What’s the Going Rate for Integrity?

I sat across the table listening to the pitch. The assignment, should I choose to accept it, would be to record myself reviewing a shopping app, giving my honest opinion. Let’s see… combine my video and Web experience with my love for expressing my never-ending opinion? Where do I sign up! Plus, for less than an hour of my time, I would be compensated what some people make for a week of full time work. Not a bad gig, right?

Here’s the problem. The app, and subsequent review, would also be indirectly promoting a retail giant that I just so happen to despise, a company I have written about in the past (and not so favorably). In fact, it’s the same evil chain that I continue to boycott, for several reasons ranging fromĀ  their clueless employees and dirty stores to unfair business practices and corporate bullying of the little guys.

But Mama’s got mouths to feed, people. At least that’s what the little money-hungry devil on my shoulder tried to convince me. “Just take the gig and dance your way around the store portion of the review,” Little Lucifer taunted. “Readers would totally understand that you, like millions of other Americans, have to make decisions that best work for you. If that means swallowing your integrity to support your family, so be it!”

I swatted at my shoulder-devil, knocked him to the floor and stepped on him until his little imaginary guts spilled onto the painted concrete. Then I politely declined the offer, explaining that I would be happy to partner on a future project. Because more than new shoes or a family trip to the movies, my kids need a role model, someone who stands up for what she believes, and isn’t afraid to be unpopular.

Now if you added a zero to that offer, that’s a whole new ballgame.

How much is your integrity going for these days?


The Rise and Fall of Customer Service

I was ready to seize the day. My mission: To stop procrastinating and start checking tasks off my never-ending to-do list.

Task #1: Pull Christmas lights down

I’m kidding but my inability to make things happen lately leaves me with a car full of store returns, clothes to have cleaned and projects to complete. In order to prioritize, I combed through the endless errands and focused on those that are really important — like replacing the two front tires on my car. “Easy enough,” I thought. (I should have known considering this post I wrote in 2009)

Back Story: In 2006, we purchased a car with “Pax” tires — said to be Michelin’s technological breakthrough. They were quoted as saying “We haven’t been this proud since we invented the radial tire.” Little did they know, they’d be under fire for tires that don’t last, cost several times more than regular tires and facing a law suit. Long story short… it doesn’t give us many options when it comes to finding a tire shop with the equipment and experience to swap them out.

So I call over to one of the recommended dealers and I’m told to come right in. I walk in the door and see one of their employees on the phone at the counter (let’s call him Steven). So I wait…. and wait… and wait. I realize that he’s not doing all that much talking and, when he is, is mumbling things like I know. Yup. Okay, we’ll talk. Mmm hmm. You could see the conversation quickly turning him from a grown man into a cowering puppy dog.

It kind of irks me this guy is on a personal call and won’t even look up to acknowledge me. Another customer walks in and waits behind me. Then another. Are you kidding me that this guy is just continuing his phone chat and completely ignoring us? I try to calm myself a bit, looking for a good reason for his terrible customer service. Maybe his wife is having a hard day (he has a wedding band on). Maybe her mom is sick… or the kids are driving her crazy. Poor guy is just trying to be a good husband, right?

Finally, he mumbles “hold on” into the phone and puts the receiver down. “I’ll be right with you,” he says to the growing group of tire shoppers behind me. Then he walks out back, where I can see him through the glass, and picks up another receiver to continue his conversation.

I walked out.

I get in my car and do a search for another local dealer. Oh good, this one looks like it’s independently owned – I love supporting mom and pop shops. I pull in to the last available spot in their lot and head in. The very large, hairy man behind the counter is talking to what looks like a customer who is just finishing up. Bass… rod… bait… fishing terms are being tossed around as the men chat like they’re out on a boat with no care in the world. As I stand at the counter waiting for service, one of the tire techs comes out and also waits for Big Hairy Boss. The men continue telling stories of their fishing expeditions. I would think that they might not have seen me but the customer had looked over a couple of times, noticing my obvious confusion that my presence hasn’t even been addressed.

I walked out.

As I am heading back to my car (with tires balding by the minute), the tech guy runs out. “He was going to get to you next,” he says apologetically.

Two strikes forces me to head on over to the dealer. It’s funny how car dealerships get a bad rap when it comes to service. We hear stories of customers being overcharged and up-sold on unneeded parts and services everywhere. But as I pulled up to talk to them about my tire situation, Louis was right there with a smile and ready to work with me. He was totally patient when I told him about the issue, called Michelin to get my 25% discount they were offering and even agreed to my gentle suggestion of a free oil change. Sure, there’s a leader board on the wall, evidence that the dealer is looking more at the bottom line than customer service, but I guess I lucked out and found a service guy who was more interested in helping me than the monthly contest.

The thing is, in a time when businesses are closing their doors, with more and more store fronts remaining empty in locations that used to be hustling and bustling, I would think customer service would be more of a priority for companies and their employees. I know that even the grocery chains have stepped up the personal service, constantly offering help (although, I think I’m okay to carry the gallon of milk to the car on my own, thanks)… and ready to locate a product when you’ve gone up and down every aisle looking for it. Even our local Culligan company volunteered to lower our rate when I called to pay our bill recently. But I guess the news of the bad economy hasn’t hit the tire shops yet.

I wonder what Steven’s wife would say if she knew he lost a sale. I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that call.

Let’s hear your customer service stories — good and bad! 

BEWARE of Online Shopping

I consider myself to be a savvy shopper. I read reviews and often get the best deals out there. I often try to avoid the big companies and purchase from those with great service and good quality and prices.

So what happened that I didn’t even think to check out feedback when I purchased from domeclimber.com?

Jeff and I actually thought ahead and ordered the gift from Santa back in November. It’s the only thing we did ahead of time. We were so excited. How often can you find a gift that all three kids would love and benefit from? My credit card was charged December 1. I was feeling good about it. But I started emailing and calling them this past week when I never got shipping confirmation. We were cutting it close. I suddenly got a bad feeling when their voice mail wouldn’t receive messages and I wasn’t getting a response via email.

Then I did a little research online. UGH – this company is notorious for ripping people off. We’re by no means the only family who’s been swindled by this company. I can’t believe I could’ve been so dumb. Not only am I out a whole bunch of money… my kids’ big Christmas gift is not coming. I have a feeling pajamas and snowsuits for our drive to the snow aren’t going to provide the same shock and awe.

I’m feeling a little stupid and heart broken. It’s not like we can dish out that money again somewhere else. And yes, we can dispute the charges and will but there’s a tiny piece of me that is hopeful I’m wrong about them and will receive the product. Because of that, I will hold off until Friday to call the bank.

The moral of the story: Beware of domeclimber.com and be sure to do your research before ordering from a small company. Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t care that children will be hurt by their illegal and immoral ways of doing business.