Thoughts on Customer Service

When you move into a new house and renovate it at the same time, you recognize very quickly who among the multitudes of contractors, service providers and vendors that you’re working with actually respects your money. And who, pointedly, does not.

But first, a note on all this money. Do we normally have tens of thousands of dollars to throw around on home improvement? No. We have this opportunity because the equity we built in our previous home over 17 years afforded us the funds to set aside at settlement for this purpose. The amount is finite—until we’re able to start saving again from our day jobs, which takes a lot longer than signing papers at a settlement table.

We have a budget and spreadsheet to track how much we’re spending from that budget. Unforeseen expenses mean something else gets crossed off—not fun, not cool.

This post was prompted by a deeply upsetting confrontation with one of our suppliers last week, but the experience has caused me to appreciate, by contrast, the outstanding companies and individuals we’ve been fortunate to work with in spite of that bad apple.

First, my cautionary tale: I won’t name the company directly where we spent nearly $14,000 on new appliances for our kitchen, but its initials, appropriately, are BS. When we moved and realized we had a kitchen with a downdraft vent, the fast-talking manager said no problem, we didn’t need to trade in a range we’d already ordered because a new vent was coming on the market that would rise up from the counter; we didn’t need a vent to come down from the ceiling. Great, I said. He gave me a sheet with the specs so I could hand it over to Nadia and Richard at Aidan Design, who are designing our beautiful new kitchen.

The plan shows the island with the vent drawn in behind the range.

But here’s the thing: the sheet didn’t contain all the proper specs, and he didn’t tell me to look to the website for the more detailed install specs. Fast forward to last week. We are having installation problems. I call the manager because now I’m thinking we need to return everything and get a new range with a built-in vent. I’m looking to him for help with this problem.

His first question: Is it out of the box? The range? I asked. Yes, he said. Of course it’s out of the box, and so is the vent. Well, I can’t sell it new then. You have to pay 20 percent restocking fees. We just spent $14,000 with this BS company, and he’s only concerned about his next sale. He adds insult to injury by telling me that if we’d hired them for the install, none of this would have happened. My contractors were at fault for not doing their homework.

Restocking fees would cost several hundred dollars—that’s a bed for our guest room, or shelving for our living room. Not fees to a guy who didn’t give me the full information about a new product he was selling me.

Thankfully, Richard Suburan at Aidan dropped everything. He figured out a way to install the vent within the existing parameters of the kitchen island that’s already built. He got creative. He solved a problem. The BS guy? Not his problem, he said. He won’t be held responsible.

I knew I shouldn’t have gone back to them. Years ago, under a different manager, we bought a microwave from BS and I went to go pick it up. I was about eight months pregnant. The guy puts it on a dolly and wheels it out to the sidewalk where my car—a Honda sedan—was parked. Then he leaves it there and starts walking back inside. “Wait a minute, can you help me get it into the car?” I ask. No, he said. Liability. But you can have our delivery service handle it for $150. Excuse me? You’re not going to get it in the car, he said. You’ll be coming back inside. And then he was gone. Well, I got it in the car. Myself. With a belly out to HERE.

I’m done with all the BS. But it’s made me love people like Nadia and Richard at Aidan Design all the more.

Or Vini and his crew, who stained the outside of our house so beautifully, at the most reasonable price I’ve ever seen. I asked them to stain the steps leading up to our house, which by then looked sad against the new work, and he told his crew to stay in the hot sun for three more hours and get it done at just a tiny additional cost.

Or Marcelo, who un-built and re-built our sectional sofa to get it out of the tiny basement in the old house. I asked him to move the extra chaise in his truck too (not just the main sofa he had to break down and reassemble) so I could have the whole sectional set up in the new family room before the movers came a week later. Without a word, he and his guy got it up and out.

Or Frank, who takes care of our plumbing problems, and always addresses me as “Madam.” At the old house, we continued to have issues after he came to fix a toilet, so he returned on his own time to get it right. No charge. At our new house, he came to put in some new faucets, but we didn’t have the right attachment parts. No problem, he said. He’d go to Home Depot and take care of it for us.

These people are honest brokers. They know your dollars are precious. They don’t take advantage. And they don’t talk fast. They have my loyalty—and continued business—forever.

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Should have gone to ABW in the first place. (and wow that pun was so totally unintentional that I didn’t realize it until you mentioned it!)

  2. HAHA you said you had to “vent.” (sorry..snicker..) Glad to hear it got worked out! Another thumbs down on Fray and Barf. Now that a competitor has moved in across the street, we can all go to them.

  3. Jennifer Sergent says:

    “Like.” Thanks for the comment, Catherine!

  4. I’ve had a similar issue with BS — and despite what you were told, it doesn’t matter if they do the installation. They still do not accept responsibility and good luck getting them back to fix their installation issue! I am with your other commentators, I will never buy from BS again! On a side note, I love that their initials are sooo appropriate! Thanks for a great post.

  5. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Thanks Diane. Suffice to say it’s a locally based appliance company. Heck, I got better post-purchase treatment from Sears! I am happy to share contact information with my other people too, but they are individuals and I don’t want to overload their phones. Please email me directly: jennifersergent@verizon.net, thank you!

  6. You absolutely need to list who these people are so that other people will avoid the problem. The reason they are still in business is because people simply do not know and that is not fair to all those wonderful providers out there! And I would also list the website or phone number of those who are good such as your plumber and painter as they would really benefit from the exposure and deserve to be rewarded for their great customer service which, sadly, can be a rarity these days. You are lucky to have them and I hope the rest of the remodel goes smoothly.

  7. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Thanks Jenifer! Unfortunately I think it’s so systemic with this company that a letter wouldn’t change anything. And frankly, after that really upsetting phone call last week, I don’t have the stomach for any more confrontations. Onward and upward!

  8. The part of the article that was most shocking to me, was your experience when you were pregnant! What a jerk for not offering to assist you, especially when he could see you were pregnant. Holy cow, even Safeway will ask if you need help putting your groceries in the car when you have next to nothing. I would write the owner of BS and tell him you are Shocked and Dismayed at their awful service. Those three words have helped me get better service and action when needed.
    Thank goodness for the good guys! They can make you appreciate the hard work and efforts they did to get the job done right.

  9. I had problems with them too when I did my first kitchen years ago. They could not have been less helpful in helping me discern the differences in fridges rtc. I was going to buy all my appliances from them. The guy couldn’t have cared less. I followed up with the manager who said the guy had a heart problem. And that matters why?? I send all my clients to ABW. They are excellent. Great service and very knowledgable. I don’t know how BS stays in business but they need to be called out on their bad service. They are like the worst of used car salesmen.

  10. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Well put, Tricia! Now, to re-devote this blog ALL to the good guys… but I just had to vent!

  11. I’ve had similar experiences with BS. And good luck getting anything you purchase there fixed in a timely manner for a reasonable price. Will never buy anything from them again.

  12. When did customer service become optional in business? If I purchase an old chair on eBay or a pair of vintage shoes from a thrift shop, lackluster service is fine. But from a company that is making thousands in markup? All too often we are fighting over deliverables that are late, poorly made or just plain wrong. And when we do, we are met with disregard and/or indignation. All we can do is spread the word about the bad AND the good vendors – like you have here Jennifer. Let’s make sure those businesses who treat their customers well continue to thrive and grow … and take a stand against those who don’t.