .

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