Element of Frustration

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Quite some time back I wrote about an experience I had with exceptionally good customer service.  This happens infrequently and always makes an impact on me, as I never expect it.

I had an experience this weekend with the opposite.  In the interest of keeping things neutral I won't mention the business name, although I would dearly love to.

I live out of town and have small children -- two factors that make me consider each trip into town carefully, as there is definitely extra effort involved in a "quick trip to the store." 

In this case I needed an oven element. The bottom element, or "bake" element it is called, and as I have a wall-mount oven this is smaller than the standard, so I had some homework to do.  I dutifully looked up the model number, researched the oven itself to see if there were alternative issues that could cause the same problem.  I determined that it was in fact the element and not the fuse. 

I got out my tape measure and measured my oven width and the element width.  I turned off the breaker and carefully detached the element from the back wall of the oven.

Then I got on the phone. The first place I called went along these lines:

Do you carry oven elements?  Yes, what size?  Well the oven is 25" and the element is just about 15".  Okay, the top or the bottom?  The bottom.  Well I have a few here, let me look. The closest size I have is a 14.5."  Okay that sounds perfect, and the back plate is universal because this one had two small screws holding it on?  Yes, these are all universal. 

So I said "perfect, thank you -- this saves me a lot of hassle, because I live out of town so now I can just come straight there".

I asked what time they were open until and said goodbye.

And in a perfect world that would have been the end of the story.

In my world -- I got the car warmed up (half an hour lost there) and got my children dressed up (another 20 minutes or so), packed up the element and drove in.  In anticipation of an uneventful and efficient shopping stop I also pledged to get hot chocolate.  We got to the destination, unbuckled and made sure we had the element and mitts and toques and purse. 

Running and shuffling through the cold parking lot, into the store, past all the toys and decorations, right down to the direct aisle, and saw the elements up high on the shelf.  Success.  As I had already determined that my size was there, I thought it would be unnecessary to enlist help to locate it, but I was wrong.

The conversation now went like this.  (tracked down an employee)

Hi, I called earlier and was told you have an oven element the same size as mine, but I can’t find it on the shelf.

Oh, yes, that was me you were talking to.

OK, perfect -- which one of those was the one?  (Pointing to the six boxes perched on a ledge above me)

Oh, well –- we’ll just have to have a look through here.

OK ...

(He digs through each and every box comparing it to the old element I have brought with me)

So …?  (this is me)

Yeah, well I guess none of these are going to work.

But you did say on the phone that you had this size, right?  So if it showed that on the computer it’s probably just on a wrong shelf somewhere right?

Well … it’s not like you exactly knew which one you wanted when you called, I mean -- you were just guessing about the sizes anyways ...

GAK (my stunned silence)

So, well ... we’ll just have to take a look at the size of that one you have there.

I specifically called because I live out of town, and I didn’t want this to happen.  Are you saying you do not have this size at all?

Well, maybe next time you should know what you’re asking for before you call …


So at this point I’m left stuttering in disbelief.  The rest is kind of a blur, but I remember mentioning very loudly that I’d better hurry up and get going because now I’ve wasted half an hour on a store that doesn’t have my part even though they said they did.  And how fabulous it was to be lied to about a product so that I warmed up my car in -35 and dragged my kids out in this on a Sunday for what?? ...

So, long story long -- this just blows me away.  I can not believe that people behave this way!  I don’t understand what logic was running through this guys head when he said he had the same size.  I feel as though this person should be taken outside and given a lecture on how valuable people’s time is, versus trying to “make a sale” by lying.   All he had to do was say “no” or even “I don’t know”.  That would have been truthful.  That would have saved me a lot of hassle.

Bad news travels fast, and I have definitely sent word to the company about what kind of service I received in its store.  Bad service should never be tolerated or expected.  It should be reported and responded to. 

It should be extinct.  In the days of online shopping, there is really no need to go into a store to purchase something – but oftentimes what makes the difference is the service you receive.   We should all be expecting and demanding the BEST customer service.  We should be rewarding those who go above and beyond. 

Trust me, there was a lot of cussing and potty mouth on the way home.

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