Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Help FOUND: Menard's, Valparaiso

Help FOUND through Assistant General Manager Ron Potter at Menard's in Valparaiso, IN

We bought this grill with some yard sale proceeds and were excited to return to our charcoal grilling foodie heaven!

It was on sale, nice sized and good lookin'! My dear Husband battled with some shlocky hole alignments in putting it together, but other than family entanglements expected with two tiny kidlets, assembly was timely. We used it for the first time on Father's Day. (If you must know, we grilled onion burgers. Yup, they were tasty.) What left a bad taste in our mouths was the top of the grill on which the paint peeled up. We are not idiots, we didn't light a huge fire and close the grill or anything...this was just a shoddy product. A shoddy product that we paid cash for since we live debt free. A shoddy product for which we threw away the receipt, not expecting this would need to be returned.

The booklet for "The Original Outdoor Cooker" charcoal grill insisted that "Should you encounter any problem(such as the top of the grill peeling up after one use) or obtain replacement parts CONTACT US FIRST Do not return product to the store."

I called the company phone number and left two different messages along with my story and contact information on Friday June 24 and Tuesday June 28. Surprisingly, have not heard back from the company.

After reading grilling recipe articles in our local NWI Times newspaper I began to resent the fact we would not be grilling this fine Fourth of July weekend. I thought even without a receipt and even though we paid in cash (Menard's will happily look up and replace a lost receipt from a credit or debit card transaction) I would at least call and see if they could help.

I usually find better help for sticky customer service situations when I talk to an employee or manager in person. Unfortunately with two babies and the large item in question I didn't think I was up for the challenge. I called Menard's and asked to speak with the manager on duty. I spoke with Ro-- I tried to clarify, Rob or Rod? He said RON! I think we both laughed. Maybe it was just me? I explained the whole evil grill saga and Ron (Ron Potter, I found out later) not only said they could offer store credit at sale price without a receipt, but he took the time to look up all grill transactions under the SKU I gave him, found ours and even told me we bought the grill at 3:43pm Saturday June 4th!

Ron said Menard's could give us our full purchase price with the "Transaction Inquiry" he printed out. We established that he would leave it at the Office Manger's desk up front and I could get it anytime today to do a return. I was so happy with this result that I told him I was a customer service blogger and I could feel a blog coming on. Ron laughed and said "This is what I get paid to do, I don't need accolades!" I asked if I could send the blog link to anyone and he did say on the Menard's website there was a customer comments area, so I will send this there too.

So many employees can help their customers like Ron Potter helped me, but they choose not to. They either do not care or aren't empowered enough in their work to make the extra effort that makes a difference. It may be true Mr. Potter just didn't want to see a crazy lady with two babies screaming and crying and dragging a big broken grill through the store...but I'd prefer to think he just likes to do everything he can to help people in ay situation he is in. Thank you Ron Potter, because of you my husband thinks I am awesome and we will be grilling this weekend...wanna stop by?

(Of course the full story will continue after I bring the behemoth of a grill into the store...stay posted for updates!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Help FOUND: Michael's Craft Store

Help Found: Michael's Craft Store
By Heather Curlee Novak

We moved to Valparaiso a year ago, but the basement and garage look like we have yet to unpack. Among the little often overlooked chores were several art pieces I had purchased over the years but never framed or hung up. One inspired morning (After six years or longer per piece.) I finally drug out all that needed to be framed in our home.

My previous professional framing experience was Hobby Lobby, which I love, but everything always cost fifty dollars. Three small things framed: fifty dollars. One poster framed: fifty dollars. And it took two trips because I had to go back and pick up my completed pieces a week or two later. Which now meant hauling tiny tots in with me and carrying them and my work out again. So you may see my reluctance to take four items in to Michael's to get them framed. I towed along my sleeping infant and charming two year old to finally get this nagging "to do" TO DONE!

Megan S. whom I later discovered is the Frame Department Manager helped me. I explained that cost was a concern, but shared what I was looking for in terms of style and size. She deftly escorted me to several locations to find their selection of frames that would fit my pieces without needing a custom fit or the cost of a custom fit. She also showed the frames that were on sale...cha ching! When I found a rustic wood frame and asked her to help me find glass and backing for it, She came through again. Megan showed me a comparable frame for much less and everything was together already. This was much better for me, because let's be honest, when am I going to find or make time to piece the frame parts together myself?

Megan even trimmed two pictures down for me to help fit them better in the pre made frames for a couple of bucks. All in all I spent less than thirty minutes and less than $45 for all four items. I complimented Megan and told her I planned to write about her awesome customer service. That is when she said she was the department manager. I can see she earns her position there, and I won't be surprised when someone tries to hire her to even bigger and better work. Thank you Megan, for caring about me, and for caring about what your work says about you. Frame on!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Help FOUND: Sally's Beauty Supply

I am a fake redhead. I've been a fake redhead for about 20 years and most every month of those years I have colored it red my very own self. I love salon color and know it is better in every way, but I just rarely have the budget for it when I know I can do a fair second for so much less. I have even tried beauty school color but it is just too hit or miss for me. Besides, I can color my hair in my own bathroom as my two bitty kidlets sleep instead of hiring a sitter and scheduling everything to go to have it colored by professionals. So I slack.

Recently I gawked at a beauteous head of red red red hair as we dropped our kids off at the YMCA to go work out. I said, "Please tell me that is not natural, and then tell me where you get it done!" The pretty lady laughed and said, "Actually I work at a salon, Vanis, here in Valparaiso." We talked and I struggled not to ask to touch her red hair like I did before when I had hair lust."

I plan to check Vanis out for my next haircut, but I still cannot seem to budget fifty bucks or more for color. For some reason this exchange with the firey faux redhead jogged my memory that I could buy professional hair color to use at home at Sally Beauty Supply! I also remember the only other time I bought hair color from Sally Beauty Supply I ended up with purple hair my first year in college! I now know not to do the violet reds. I was young then. I got very excited and couldn't wait to get in there and see what they had to offer.

On June 6 about 6:00pm a friend dropped me off to pick my car up from the mechanic and I decided to run a "quick kid free" errand to Target since my husband was home with the kids. Then of course I decided to "quickly" pop into Sally's and look at their color. I was trying to hurry and wasn't sure if I would get what I needed before my husband had to call to see if I was ever coming home.

The clerk Kirsten greeted me and asked if I needed help. Did I ever! I quickly babbled all of my information out and she easily and happily helped me find everything I needed in a super fast amount of time. I also asked about color depositing shampoos since red fades quickly and we have hard water to boot. She guided me to the shampoos but then mentioned her boss used a hair glaze when she was a redhead. She went to wherever that was and grabbed a tube to show me...I have no idea where she got it from because she did all the questing. It looked perfect (and cheaper than the shampoo & conditioner I would have purchased)

Shopping at Sally's and being helped by Kirsten actually felt like my gal pal and I were shopping together, not a clerk offering customer service! I was very pleased with Kirsten's customer service...she helped me with everything I needed and did it FAST. As you can see from my hair color drama I needed help, and I found it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Help WANTED: Buck's Shoe Repair, Valparaiso, IN PART TWO

NOTE: This is a review of the OLD BUCK"S Shoe Repair. As of Fall 2011 new owners have taken over and the store looks great and the folks are attentive and personal...I cannot wait to have a reason to go in there again!

Help WANTED: Buck's Shoe Repair, Valparaiso, IN PART TWO
By Guest Blogger Sharon Angelina

(If you missed part one of this hilarious and harrowing tale of terrible service please check out yesterdays' Part One!)

(continued from yesterday)
I would have interrupted, but never did find a polite pause in their important conversation to do so. I coughed, cleared my throat, insinuated myself in FRONT of Mr. Customer, and plopped my bag of boots on the counter. Finally, in one grand irritated gesture, Mr. Buck gave me a quick scowl, swished a customer repair ticket out of his chest pocket, growled, "Fill this out," and resumed his deep conversation.

That was enough. I said "NO, I just want to know if these can be fixed." I reached in and grabbed the broken heeled boot, and handed it to him, as I began to explain I only wanted an opinion. My explanation was cut short. He took, literally, less than three seconds, flexed the heel quickly, and said "Nope, busted, can't do it. Supports gone, 'll never hold," and tossed it back at me across the counter.

This infuriated me. And surprised and confused me. I didn't know which to feel first, or to feel more. I was the only other customer...I had a question... Was this even a shop? Had I invaded someone's home? I grabbed the boot, turned, and marched out, trying to slam the door behind me, but at the last instant I decided to preserve my dignity. I only slammed the door in my mind. Really hard. I wanted to open it again and yell "This shop sucks!" and then slam the door. But again, dignity. In my mind.

And the sad thing is, I got the boots fixed--they were totally fixable, and they were fine, I wore them, I think, twice-- but I can't remember where I got them fixed. Whoever it was did a great job. And they were polite to me. But ironically, I only remember that crap service I got at Bucks. Buck's rhymes with sucks. And they do.

WOW! I couldn't believe this story. Sharon tells it with a humorous bent, but I believe this is what happened and yet...I cannot believe this is what happened. I know the draw to small shops of any flavour is the folksiness of the service and conversation. The personal relationships with the owners and employees vs. the stereotypical name tagged zombie masses of the big box stores. Can there be too much relationship and not enough customer service? Apparently so. Like any good cocktail party guest, a small business owner or employee engaged in a more personal conversation should always seek to acknowledge and draw in the newcomer. Even quick eye contact, a smile and a "Hello!" would have increased Sharon's threshold for service immensely. I have not heard anything good about this shop, there was even an uncomplimentary article in the Times. This is disappointing since it is a short walk from my house and our family definitely used a shoe repair shop in our last town.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Help WANTED: Buck's Shoe Repair, Valparaiso IN (PART ONE)

NOTE: This is a review of the OLD BUCK"S Shoe Repair. As of Fall 2011 new owners have taken over and the store looks great and the folks are attentive and personal...I cannot wait to have a reason to go in there again!

Help WANTED: Buck's Shoe Repair, Valparaiso IN
Sharon Angelina, Guest Blogger & commentary by Heather Curlee Novak

This one came in to me loooong but so good and painfully bad I just have to keep it intact. Enjoy PART TWO tomorrow!

It all started in fall of 2003 with the fake snakeskin boots. They were trashy, had chunky 5 inch heels, and were found in a bin at a resale shop. I couldn't pass them up. They spoke to me. What can I say, I was going through a phase, that's another story.

But after I got them home and snuck upstairs past my kids to try them on in private with my plaid mini skirt, I discovered the heel on the left boot was wobbly. I knew they were too good to be true. I immediately regretted the six bucks I had spent on them, thinking they were too cheap to be worth fixing. But I had to try. After hobbling around thinking maybe I could just walk on the tiptoe of my left foot and fake it, I decided that kind of "cheap behavior" would likely get me some even more expensive medical bills, and I decided to put them aside.

Chesterton used to have a nice shoe repair shop, which had closed just the year before. It was called Franks Shoe Repair, and no matter what you brought to Frank, and no matter what day of the week it was, he always said they'd be done next Tuesday. If you came in next Tuesday and they weren't done, he'd mutter an apology and tell you to come in next Tuesday. He did good work and was super cheap. I missed him.

So I decided to try Buck's Shoe Repair in Valparaiso. On Lincolnway, just off the square. Any Porter County resident can probably tell you where it is if you know Valpo well enough. It's been there forever. In fact, I had just read a story in the newspaper that Buck's had been a family owned business for three generations and was still going strong. So I took a ride out of town, over to Valparaiso, found some nearby off street parking, and walked into Buck's Shoe Repair with my fake snakeskin boots in a bag under my arm. (I figured they should come in as a pair for some reason. I don't know why. Like the broken one might need moral support from its mate or something.) I wasn't even sure they could be fixed. I just wanted to have an expert opinion tell me to either come back next Tuesday or take them out and shoot them.

Cute shop, I thought as the bell on the door jingled cheerfully behind me. A lady was showing a pair of Birkenstock's to a customer. I didn't know they carried those. But I was here on business, so I approached the counter, from behind which a rather stout man was talking to a customer. I was the only other person in the store besides these four herein mentioned. I stood, positioned myself in "line" and waited. The stout man, presumably the store owner from the way he spoke and bantered with this familiar customer, did not cast me so much as a glance. I noted rather quickly they weren't in any particularly urgent conversation. Just "how's the family" kind of chit chat. I shifted from foot to foot, and repositioned my boots more firmly under my arm.

"So then he says to me, he says, it doesn't matter what, I still think often of that kind of thing, and it just won't do. I says yeah, that's what happens."

The other man nodded. "Well, you can always tell, that's what they say."

I stared at the man behind the counter and coughed. Then I brought the bag out from under my arm and rustled it loudly, and scooted closer to the counter. I was now invading the space of the "customer" in front of me by several inches. Still not a word or glance from the owner, although the "customer" did shoot me a quick sideways look, confirming that I was indeed not completely invisible. "Buck," however, maintained his insistence of my non existence. He continued to converse with his buddy, Mr. Customer, with the same effort and enthusiasm you exert on relatives who sit near you at, say, a funeral, or perhaps the kind of small talk you toss out there to relieve the awkwardness of that first five minutes next to a stranger on a short airline flight. It went on like this:

"So yeah, that's about the long and short of it. But here's the thing, when you come right down to it, it's just about all there is to it, and that's what I say. Heck, my wife would agree with me."

"Well, sure, sure. You can't always tell, but if you can, well then. That's that."

"Exactly. My point exactly. And that is that, if you know what I mean. There is always that."

I began to feel my face flush with anger. And then I instantly got angry for having to get angry at this ludicrous situation. I was in a shoe repair shop, for Pete's sake. Not in a customer service line. Not at an ATM. Not even in a long line at the White Castle. I looked around with an air of obvious irony, searching the store for other customers. And for other sales people. Finding neither, I inched closer to the counter and stared a hole in the owner's head.

(ENTERTAINED? Curious about what happens next? Check out Part Two tomorrow!)