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What’s the most dreadful (or wonderful) experience you’ve ever had as a customer?

“Are You Being Served?” What a fantastic show, I used to watch it with my mother-in-law on PBS. We used to laugh and laugh at all of the characters working together on the department store floor. I can’t remember their names very well, what I really appreciated was the formality between them, Mister this and Ms. that and Mrs. so and so and Captain this and that.

I worked in retail when I was at N.Y.U in the Village and customer service was very important at Conran’s Habitat. My store was Pottery Barn’s main competitor (guess who won the competition, lol) back then. I remember that the customer was always right and if they were unhappy with you, you had better make it right. Our store managers also made the point of reminding us that if a customer started becoming belligerent, to call them because they were paid the big bucks precisely to get yelled at and not us. That always made me laugh, there are no big bucks in retail. I didn’t mind working at Conran’s Habitat; it was a lot of fun, all of the sales associates were my friends, as well as management and we had the coolest customers. Darryl Hannah, Phoebe Cates, Jane Curtain, Billy Idol, William Baldwin, Tom Cruise; Tom Cruise back then wasn’t the big deal that he is now, so the list in terms of famous people was a little lukewarm but still exciting when you are twenty.

My best experience as a consumer was last year. I had purchased a box of Hodge’s Mill milled flaxseed and I found the seeds to be rancid. I wrote a letter and sent back the box, the receipt with the letter, not really expecting anything in return. Hodge’s Mill surprised me with a package containing three boxes of milled flaxseed, two boxes of hot oat bran cereal and a bunch of coupons for more products by Hodge’s Mill grains. I was impressed by how quickly they responded to my letter and how generous they were to rectify my issue.

I do feel that companies these days have forgotten that the customer is always right. They seem to be more concerned with profits than with inspiring customer loyalty. I think that it is because the companies are all merging to become huge conglomerates that they figure that eventually within their myriad of subsidiaries, you will become a consumer so they don’t even have to try anymore.

It’s sad I think, the only real power that we had seems to have gone by the wayside.