Published on: March 28, 2019
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is faceTime with the Content Guy.
I try not to use this space as a place where I can exact personal vengeance on retailers that I think have done me wrong, but I do think it is fair game to tell you about bad experiences that I think illustrate a larger problem.
That’s what happened the other day when Mrs. Content Guy asked me to bring our old Electrolux vacuum cleaner in to be repaired; the electrical cord was fraying, and the hose had a hole in it, making it pretty much useless. My schedule is a lot more flexible than hers - it is hard to walk out on a classroom full of third graders to run personal errands - and since the only vacuum cleaner place within any reasonable proximity of our home had limited hours, I was happy to do so.
The place was open from 8 am to noon, and then again from 1 pm to 4:30 pm. I double checked those times online before I left and then, making sure I have the store a little buffer, drove over so I’d get there shortly after 1:30.
When I arrived, I found a paper plate taped to the front door, saying, “Back at 2:30. Sorry.”
It didn’t make sense to drive home and then turn around to come back, and so I cooled my heels for almost an hour. During that time, remarkably enough, three other customers showed up to drop off their vacuum cleaners, and they may have been more annoyed than I was.
This strikes me as a classic case of a retailer simply not delivering on a basic value proposition - it doesn’t get much more basic than being open during business hours. It is possible that this fellow has been lulled into a sense of complacency, thinking to himself, “I can do pretty much what I want because there isn’t any competition.” For the moment, he may be right.
But I’ll tell you this. He won’t be right forever. If I knew of a vacuum cleaner repair service that would’ve come to the house to pick it up, and then drop it back off when it was fixed, I would use it in a second. I wouldn’t even hesitate - any satisfaction I might’ve gotten from doing business with a local guy was pretty much eliminated by the fact that he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
Three interesting postscripts. One, when he finally showed up, there was no apology or explanation for not having been there. (He should’ve lied and said he was taking his aging, infirm grandmother to the doctor. It may not have been true, but it would’ve bought some sympathy and made me feel bad about my impatience.)
Second, while I was there, he tried to sell me a new vacuum cleaner rather than doing the repairs. It almost didn’t matter whether it made sense or not … I wasn’t giving him my business.
And third, he didn’t tell me that his was a cash-only business … so when Mrs. Content Guy went to pick up the vacuum cleaner the following Saturday (when he was only open from 9 am to noon), she had to leave the store and go find an ATM to get cash.
The lesson here, I think, is easy to identify - if you want customers to do business with you, it is kind of important act like you want to do business with your customers.
If the kind of vacuum cleaner pickup-and-delivery service that I described existed, I suspect that this guy’s business wouldn’t last very long. And as he closed his doors for the last time, he’d probably complain about how he was unfairly put out of business by people who didn’t care about supporting local merchants.
Which would be total crap.
When he goes out of business, as he inevitably will, it won’t be homicide. It’ll be suicide.
That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: