Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why the Economy Sucks or The Death of Customer Service in America

Anyone who has visited us (and you are few because I never let anyone in) know that the house has been unfinished for far too long. Richard and I are finally tackling those projects, trying to finally get the place done, so we can invite y'all over. Yep, all of you. Of course it will likely be some sort of a fundraiser, but I digress. We were even pretty excited about the idea of being able to spend a few dollars in a bad economy, and committed ourselves to buying locally whenever possible. Now for the irony. Our biggest obstacles are no longer time and money (although they are factors) no, our biggest obstacle is the merchants themselves! We consistently find ourselves leaving empty handed, wanting to scream "Why are you making it so difficult for me to give you my money?!" Last weekend it was a well known vintage hardware shop in Orange. They carried what I wanted, at a price I was willing to pay. But by the time the saleswoman/owner (the one with the bad wig who never figured out college is over, you know the one) by the time she was done telling me all the reasons I did not want this (very expensive, hard to install, yada, yada) I left the store empty handed. She talked herself right out of a sale. Instead, I ordered-get this-brand new hardware that exactly matched the stuff she did not want to sell me, from a repro place in another state. Say what?

So today we went to talk to a few cabinet people. Again, trying to spend in Anaheim, and balance the "sorry kids you can't go to college we just gave all our money to the carpenter for custom cabinets" with the "made from plastic and lead paint in China" of stock warehouse garbage, we went to a local "we build it ourselves" shop. And we were laughed at. Now I do not mind someone telling me that they cannot help me. Go ahead and tell me that your unskilled workers out back cannot make those flush mounted shaker doors fit the cabinet frame. I'm pretty used to it. But don't mock me for the request. Don't tell me "nobody does that" (yes they do) or that I will hate them (I do not hate the ones I already live with, or I would not want to add an island of them, thanks) or that I cannot get cabinets made from anything from MDF (it makes me itch almost as bad as vinyl) because I was not born yesterday, and I know you are full of it.

If you can't help me now, at least be nice about it. You never know what I may need in the future! I understand that old house stuff is a fairly specialized request. I am willing to pay a bit more for it (but don't hose me on the price, it's not THAT much harder) I am willing to wait a little longer. I am even willing to paint it myself, install my own hardware, etc. But do not make me feel foolish for asking if you might provide a service or product I may wish to purchase. And after that, do not dare whine about how you have to lay off employees because nobody out there is spending money. So to Henry at the "we don't really do custom cabinets" shop, all I have to say is, be thankful you aren't the HVAC guy. He made the mistake of insisting that he could not explain how to service our AC filter, because I am a woman. (Are my breasts going to impede the ability to reach the filter?) Unlike HVAC guy, Henry merely lost a sale, not a body part. But it is still sad that an Anaheim business left an Anaheim resident with such a bad taste for their shop. And when I go to reno the tract house kitchen Richard's Mom left us for a rental, (which does NOT need special order work) I know where not to go.

The solution? The kitchen saleswoman at Lowe's (Rosanna, great gal) sat down and listened to what I wanted, took the time to help me layout the new cabinets, using stock sizes, and then checked her manufacturers to find one willing to sell me just the hardwood boxes, unpainted, no doors or drawers, but all the bells and whistles and gadgets inside. We will have a local carpenter make the doors and drawer fronts, and paint them ourselves, installing our own hardware. Problem solved. Lowe's makes a sale, a local carpenter gets some work, Richard gets the kitchen he wants at a price I want to pay. Everybody happy. Why merchants cannot seem to think outside the box to make a sale is beyond me, but I am grateful to people like Rosanna, who "get it", and she will also get the not-custom-kitchen cabinets I need in the future. Our daughter's theory on Mom's living room rant; "Mom, all the smart people left California already, so all you have left to deal with are idiots. It's systemic."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's frustrating when you run into people who are unwilling to help you. I've tried to keep our house as original as possible and I've been told on several occasions 'that nobody builds things that way anymore.' Very frustrating. I've tried to spend money where possible with local vendors, but ended up ordering most of my hardware from Rejuvenation.