A girl was flirting with a boy.  This went on for several weeks.  The girl found out the boy was seeing someone else.  She got red-hot mad and told her friend about it.  “But I thought you told me he wasn’t your type and you wouldn’t go out with him,” the friend queried.  “I wouldn’t,” the girl replied, “but I wanted him to at least ask me.

That has been my experience with a major retailer of late.

Office supply store.  Let’s name it after paper fasteners, say, Paper Clips.

Paper Clips sends me, as a “valued customer”, an advertisement that entices me to buy.  With free delivery, I push the button and and my new printer is on its way.  The rebate offer is against my basic principles of shopping, but it really is a great deal.  Or so I think.

A few days later the printer arrives.  Only it’s not the right printer.  Not even made by the same company.  The UPS label says one thing, the box another.  So the $8/hr droid at the warehouse goofed up — I can accept that.  The printer they send me is worth 2x what the original one was worth before the half-off rebate.  I call up Paper Clips and inform them of the error.  “I’m happy to keep this one,” says I, smiling.  “You want me to charge you the difference then?” says they.  “No,” says I, “you can take it back.”  They offer to come and get it — in a week when I’ll be out of the country.  What are my other options?  Return it to the store. 

So I go to the local store, where it takes them 30 minutes to basically cancel my order.  What they (the floor sales droid and the manager) argue about is how their inventory system is going to handle this.  In front of me.  Finally, I get a credit to my card.  Whew.

Three weeks later, I get my rebate in the mail, in the form of a prepaid VISA card.  Amazing how their system works — apparently I can make a handsome living ordering things and filing an online rebate, then taking the item back locally.  Since thee $100 rebate isn’t mine, I take it  back to the store.  The customer service person immediately hollers, “Mike!” when I explain the situation, and Mike the Manager comes over to solve my problems and provide me service.

When he hears the story, he says, “I would have just kept the card.” 

But it’s not my money,” says I. 

Well, can I have it?” he says, followed by “Just kidding.”  I don’t know whether or not to believe him.  I inform him that there are some holes in their process and I’d expect they wanted to know about it.  He says thanks and takes my card, and assures me he’s taking it to the shredder right away.

As I walk out of the store, he yells over his shoulder, “Thanks for being honest.” 

Paper Clips is the third closest office supply store to my house.  They have prices that are sometimes better, but not always.  In this business climate, they need loyal customers to choose them over their competitor. 

I didn’t expect anything from them.  But I did expect them to offer.  They have failed to win a customer.

Don’t discuss internal problems in front of a customer.  Make offers to keep customers if you make a mistake.  Make offers to keep customers even if you do everything right.

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