Warning, this column contains material that may be shocking to some consumers. Discretion is advised.
Stories abound about lousy customer service. We've all had experiences with rude or uncaring clerks and waitresses - like the time several years ago when I pointed out there was a fly swimming in my salad dressing.
The waitress removed the fly and left the salad on the table. It was a twist on the old, "Please be quiet or everybody will want one" joke.
But largely unsung are the many who give ridiculously good customer service. Like Dave Baxter, who runs Trout Creek Enterprises, a local lumber remanufacturer.
I bought some tongue-and-groove from Dave a few weeks ago and put it in the house to cure. Dave's outfit is especially good at replicating old lumber materials, and the stuff he turned out is an exact duplicate of what was in the house when it was built well over a century ago.
With installation underway, I discovered we were running short - wastage was a little high and I probably didn't calculate enough cushion when I placed the order.
This presented a significant problem. A crew from D4 Construction - a renovator that does first-rate work, but the way - is scheduled to complete the job next week after which I've crammed in several other trades to get the old place in shape for Christmas company.
So after discussing the problem with the crew yesterday morning I got on the blower to Trout Creek Enterprises shortly after 8 a.m. Dave had just left the office to head out to a meeting.
"But I can give you his cell phone number," said his receptionist.
Now right there, you're probably thinking this is fiction. Who hands out the company owner's cell number these days?
Not only did she give me the number, but Dave picked up after one ring. The conversation went something like this.
"Hi, Mel, how you doin'."
"Not too bad, but I've got a problem. We're running short of that tongue-and-groove. Is there any chance at all you could run some more off for me in the next couple of days?"
"Yeah, sure. But I've got some of that stuff in the shop."
"Like, already made?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure how much. I'll be back there around 11 and let you know."
Now, keep in mind I was expecting to be put at least a couple of weeks behind schedule due to this shortage. I was pretty sure Dave would step up and run me a new batch quickly, because I've experienced his dedication to high-quality customer service in the past.
But no way did I figure on getting the problem resolved so quickly. Anyway, I didn't have to wait till 11. Dave called back 10 minutes later. He'd called into the shop to check out his inventory.
"Yeah, we've got about 1,100 lineal feet."
"What's that in square feet?
"About 300," he said. "I'll drive it out there today."
It's good and dry and ready to use, he said.
"Fantastic," I said.
Problem solved. When the owner/manager of a company hops in a truck and personally delivers a load of lumber the same day you ask for it, that's customer service.
On a previous occasion, Dave's guys produced some wood siding for me. When I pointed out the bevel was slightly off he had them run it again, no questions asked. When he sold me some fir flooring, he lent me a floor stapler and air compressor too.
Dave's won his share of awards for projects he's done, and I'll bet he has a lot of happy customers. I'm definitely one of them.
I've mentioned before how Syd and I have become lifetime customers of Jay Dhaliwal and his Jay's Service auto shop. Jay, Evan, Richard and the boys actually save us money when they fix our cars because they look for the best and most economical way to do it, and they fix things right.
And, after they look after the vehicle, they deliver it to you at work. Jay won a Reader's Choice customer service award this year and it's richly deserved.
There are others. Like a guy named Vincent at Home Depot, to whom I was directed when I sheepishly asked at the customer service desk if a year was too long to wait to return something. I'd bought a shower door and hadn't got around to installing it. When I finally did I discovered it was the wrong size.
If Vincent had told me to get real, I would have left the store with no hard feelings, since it was my own tardiness in getting the job done that created my problem. But Vincent cheerfully told me to bring the door back.
I hang out at building-supply stores a lot, and have found a similar high level of service at Rick Kurzac's Home Hardware, where staff know their stuff and spend time with you.
I've experienced my share of bad customer service, too, like the fly in the salad, or the time not long ago when I was lectured, not once but three times, by a store clerk for returning some stuff I hadn't used.
"We can't run a business that way," she told me, as if explaining some obvious fact of life to a child. This, despite the fact I'd made arrangements with the owner to return what I didn't need.
Yet, if you look around, there are a lot of Daves and Jays and Vincents in this town. They're the ones who understand that if you treat a customer right, he's a customer for life.