Retail education: Too big to fail

Home Columns Retail education: Too big to fail

by Kelly Kramer

I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir on this one, because if you’re reading this article, you’ve made it through the recession. You must have a company that already does a great job on service. With the exception of a few mega chains that rely on mass advertising— a.k.a. “turn-em and burn-em”— to get new buyers, the poor ethics and bad service companies have dropped out. But now we are up against a new problem with poor service from the people who we buy from.

Vendors, mills, distributors, and other wholesalers seem to be declining from, what three years ago was generally at least good service. Though, in their defense, they too have had to make cutbacks.

Too big to fail

I’m fortunate to have a broader prospective on this subject because I get readers’ emails from all over the country and I’ve given talks in almost every state. From all my experiences, I’ve come up with some common complaints and problems that all retailers seem to think is unique to their area. Here are just a few I hear all the time.

“In this area our customers shop us to death.”

“In this state we can’t seem to find quality salespeople.”

“Our shippers around here nail us on gas surcharges.”

“My major carpet mill doesn’t return my call and it turns down every legitimate claim we turn in.”

The funny thing is the names change from area to area. One region just hates Company A and loves Company B. The next region hates Company B. Every group has good and bad representation, I guess.

To give you an example, in my area my store has a huge divide from the big three carpet mills. Two of my manufacturers are awesome and one treats me like dirt. I’ve had two claims on carpet in the last two years. Company C looked at a swatch (remnant) from an installation and in less than two weeks gave us a claim approval for poor texture retention. Now that’s great service.

Then there is Company B. We had a claim that the customer was getting as much as two full bags of fiber from each vacuuming. So, I took a sample swatch and sent it in to the manufacturer. After two months of calling we were finally denied. Now I’m no inspector, although I’m close, so I sent a piece to one of the top inspectors in the country and the research from an outside, independent source showed without any doubt that the carpet was defective.

After another month that information was denied, saying that the wrong tests were sent in. Being a bull headed person, I had to circle the wagons and called the CEO of the mill. While I never talked to him directly, he was told of my plight and, lo and behold, the claim was approved. Months later, though, we were still trying to collect and use the credit. It seems that we always sent it to the wrong fax (after the next order was shipped), our credit manager was “always” on vacation, and we messed up their system because we pay our bills differently now.

The problem is that this company is “too big to fail.” We can’t just dump them, so we keep a few of their items and sell them as a last resort.

Maybe Company B will get the hint one day, but I think the dollars will have to disappear first. The moral of the story is, “We want good news fast and bad news faster.” Fix it fast and with a smile. That’s a great philosophy to live by.

Thanks for reading.

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