Monday, March 06, 2006

Corporation Don't Care

I used to absolutely love Restoration Hardware. Sure they were over-priced (that's why God invented clearance shelves), but I liked the look of their furniture (even though I never bought any), their assorted bath fixtures, and their basic color palatte. They often had some fun little knick-knacks too, like little alabaster vases, or old-school baking powder powered submarines. Lately however, they seem to be shifting their product mix to wares that are more soft than hard. Lots of sheets and towels and pillows. It seems like nice stuff, but it's not really what I want from Resto.

However, that's not actually what I'm writing about. A couple years ago, I started to slowly make over my master bathroom with both hardware and textiles from Resto. I've accumulated a shower curtain, shower curtain rings, two rugs, too many matching towels, a "train rack" and a towel bar. (Hmm, more textile than hardware even in that list . . . ) I bought some of their paint to use on the walls, and the one final item I wanted to bring it all together was a mirror to match the other hardware. January is usually when they have their bathroom stuff on sale, and in their catalog, they showed a mirror from the "Bistro" line, which I'd selected the other hardware from. Since I had some gift cards to use, I headed right on over to the store. Oddly enough, the display mirror didn't look at all like the one in the catalog. The clerk brought one out from the back and I asked to see what was in the box before paying. Even though the numbers on the box matched the catalog, the mirror inside didn't match the picture.

The people at the store called into the order department for me, but ultimately found out that the if I ordered using the number in the catalog, I wouldn't get the item pictured. That being the case, I thought that I'd go ahead with a slightly different choice, choosing an oval mirror instead of rectangular. Of course that was on back-order; I was told it would ship sometime in February, but I was also given ten percent off for the delay. I figured that was fair enough.

At least I figured that while in the store. I guess I had my buying hat on, and I felt like I needed something. After a day or two though, I realized I wasn't really happy with that choice, and I went to their website, found the inquiry form and tried to ask about the mystery mirror. I waited about a week, and didn't get any response, so I tried again. Nada.

Come February, a new catalog arrived in the mail. Once again, there was my mirror. Interestingly enough, there was no item number this time, it was evidently just a prop in among all the other items. I tried another web inquiry, met with resounding silence yet again. So I looked up the corporate information and fired off a letter to the president of the company. Right after mailing the letter, I got an email telling me that the mirror I had ordered was now not going to be available until April. April! Sure, that's "next month" now, but I had placed the original order in January! The day after getting the backorder notice, I called and cancelled.

Of course I've not received any response to my letter. I know that it will have to find it's way from the corporate office to somebody who is paid to deal with annoying customers like me, but it's been almost a month. I don't expect they're going to actually help me out anyway. I still have a $35 gift certificate to use, but after that, it'll be "So Long, It's Been Good To Know Ya."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Rule #3: Ha, we didn't really mean #1 and #2.

A couple years ago, I happened to notice a sign along the road that said "Future Location of Tom Leonard's Market." The typeface used looked sort of familiar, and having spent a large chunk of my life in Connecticut, I quickly made the connection to Stew Leonard's. I was interested to see what this market would be like.

I knew that the chain in Connecticut had a reputation for good customer service, and when Tom Leonard's opened, I was pleased to see that there was a giant rock in front of the store, inscribed with the following:
Rule #1 -- The Customer is Always Right
Rule #2 - If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule #1.

So it turned out to be a decent little market for fresh produce and a couple other things. The fresh mozzarella was superb. I missed having a place like that around when I lived in Georgia for a year. It was one of the first places I went to when I moved back to Virginia.

One little thing bothered me though -- a lot of items are sold at "2 for" prices. e.g. one gallon of milk for $3, but two for $5. I'm a single guy, living with just my cat; I just can't drink two gallons of milk before they'd spoil. Same thing with quarts of strawberries or other perishable items. Very occasionally, I could use that pricing scheme to my advantage, say two avocadoes for $3 instead of $1.69 each, but more often than not, it would be a complete waste of food and money.

I have to imagine that other single people would have similar situations, especially older senior citizens.

Tom has a suggestion box in his store, and a big sign saying:
What do you like?
What don't you like?
I want to hear from you!
Put a note in the box and I'll get right back to you!

So I filled out the form and said that I liked the mozzarella, and that I really disliked the two-for pricing, put my name and email at the bottom of the slip and dropped it in the box. I guess I didn't really expect them to change the policy, but I was curious about how they'd respond.

Well, they responded with an email that said "thanks for your comments, we'll put your email address on our list." OK, so technically I guess that's "getting back to me", but it wasn't much of a response.

You know what, Tom? Tell me that you use that pricing scheme for reason X or reason Y, I don't really care. But do NOT put up a sign implying that you'll respond to a customer's suggestion/inquiry and then just use the system to harvest email addresses.

I replied to that email, basically saying I had expected a real response, not to be added to a spam list. (And yes, it is spam because I was not told my email address would be used for marketing purposes.) I never received any response to that email; I haven't been back to the store, either.