retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

Over the years, I've written a lot about Stew Leonard's. In part, that's because the company has always been a leader when it comes to creating a customer service culture. pretty much everybody in retailing knows about the boulder outside each of Stew's stores that bears the inscription, "The customer is always right." And in part, it's because I've been doing the majority of my food shopping there for the past three decades. So, it's the store I'm in the most.

I was thinking about this earlier this week when I went to visit a local tailoring shop called Sanda's with a complaint. This place had done the alterations on my daughter's prom dress, and to be honest, had done a terrible job. The dress was too short, and they had not tightened the top in the way she had requested. She soldiered through the prom, but if you've ever dealt with a teenaged girl, you know that these sorts of things can be traumatic.

So, I brought the dress back the day after the prom and explained my problem - I'd spent $90 on alterations and was not pleased.

The woman who had done the alterations said that she'd done everything we'd asked her to do, and it was not her problem. And the manager looked at me and said that they'd done their job, and that we had not done our job by bringing it back before the prom took place. (There wasn't time, the way things worked out.) By this time, I was getting a little frustrated ... I would have been happy with an admission of culpability and maybe a $20 refund, but that was not happening.

I asked the manager if he really wanted to take the position that I had not done my job at a time when displeased customers can go on the internet and complain about stores that have not lived up to their promises. He looked at me and said, "Do what you want. I think you're being ridiculous."

I was shocked. "Really?" I said. "That's your position? Because I know a little bit about retailing and I'm pretty sure that one of the things you're not supposed to do is tell a customer that he's being ridiculous."

And that's when he said it. Actually, he snarled it: "We're not Stew Leonard's."

Now, that's a Wow.

Stew Leonard's should feel pretty good about that. They've established a reputation for customer service that even those people who have no clue about the subject are citing.

As for this tailoring shop ... well, I'm going to make it my business to tell people what Sanda's did and how they responded every chance I get. Like now.

It is a cautionary lesson to every retailer. Get it right, and when you don't, be reasonable in how you deal with the customer. And don't call the shopper ridiculous ... even if you don't have a boulder by the front door.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I'd like to hear what is on your mind.

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