Oct. 7/14 2013; Volume 27/number 12
By Steven Feldman
Next year will mark 20 years that I’ve been covering this industry as an editor and/or publisher. Amazing, indeed, considering my thoughts during that initial interview in May 1994. When I was asked about my carpet knowledge, I admitted the only carpet brand I had ever heard of was Stainmaster. Upon which, I was corrected: “Stainmaster is not actually a carpet brand but rather a carpet fiber brand.”
Anyway, throughout these past two decades I’ve read column after column, listened to speaker after speaker on the subject of consumers, claims and the frustrations that often occur when the first two are paired. The consumer has an issue with her carpet. She will call the retailer where she purchased the product, but it’s not his fault. Maybe it was the installer; maybe it was a manufacturing defect. The retailer may call the manufacturer, who may or may not accept the blame. Maybe the consumer did not maintain the carpet properly. Whatever the case, the consumer is given the runaround, becomes frustrated and is less apt to purchase the product again.
I could always sympathize with that consumer, but it was impossible to truly feel that frustration. That is, until this summer when I found myself in a similar, albeit unrelated, situation as that frustrated customer.
July 4 weekend was coming to a close, and Jenna Lippin and I were headed to Portugal to visit Amorim, one of the most impressive companies I have come to know (see story on page 10). We were flying to Madrid on Delta, transferring to an airline called Air Europa. There was plenty of time for the connection. That is, until the Delta flight’s departure was delayed about three hours due to a nearby storm. Needless to say, Air Europa would not be holding its plane for us.
What proceeded only served to provide a newfound understanding of that frustrated carpet customer who only seeks to have her problem resolved. First, Air Europa determined they could not put us on the next flight because our failure to make our original flight was “Delta’s problem.” The ticket was booked through Delta, so it was their responsibility to handle the rebooking. Great. So, after trekking what seemed like a mile back to the terminal where Delta resides in Madrid, I learned the Delta people were gone for the day—at 10:30 a.m.; a bit early for siesta, but whatever. It seemed like our flight was the only Delta flight into Madrid, and once passengers disembark the plane, the airline disembarks the airport.
Back to the Air Europa counter, where I was told it still was not their problem. Back to Delta baggage claim, where the person in charge expressed sympathy amidst his uselessness. He did, however, make a phone call, after which he advised me to go to the Air France counter, because as a Sky Team member and Delta partner, they assist Delta passengers in the absence of Delta employees.
Another mile back to the other terminal, where, upon hearing my story, the Air France employees were divided: one had a dumbfounded look that basically said, “What the foie gras do you expect us to do?” Another seemed bothered that he actually had to listen to my plight. The other simply laughed at me. Partnership? Israel and the Palestinians have a better partnership.
Needless to say, we eventually arrived in Portugal, a bit more frustrated than when we left home. However, the hospitality bestowed upon us by the Amorim folks put the Delta ordeal in the rearview mirror.
I boarded the plane home four days later better for the experience: I learned all about the world’s greatest manufacturer of cork, and I learned what that consumer experienced when she had a problem with her carpet.
So please, when your customer calls with an issue, try to understand what she may be going through.