RICHARDSON: Wrong answer — again

November 10, 2013 

I’ve been getting a lot of wrong answers lately. You know the kind of blank stares you get from people who have either sold you something that didn’t work or offered a service that didn’t perform.

I consider myself pretty handy with a set of tools. My wife would probably offer a different opinion, but I still like to keep my membership current in the Scraped Knuckles Club. I tinker with my lawn tractor, change the oil in all my cars and will try to fix anything before I call in the cavalry.

I thought the battery in my lawn mower had gone bonkers and I went to my usual auto parts supply store and picked up a new one. I didn’t have the old one with me so I returned to the store the next day to exchange the core. The battery turned out not to be the problem, but I figured I’d have both batteries tested.

Turns out my old battery held a higher charge than the new one, so I decided to return it. The sales person asked if I had installed the new battery. I said “yes, long enough to see that it wouldn’t start my lawn mower.” She then replied, “We can’t take it back. It’s against store policy.” I asked for the manager and she told me the same thing. That was the wrong answer.

I don’t like to make a fuss, but I had also planned to buy 10 quarts of Mobil 1 synthetic oil at $9.19 a quart (don’t ask what kind of car takes 10 quarts). What do you think I did? I took both batteries and drove to Auto Zone on Pio Nono and bought the oil. The other parts store will never see me again.

Case No. 2: My wife and I, after spending a wonderful morning in Jeffersonville, decided to get lunch at a restaurant in The Shoppes at River Crossing. My wife ordered a Merlot. She took one sip and it wasn’t to her liking. She asked the waitress if she could she get a glass of something else. The waitress said it was against company policy, but she would ask a manager (always a bad sign). The manager said “sorry.” Another wrong answer. We liked the food and spent close to $50, but those are the last greenbacks they’ll see of ours gracing their bottom line.

Case No. 3: This one may be the most egregious. There’s a new convenience store/service station near my home. I pulled in last week to do two things: I needed air in my tires and I was on empty. I drive a big-hulking-gas-guzzling SUV, so I was about to drop at least $70 on them. I pulled up to the do-it-yourself air/vacuum station. Plopped in four quarters -- and nothing. Not a peep. I went to the cashier and told him. I could tell he didn’t give a flip. When I asked for my dollar back, he said, “I can’t do that.” I said “no problem” got into my big-hulking-gas-guzzling SUV and drove off -- to another station. The pavement at the new station will never see my tires again, nor will it see my wife’s tires. She drives a smaller gas-guzzling SUV.

You get my point. When someone doesn’t stand behind the products they sell or the services they provide, there are plenty of others who will. Bad customer service always comes back to haunt, but in invisible ways.

There is another side of the coin. When I was having another issue with my lawn mower, I recorded the sound and took it to Macon Outdoor on Napier Avenue. They diagnosed the problem and showed me how to fix it. I didn’t buy my machine from them, but the next one? You bet.

I experienced another good customer service story at the Wendy’s at Eisenhower and Pio Nono. The service was quick, fast and no nonsense. One of the managers even told the crew to keep the chit-chat down. No offense to Wendy’s, but they rivaled the customer service gold standard set by Chick-fil-A. I regret I didn’t compliment the manager then. Next time I will.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at Tweet@crichard1020.

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