Archive for April, 2014

Customer Service


As someone who does not embrace Minnesota winters, I tend to hole up during our relentlessly cold and long dark months, not getting much done, and maintaining an energy level that hovers just above zero. I can get out of bed (eventually) and get to work, but when I get home and it’s dark and cold and windy, I sort of melt in a puddle like the snow that falls off my mittens.

So quite the opposite, I often feel like Duluth winters embrace me. Especially this last one. Not so much embrace as get me in a half-Nelson choke-hold that doesn’t let up for weeks on end. I cry uncle to no avail. (Noah Vale.)

Who'd bother to try to get to the Little Free Library on a day like this?

Who’d bother to try to get to the Little Free Library on a day like this? Not I. 

But now spring is here, and we’ve had some sunny warm days (not THIS day, thank you very much Mother Nature) and I’m feeling more alive again. April is always my favorite month, when the earth seems to come alive and things turn green. The ground warms up, the birds come out, the snow melts away, the McDonalds wrappers and empty cigarette packs get picked up from my avenue, and life begins anew.

An unfortunate book title.

An unfortunate book title.

So! This really is about customer service, the thing I’ve been wanting to write about for some time, but sometimes a gal’s just gotta digress.

Two stories of customer service I’ve experienced in Duluth the past few months.

Story #1: Not that winter was depressing enough, but then you find yourself mired in some computer-blamed mixup with a pharmacy that makes you want to climb over the counter and take a hammer to all monitors in sight.

For months I’ve been getting my two prescriptions filled at Walmart for $5.04 each. A lovely price, thanks to Medicare and Media. But Walmart is a long drive from home, especially on icy roads, so I decided to move them both to a pharmacy closer to home, one that is very large and also begins with W. I went to pick them up, and was told the cost would be $39.95. I said no, that can’t possibly be right, since they are only $5.04 at Walmart. The clerk or pharmacist or whatever she was went back to the computer and put in more information, and came back with an offer of $29.95. I said no, that’s still wrong, but finally she got it down to $19.95, which was still wrong, but closer to what I’m used to paying. Still, $19.95 is a far cry from $10.08, so we bandied around information a little more, and she sort of gave up and said pay it or don’t (not in those words) and I said “don’t,” and left the drugs there.

Please note that at this large pharmacy in the Plaza area, there are five (FIVE) customer service windows plus a drive through window, but only one was manned at the time. I could see the clerk was getting frustrated; I could see customers behind me getting irritated, and I was steaming. I sent my prescriptions back to Walmart, where I continue to happily pay $5.40 each.

A few weeks earlier, and elderly friend had called in prescriptions to this same  Plaza store and made arrangements to be in her apartment when they were to be delivered. She is in an assisted living apartment, and had physical therapy until 2:30, but promised the driver she would be available at 3:00 or later.

By 4:30 when I was visiting her, the drugs were still not delivered. She called this lovely pharmacy and was told the driver needed her credit card information, and couldn’t reach her, so he’d gone home. My friend said “I’ve already been charged for the drugs. I am waiting for them to be delivered.” After several round-the-wheel conversations, it was clear this store was NOT going to deliver. “We don’t have a driver,” they told her. “Yes, you do,” she countered, “but you’ve sent him home.” She was told to send someone to pick up her drugs, or wait until Monday. At which point, the pharmacist HUNG UP ON HER.

So I am “hanging up” on that pharmacy. They’re large enough to expand their stores all over town, but not large enough to figure out how to get drugs to a senior citizen who can’t drive, or how to figure out the right price on a prescription. Yeah, they’re big, and yeah, they’re nation-wide, but I gotta say this: They don’t know zip about client care. And they have lost my business.

Story #2: This same friend had a small table clock that she’d bought at Security Jewelers a number of years ago. The battery had worn out. She asked me to take it back to Security and get a new one.  I told her there are battery stores all over town that will change it for her, but she was insistent. “I don’t care if it takes 2 months,” she said. “Don’t go anywhere but Security.”



Easy enough to get to, but sometimes you have to drive around the block to find a place to park. The gods were shining on me because I found an empty spot right outside their door.

I was greeted by two persons as soon as I walked into the store. (Which was busy, which surprised me for a downtown jewelry store.) A very nice woman at a counter waved me back to the service area, and gave the clock to a guy in the back. We talked about the new meter system downtown, and then she offered me coffee or Coke while I waited. (Geez! Who does that?)

It took 5 minutes to get the clock back. The jeweler brought it out, shined it up, reset it and handed it over. The clerk put it in a small white suede pouch, and then put that inside a white jewelry box.

Total cost: $10. I would have paid twice that for the service. Someone held the door open for me when I left. I was surprised they didn’t offer to drive me back home.

I had not been to Security Jewelers since 1966 when my ex-husband and I went in to purchase our wedding bands. I am not a jewelry person, so I had no reason to go there. But I would absolutely go back for giftware, knowing what I know today. They gained a customer for life, though with my jewelry shopping record, they could have made a better bet.

So there is my story for today. Bad service, good service. The bad made me feel irritated and hostile, and the good made me leave the store with a smile. Thank you, Security!

Got any good service stories of your own? Tell all. You know we’re dying to hear.