What follows appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with religion or spirituality. But if we think about what is actually going on here, what is really behind the incidents I recount, we may see that spirituality does indeed come into play.
I would like to recount a recent experience I had in the jewellery department of a prominent Canadian (well, actually no-longer-Canadian) department store. There are three reasons for my wanting to share this rather lengthy story: first, everyone to whom I have related it has been shocked and horrified by the events that took place, so I think it is a pretty engaging narrative; second, I am certain that the horror story I tell here, although perhaps an extreme example, is only one amongst those that could be recounted by consumers everywhere; and finally, I believe that there are at least a couple of “morals” to this story that are well worth contemplating.
In July I purchased, at a branch of this department store, a 14-karat gold chain as a birthday gift for my partner. His birthday is actually in August but he was leaving in a few days to return to his country. The chain, originally priced at $450, was on sale at a discount of fifty percent; I received an additional fifteen percent off by applying for the store’s credit card. The day after I bought the chain it broke, so a couple of days later I returned it to the store and asked that it be replaced with another of exactly the same type. As the chain was a birthday present and as it had not been cheap, even with the discounts, and as my partner was going home that night and I had to spend a part of our last day together in Vancouver dealing with this issue, I was less than happy with the poor quality of the product I had purchased.
The sales associate, who was most solicitous, informed me that although the inventory record indicated that there was one chain of the type I had bought in stock, there was in fact not one in stock. She then checked the inventory of the downtown store on her computer and advised that there were three such chains at that branch. I asked her to call the jewellery department there and have them verify that the chains were indeed materially present in their inventory. She agreed and proceeded to make the call. There was no answer in the jewellery department of the downtown store. Nevertheless, the associate encouraged us to go to the store as it was only a short journey on the subway and she assured us that we would have no difficulty getting a new chain there.
She would have been more correct if she had told me that the Dalai Lama was a Holy Roller.
So already we have a pretty dismal record of customer service: a product that breaks the day after it is purchased, inaccurate inventory records, a store department that does not answer its phone, and an associate who sends us at our own expense and inconvenience to another branch of the store.
But this saga gets worse—much, much worse.
In the jewellery department of the downtown store I speak with a young female associate, showing her the broken chain and the receipt as proof of purchase, asking that it be replaced with one of the three we have been told are in stock at this store. She says, “Where is the tag that goes with the chain?” Recalling that there was indeed a small tag attached to the chain when it was shown to us prior to purchase, I tell the associate that we were not given a tag, that the salesperson fastened the chain around my partner’s neck and sent us on our way. The young lady says, “Well I can’t exchange the item unless the tag is with it. Without that tag, how do I know that you didn’t just pick it up off the street?” A little surprised by both this policy and by the tone of the associate, I reiterate that we were not given a tag and that even if I did have the tag, I still could have picked the chain up off the street (I could not understand—and still wonder about—the magical connection between the tag and the chain). “Well, it’s usually stapled to the receipt.” I reply that as can be clearly seen there are no staple holes in the receipt so my claim that we were not given a tag is surely credible. The associate says, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” I continue to protest further, at which point she tells me that my dissatisfaction is not her fault as she does not make store policy. I assure her that I do not hold her personally accountable.
Now in terms of the quality of customer service, we are by this time at rock bottom. But in fact the whole notion of customer service is soon to be buried well below the basement of the store.
To be continued...
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