Volume 2, Number 8
How to Lose Customers and Influence People
By Dean Shutt
This was going to be a wonderful column discussing the interleague play in baseball. I was going to talk about attendance, the rule differences and other aspects. Then I was going to wrap it up with some witty, thoughtful analysis. I say I was going to do this because I'm not going to write that column this month. Something more critical has come along that I can't in good conscience avoid. Sportmart annoyed the hell out of me.
I know what you are thinking. I really ought to leave the "so and so pissed me off" rants to Skippy. I figure that, since Sportmart sells Sports equipment, and this is a sports column...well...now it's my turn.
I went to Sportmart to get myself a San Francisco Giants' hat. I believe that if you are going to jump on the bandwagon you ought to be properly dressed. So upon purchasing said hat, I made my way to the exit. Before I got to the exit I came upon the Sportmart Crane Game. You know the game I'm talking about. You put in the money, maneuver the claw and watch it vainly try to lift some junky little prize that you don't need anyway. The difference with this crane game was that it contained hats. Not just any hats mind you, but an actual Indianapolis Colts' hat. Now anyone who has ever liked a team that wasn't the hometown team (especially a team that has sucked for the past twenty years) will understand the importance of this discovery. I have enough trouble finding a Colts' hat to purchase, forget about having the opportunity to win one for a couple of bucks. Needless to say I was excited and pleased by this turn of events. Before I started I noticed that the Colts' hat was fitted. Now I'm intelligent enough to realize that the chances of this fitted hat being my size were slim. However I assumed that since this was a Sportmart machine arrangements were made for getting the proper size. What can I say? I am an optimist that way.
Eleven dollars later I had my hat (plus a Jacksonville Jaguars model). I took my booty to the customer service desk and offered to trade both of my brand new twenty dollar hats for one hat that would fit. The manager informed me that this wasn't possible. She explained in an oh so sympathetic voice that Sportmart didn't carry those hats and so couldn't help me. Now it would seem to me that this was a pretty good deal for the store. They get two hats for one and a loyal and happy customer. I hadn't counted on the fact that Sportmart is a pack of dirty scum. Needless to say, Sportmart will not have to worry about receiving any of my not inconsiderable sporting goods budget ever again.
Even though they will never again get any of my money. I feel compelled to lend Sportmart a hand. If a customer wishes to trade a hat that he won in your store for one that fits, go ahead and do it for him. When you consider the future sales you stand to lose, it's a purely pragmatic decision. The other advice I would give to the swine that is Sportmart is this: If you going to have hats in a crane game in your store, by all means make them the adjustable type. Adjustable hats are cheaper to stock and you won't get into the thorny size problem. In short, the lesson here is that customer service is not difficult. Simply bear in mind that the only way that you stay in business is by pleasing people enough to make them want to give you money. Everything you do should be guided by one simple principle. Ask yourself, "Will doing this keep this person from shopping here again?" If the answer is yes, don't do it! Make your customers happy, and not only will they keep spending their money at your store, but they also won't write columns telling everyone what a dirtbag you are. Thanks for listening, I have to go buy a hat.