For years, as a consumer, I’ve actually been pretty docile when it comes to what I’ll accept. From milk that spoils before the expiration date to celery that goes limp as a rope just days after my purchase to restaurant meals that come to me in chicken form when I ordered a burger, I’ve generally shrugged my shoulders and decided I like chicken too, and hoped for better consumer luck down the road.
However after decades of insouciance when it comes to taking my lumps in this area, recently, I’ve started to counterpunch a bit and, much to my surprise given my usual glass-half-empty take on the world, have found some success.
Now, admittedly, in the first instance, I did use Lady Jane’s email-writing talents to make a rental-car cost much easier to countenance, even after I’d already paid the amount on my credit card that rental-car operations routinely take upon your arrival at their counters.
The charge was exceedingly high I thought on a recent rip to Arizona and Utah, as in close to $600 for eight days’ usage when I mistakenly thought I had to take the $26 daily charge for collision-and-damage insurance despite having my own policy when I drive.
When I found out I didn’t really need the coverage, Jane sprung into action and began writing the various big wigs at Advantage Rent a Car, claiming the right questions weren’t asked by the counter person. Despite the fact that it was actually a case of MY not asking the right questions, lo and behold, one day I received a call from a troubleshooting Advantage agent, and after pleading my case verbally, he agreed to refund more than half the almost $600 in the form of a credit-card credit.
Perhaps buoyed by that whole squeaky-wheel moment, largely orchestrated by Jane and only finished off by me, I encountered a second situation, this one with a local store and store manager, and decided to forego Jane’s intervention and speak up for myself.
Here’s the story.
Last fall, I purchased a grill at Lowe’s that proved in itself an exercise in perseverance on my part. Not once but two different times after getting it home and attempting to use it did I have trouble with its working properly. After the second return and finally getting one that did work, as a means to do something to compensate for the inconvenience of the multiple trips for purchases and returns, Jason Cohorn, the manager at Lowe’s, decided to do something nice for me and threw in a free grill cover, certainly a nice gesture.
Well, after the winter, and a mild winter at that, when I went out in the spring to resume my grilling career after cooking indoors through the winter months, I discovered a large rent along the seam. Initially, my thought returned to former docile me, as in, well, this didn’t really cost me anything, so why not grab a roll of life’s great fixer, duct tape, tape it and move on to concerning myself with far weightier matters.
Then, something clicked inside, and I emailed Jason yet again, reintroduced myself and asked him if he felt the grill cover should have last longer than about 12 mostly mild winter weeks.
Within a day he wrote back and agreed that my expectations and, more importantly, his own in standing behind his company’s product certainly weren’t met. He told me to stop out and go to the service counter and give my name. Then, I’d be able to go back in the store in outdoor living and pick out whatever cover I wanted.
I did so, selecting one with a far heavier grade because of insulation at a higher cost than the first one, one guaranteed to hold up to Old Man Winter. There was almost no paperwork involved at the counter as a return, thanks to Jason, just a quick one paper to sign to acknowledge receipt and out the door I went grinning like a dog in a butcher shop.
I emailed Jason the next day to thank him. He wrote back graciously thanking me for shopping at Lowe’s. He told me that he feared that had I kept the ripped cover with the duct tape, every time I looked at the damaged cover, I’d think poorly of Lowe’s and of him.
Not to worry, Jason. Just like the good folks at Advantage Rent a Car, you did a very nice job of reaching for the grease when you detected a consumer squeak. It’s nice to know there is such a thing as customer service in a world so often thought to be lacking in that trait.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.