Saturday, August 28, 2010


Why (Some) Companies Go Out of Business or the Lost Art of Customer Service

Normally, I don't shop at KMart, but occasionally I'll run in and pick something up or find an item there I can't find elsewhere. Last week, I happened to be in the KMart parking lot and decided to run in and buy some laundry detergent as I needed nothing else and didn't want to drive the extra mile to Walmart.

I found what I needed and proceeded to the checkout lane. Using my debit card to pay, I looked at the card reader and it was asking me a question, "Did you know KMart was open on Thanksgiving?"

Uh, no, but why are you asking me questions rather than making my attempt to buy something at your store as easy as possible? Because, of the way the card reader operated I had to swipe my card twice also. Irritating and I told KMart that by taking the little survey they invited me to complete on my receipt.

Yesterday, I happened to be in the KMart parking lot again. (KMart is at the major intersection of Highways 68 and 9 in Maysville and a popular spot to meet people for picking up and dropping off kids spending the night with other and such.) I decided to run in and buy a jar of peanuts to munch on during my trip to my son's away football game.

Again, when I reached the checkout line, the card reader forced me to answer a question and forced me to swipe my card twice. I said something to the cashier, the same one I had had on the previous visit, and she just stood there unresponsive in a semi-catatonic state. I told her to cancel the sale, walked out, drove to Walmart and bought my peanuts.

Currently, I'm also having a conflict with Rumpke over them failing to pick up my garbage one day. They don't want to adjust my bill as they claim they sent someone buy the next day, a Saturday, to pick up after I sent them an email complaining of my garbage not being picked up. Of course, they never told me they were sending someone by and I didn't leave my garbage sitting out by the street as I live in a rural area with lots of woods and didn't want a wild animal strewing my garbage all over the place.

As Rumpke has a local monopoly, I don't have much of a choice in garbage pick up. Since I don't have much garbage and only put it out once or twice a month, I'm canceling my service and will renew it next month. This will be a policy I'll start following with them whenever they fail to provide the contracted for service.

Rumpke makes it difficult to discontinue their service. Go to the Rumpke website and try to find a link for discontinuing service. I couldn't find one. With Rumpke it seems to be a one way street with customer money going to them whether they perform as promised or not.

Perhaps, KMart will figure out someday why Walmart has 200-300 cars in its parking lot when KMart ahs 10-20 which is usually the case in Maysville. During Christmas shopping season, the contrast is most dramatic. Walmsrt's much larger parking lot is overflowing. KMart's smaller lot is half full. But, nearly every time I shop KMart they remind me why I loath the place.

Maybe companies like Rumpke with local monopolies will someday treat customers as valued rather than someone to strong arm money from.

I'm not holding my breath, though.

Customer service is a huge peeve of mine. I spent 21 years working in customer service in one form or another. I could go on and on with my complaints about stores and other businesses but I'll spare you.

OK, here's one: when I'm buying something I usually thank the cashier. They are the ones who are supposed to be thanking me. But is the usual response a "thank you" back? No. It's "no problem."
A few companies adequately train their employees in politeness to the customer, locally Walmart, Kroger and McDonalds, of the nationally known ones, come to mind. If the person helping me is the least bit friendly and polite, I always thank them and wish them a good day.
I have a friend who comes over periodically, and usually stops by Safeway on his way here to pick up a treat for my dog. It's usually after 9pm on Saturday night when he does this. Every time, almost without exception, he arrives here with a heinous story of horrible service. When I ask why he doesn't pick up a treat in advance and just ditch the Safeway, he says he's too busy or forgets.

In this situation, they really have no incentive to provide better service because he's going to go there anyway--sounds like Rumpke.
My garbage company pulled one on me this week. They did not pick up my trash on Tuesday. I called to inquire and they said due to the Labor Day holiday they are running a day behind. That sounds like a fine reason, EXCEPT they picked up all my neighbors' trash. I cannot believe the company has "trained" their customer service reps to lie to customers.
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