PC 104 Customer Service and Satisfaction

 It must be someone’s fault’; ‘I’ll make them pay’; ‘Take responsibility you fuckers’.

We live in a society where increasingly the hue and cry is ‘It’s their fault’ … ‘Sue them’, and all sorts of accusations in between. But how companies actually respond to their customers has always been fairly crucial; no more so than today. Get it wrong and you shoot yourself in the foot. Many of you will remember Jerry Ratner who had started out as a retailer in the jeweller business. In an after-dinner speech in 1991 he recalled being asked how he could sell his jewellery so cheaply; “Because it’s total crap.” he replied ….. wiping £500m from the company’s value. But at the very basic level, all we really want is someone to acknowledge our issue, take some responsibility, make a gesture.

The airlines come in for a lot of stick and some of it’s justified. Our very own British Airways never seems to handle a crisis well; they have yet to learn that customers want to be told something, even if it’s ‘we have no information’, because we assume they know!! Other airlines are no better. When we flew to Brazil via the Antipodes in January we found ourselves on a LATAM flight from Auckland to Santiago, with no vegetarian meal for Celina. The ‘special request’ wasn’t rectified when we flew on to Rio two days later. So on our return to the UK I asked via the travel agent for some explanation from the airline; eventually the travel agent said that LATAM are not obliged to provide options such as vegetarian food ….. so the travel agent sent us some chocolates …… and that made us feel good about them but not about LATAM who for the sake of a voucher or somesuch could have redeemed themselves.

We went with some chums to a local restaurant, The Ginger Pig, some months ago and had a very pleasant evening. It wasn’t crowded and we chatted to the duty manager Rob as we paid the bill and got our coats. I put mine on and was distracted by the conversation ….. until Celina yells anxiously: “You are on fire! Turn around!” Closer inspection suggested that I had backed up against a window sill on which there was a lit candle. The jacket came off, we stamped on it to put out the flames and went home with our ears ringing with apologies etc from the staff.

I expected an emailed apology but nothing happened, so I dropped them a note asking what they were going to do to get my jacket repaired. Without admitting any liability they offered a voucher for £25 – for a meal in the restaurant – so cost to them?£5? They didn’t get it, I thought; one telephone call to the local Trading Standards and they would get a visit, but I didn’t want to do that to a place which is local and where the food’s really good!! So I emailed: “A fortnight has gone by and I await your thoughts on offering to have my jacket repaired as opposed to a voucher towards a meal. I am normally quite patient but there is no more information so you just need to make a better decision!”

Jacket 1

The flames took out both outer and inner layers

I collected £25 from the Ginger Pig a few days later and my jacket is now patched. Result!

Moving away from London broke the regularity with which Stewart, who lives in Wimbledon, and I had lunch, to ‘chew the fat’ and catch up. Suffice to say we got together in July at Brew on Northcote Road, Battersea. We had a light lunch of fishcakes, poached egg, Hollandaise Sauce and spinach; Yum! You might think. And it was, but later that night, back in our respective homes, we both suffered the unmentionables.

I texted Stewart the following morning to say my night had been a bit troubled, and he admitted being quite ill; he recovered two days later. Brew went into the predictable: ‘It can’t have been us. We’ve checked batches of food and temperatures and ……. and …… etc etc’. When we pointed out that we hadn’t seen each for months until we met at Brew, that we live 60 miles apart, and so the obvious conclusion was that we picked up something at Brew, they still didn’t buy it and actually didn’t apologise. We eventually got our money back in the form of two vouchers, to be spent in …… Brew!! Er! Maybe not!

An altogether more satisfying exchange took place with Jessica Mason, founder of a bedding company called Piglet In Bed (www.pigletinbed.com). A feature in The Sunday Times a couple of months ago focused on bed linen, inter alia on her company and I thought I would order a duvet cover.

 “God, you have to be quick when you read something in the Sunday Times!” I emailed. “I was admiring your ‘blush’ duvet cover, thought over a cup of tea in the late afternoon I’ll order one ….. and find they have sold out. Congratulations on your success but when will you get some more in?

Six to eight weeks” came back a speedy response.

Six weeks passed and Jessica told me they were in. I ordered one and it duly arrived via Parcel Force.


Piglet in bed

 “My duvet cover and pillow cases came today. Great colour and we look forward to using them this evening. My only comment concerns the button holes. Lovely choice of buttons but actually the holes are not good. One or two are badly made and hardly wide enough to push a button through. I know I will not button and unbutton them every day but given the cost of the duvet cover they let it down badly.” I offered by way of feedback.

Quick to respond, Jessica emailed: “I am glad your bedding reached you safely. This is the first batch we have sold with this new button …… and I see your point about the holes being too small. Thanks for letting me know about this; we’re working to find a solution. Meanwhile I would like to offer a complimentary set in one of the other colours, with our previous buttons. Please get in touch ……..”

Well, I took her up on her generous offer, the second cover arrived and I reflected on how my impression of the company went through the roof. Everyone should buy something from Piglet In Bed – please!!

Satisfaction comes in all shapes and sizes!!

Richard 26th August 2017

PS I know some of you feel that we have a bit of a fetish for pigs. ‘Tis true! For me it started in 1989, buying two of the famous Oslo artist Mona Storkaas’ ceramic animals in that city; one a seagull and one a ……pig! Then I got a piggy money box …….. and the collection has grown! So we felt at home buying a duvet cover from Pigletinbed – but when I first read this, I sort-of read ‘Pigs Tin Bed’ which in the What3words locator would put you west of Cromer in Norfolk, UK at a Bed & Breakfast called …. The Pigs!!

Mona Storkaas Pig 1989

Mona Storkaas’ lovely pig mounted on driftwood

PC 103 Homework and in Class

My last scribbles described some of the highlights of my ten week ‘Creative Writing’ course and some of you emailed asking for the piece about Nelson, David and Freddie Starr. You were kindly appreciative, so I thought I shouldn’t hide another three little gems that came about either in class or as homework.

We were asked to write about shopping. Such a vast topic but for someone who hasn’t even been to Blue Water, one of those out-of-town shopping acreages, I decided to keep it simple. See if you agree?

For my fresh eggs I normally go to Dean & Perry’s market stall which is erected at the top end of pedestrianized George Street here in Central Hove. The eggs come from chickens in Peacehaven and are really lovely. Dean’s a tall chap and he has to stoop a little to fit under the canvas awning. Having picked up four egg cartons from the side of his stall, I come into view in front. It’s become such a regular occurrence that the whole shop goes somethings like:

“Hellllloooooo! How are you? Just your usual? ….. How many have we got?  …. Remind me, it’s the £1.09s, isn’t it?….. So that’ll be £4.36 ….

“Good morning Doris! How are you?……. Sorry! Be with you in a minute.

“…….So is that everything? These strawberries are the first of the season. No! We had the Spanish ones but these are from the Netherlands.

“Smell good an’ all” says Jim standing beside the stall from where he’s been talking to Dean about the football when there aren’t any customers….

“I don’t want to smell ‘em, Jim, I want to know how they taste .”

“Sorry Doris, two secs! ….. “

“So two dozen eggs and a punnet of strawberries £7.35 call it £7 Thanks for that …. three pounds change then ….. See you next week ……

“Now, Doris what did you want? Yes, the beetroot are cooked, real sweet, I can tell, had some for my tea yesterday.”

I wander back down the street, smiling. Such a pleasure!

In one of the first classes, we had ten minutes to write about a memory of school, for here for sure was something that everyone had experienced, some more recently than others. It did seem a very long time ago but eventually this flowed from somewhere:

Anywhere but here!

I sit at my usual desk. There are twenty of us, all boys, struggling to make sense of Mr Parrish’s mathematical calculations on the board. He has a large nose, a beak, and he’s not confident. It’s a two hour double maths period. On my left is Ray and on my right Ian. Chalk dust lingers on the hot room. The sun streams in through the large windows.

Anywhere but here!

In the distance I can hear the sound of Mr Gough mowing with his tractor, preparing the cricket pitch for this afternoon’s match. I loathe cricket so I’ll skive off somehow.

Anywhere but here!

Do I really want to know how to do differential calculus? Will any knowledge of it help in the future? I take my slide rule and apply myself; I have to!

Anywhere but here!

Mr Parrish’s voice interrupts. He sets homework, reminds us to hand in the answer to his problem and leaves in a flurry of black master’s cloak and chalk dust.

You may guess I wasn’t a fan of school!!

One week the homework was to write about a happy time in your childhood. Thought it strange that as soon as Heather had asked us to write about this, she mentioned that past students sometimes had had a real problem as their childhood had been unhappy! Made me wonder why she had chosen such a potentially volatile memory bank. Yet one has to assume that somewhere in this generalised memory of ‘childhood’ there might be the odd nugget of happiness, even if you’ve labelled the whole as ‘unhappy’. So here is one!

 I never used a Rolodex but understand how they operate. I look at my imaginary one, flip through it ‘A’ to ‘Z’ and realise that finding happy childhood eexperiences are as rare as finding pissholes in a large snow field! Surely somewhere …….

 So it is that I recall, aged maybe 6, walking down Marlborough Buildings in the Georgian city of Bath, the city of my birth, to Victoria Park at the bottom of the hill. It’s midsummer and the tall trees are in full leaf, reaching across the traffic-free road to touch gently in the middle. My heart lifts as I see the ice-cream van in its normal spot. On Sundays it comes in the morning, on weekdays only for the afternoon.

 I put my hand into the dirty pocket of my grey shorts and am reassured by the touch of my threepenny piece, along with a piece of string and my penknife; enough for my favourite ice-cream! There’s a small queue, some adults, some children – all wanting to taste something cool and sweet on a sunny morning; shouldn’t be long.

 My turn!  I get the coin out of my pocket, reach up on tiptoe as high as I can and put it on the aluminium shelf. It’s Giovanni, who I know from past conversations was interned during the war because he was an Italian living in England. He doesn’t know my name but I’m not bothered. “A vanilla block and wafer please?” He reaches into the ‘fridge, picks up a block, adds two wafers and hands it to me. “Thank you” I mutter hurriedly as I feel myself salivating.

 I turn away, carefully unwrap one side of the block, place a wafer on top of the ice-cream, turn it over and remove the remaining paper, replacing it with the other wafer. At last! Holding my ice-cream carefully between thumb and forefinger, I lift it to my open mouth. I smell it, inhale the dusty wafer crumbs, and take my first bite. Now I am happy.

As I said in PC 102, I loved the challenge of having to write something, then, there. Now I just need to get motivated to take it to the next level. Hey! Ho!

Richard 12th August 2017