When what you’re getting doesn’t align with what you’re paying

I received a letter in regard to last week’s column (customer-service-actually-means-serving-customers) that read in part:

“Your column reminded me of a story I wish to share: My wife and her mom, the latter who was confined to a wheelchair visited a [high end clothing store] and approached a salesperson who was anchored to one of those cash register islands. Grandma wanted to buy a dress shirt for her grandson and asked him for assistance. ‘We need help finding a dress shirt, size 16 neck and 35/36 sleeves. Can you help?’ The salesperson looked towards the display area and said, ‘You’ll find it over there.’ Grandma replied, ‘We already looked, can you check in the back?’ The salesperson responded, “If it’s not on display, we don’t have it in stock.” 

The letter writer goes on to say that the two women looked around and found the correct size (in the wrong spot) but it was not their first color choice. They asked again, same answer. The salesperson never budged and when they finally decided on purchasing the only option available, the salesperson handed them the bag, a folded box and some tissue paper. He then handed them a survey form and asked if they could give him all “10’s”, so that he could win a trip to Hawaii.

The man’s wife reportedly responded, “Would it be a one way trip?”

Everywhere you look service seems to be declining. And yet the costs for service keep going up. Meaning that we are getting poorer and poorer service and paying more and more for it. People are beginning to make the calculation that it is actually cheaper, and oftentimes far more satisfying, to do things themselves.

Yesterday I sat at a quicky car service place for 45 minutes staring at the giant “help wanted” sign while two guys took nearly an hour to perform that “quicky” service on one car. That can’t be a good business model, I thought, because the listed starting wage on that giant sign, when doubled, exceeded the cost of that service. Ultimately, I decided that I might be better served by doing it myself, and I left. Later on, I did that service, for less money and in less time than I spent on line.

Recently I have also noticed, that in my own neighborhood, more and more people are mowing their own lawns and changing their own oil. In the business world there is a saying “What the market will bear,” and that can apply to both wages, and to costs. And we are coming to a point, particularly in the restaurant business, where neither of those burdens are bearable.

How long will people pay $20 for a cocktail or $6 for a coffee, if the accompanying service is less than satisfying? I’m not sure. I guess we will all find out together.

On the plus side, many people that I know who do provide good service, are getting more business than they ever had before. One server recently told me, that more and more of her customers seem genuinely happy to see her. And are more appreciative.

Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for?” Well, it wasn’t really true then, and it certainly might not be true now. At least in some cases. The difference is that people are starting to notice it’s not true. And that is going to hurt those businesses that don’t actually deliver.

I remember a time where if you got a hole in your jeans, you just got them patched. I also remember when old holey jeans became fashionable (or became cut off shorts), all of which was then followed by a time when you actually bought pre-holed jeans! People might do crazy things and pay crazy prices for them, but they don’t often do both for very long. And I have a feeling we are just about to find out exactly how long that is.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-There are places that deliver good service consistently. They were around before the pandemic and they will be around after it too.

-Nowadays when I think of paying for a service that I can do myself. I calculate how much an hour I could pay myself to do it.

-There’s a meme going around the internet that I find particularly funny: “I just fired myself from cleaning my house. I didn’t like my attitude and I got caught drinking on the job.”

-Sometimes a “busman’s holiday” can save you two week’s pay.

-If you could please go onto the IJ website and give me all “10’s” I would appreciate it. I don’t know where, or how. You’ll have to look it up yourself. But I am trying to win that trip to Hawaii.