Archive for the ‘Repair’ Category

Service of When Little Things for Some are Big to Me

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

I’ve written a few times about how little things mean a lot. This post is an updated version.

I was so happy when a few sprigs I cut from an overgrown geranium took root. Over the years, I’ve found this plant to be persnickety and not easy for me to propagate. I’m always tickled when one of the shoots takes hold.

Friends know how much I love to receive cards—e- or paper–and I am grateful for each one. This year I recently received a Freshcut orchid and a rooster who plays polka on an accordion in addition to a fabulous selection of others.

My heart sank when a clock I’m fond of refused to work in spite of countless batteries I’d install. I brought it to Jennings on First Avenue in my old neighborhood and after a new motor, it’s good as new. So happy to see it back in its place above my kitchen door.

Friends who have a weekend home in Connecticut have brought me fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from a local farm every Sunday for weeks. What a treat!

When I learned that a series I’m attached to—The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix—will have a third season, I was elated, even though I probably won’t see anything until 2025 due to the writer and actor’s strike.

My bathtub drain was clogged. It took the handyman/porter a few minutes to remedy what I feared would make a major mess. It didn’t. Whooo hooo!

What things that may be little to some are big–and meaningful–to you?

Freshcut orchids

Service of Excellent Outcomes

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

What a thrill when situations that look discouraging turn out well.

Print That

My heart sank when I broke my brand-new Canon printer. I’d removed an empty cartridge to determine its order number and didn’t return it to its spot once I learned that my nearest office supply store didn’t have it in stock, and I’d have to buy it online. Turns out you’re not supposed to leave the housing empty.

When I put in the new cartridge the carriage moved to the right, out of sight and stuck. A doomsday message appeared in the digital window. YouTube videos and instructions on Google to fix it didn’t do the trick. I had visions of lugging the printer somewhere for repair.

That’s when I decided to try Canon customer service. It took me some eight phone calls to reach a person. Before that when the computer voice asked me for the name and TR number of the product the computer voice ignored my response and repeated the question again and again. My neighbors, if passing by in the hallway, must have wondered why I was yelling “Pixma TR4720” at the top of my lungs. Punching 0 a zillion times did nothing.

Eventually I lucked out and landed on Christian, a person. Step by step he guided me through unplugging the device from electricity to tapping the on button multiple times to a fix. It worked! I was grateful and relieved. I never got the request to rate my experience. I was disappointed as I’m asked to rate a paper towel order and I wanted to share my gratitude with management.

Lost and Found

A friend didn’t tell me that she’d dropped off a magnificent Christmas gift a few nights before December 25: A stunning orchid. She knew I hadn’t received it because I never mentioned it. Almost a week later she told me about the glitch. Because it was so late—10:30 pm–she asked the doorman NOT to call me. She said he began calling different tenants anyway while she pleaded with him to stop. We figured someone else was enjoying this magnificent plant.

I mentioned the situation to the best building manager on the planet. He explained that the doorman was a new temp and he’d look into it. A few hours later he called to say he’d found it! Mirabile dictu. Hooray!

Am I the luckiest person? Have you experienced situations with potentially bleak outcomes that turned out splendidly?

Service of Making it Hard to Pay a Compliment

Monday, October 10th, 2016

According to an article in Bulldog Reporter, 71 percent of office workers in a survey responded that they “are likely to contact a company with feedback after a good customer experience.” [I realize that the operative word is likely.] Nevertheless, I do this in 98 percent of instances. But sometimes a company makes this hard to do.

If you’re a Verizon customer you may notice the company doesn’t provide a contact phone number [!] on its website and if it does, I couldn’t find it. A Google search didn’t help either. It turned out I had one in my phone’s address book. So here’s my story.

Our house is on a country road that isn’t a profitable place for Verizon’s landline business so maintenance isn’t a priority. [Verizon mobile phones don’t work there at all.] The buzzing on our landline recently became overwhelming so I finally called for service. Someone came a few days later and when he left, we could no longer receive calls which we learned the next day—Saturday–when I looked at my mobile in a place it did work and saw texts and emails from folks who had tried to call.

Long story short, the dispatcher sent someone else immediately, and he was wonderful. After tracking down and fixing the reason we no longer could receive calls he said that the buzzing on our line was still unacceptable and he wanted to fix it. [If he thought the improvement was bad, he should have heard the deafening noise before.] He drove down the road and worked his magic on a pole high in the sky and our line is clearer now than it has been in many years.

I wanted to send an enthusiastic note to his supervisor or department head and while he shared his first name and employee number, he didn’t know who that would be. [He probably isn’t allowed to give it out.] When I called the dispatcher she had to ask her supervisor and eventually she gave me a general phone number where I left my message that I fear won’t be heard or reach his file to do him any good.

Have you ever run into such a situation? I wonder why a company doesn’t want to hear about exemplary employees in a way that can do their staffers some good by easily adding a kudos to their files.


Service of Coming Clean II

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

A friend in NJ sent this to me. It identifies legitimate expectations of someone who invests in the best and anticipates equivalent service. She wrote:

I had an experience recently that calls service into question. 

We bought a Miele dishwasher about eight years ago.  It cost more than my husband’s first car, but we had done our research and decided it was worth it.  Up until now, we’ve been very happy with it.  But it developed a leak early this month, so I called Miele (which does all of its own servicing).  The person I spoke with in the service department was not the most congenial.  It took a fairly long time for him to find us in the system, because someone had spelled my name wrong when I made my last service call. (They had talked me through a minor repair some years back.) The appointment he gave me was a week in the future. 

The technician came and was very nice.  He brought a $600 pump on the assumption that was probably the problem.  But it wasn’t.  It was two inexpensive hoses, which he did not have on his service truck.  He pointed out the window to indicate how small the truck is and told me it had to hold everything he needs for a day’s scheduled repairs.  What he didn’t explain was why the assumption was that the pump was shot and the leak had nothing to do with simple hoses or gaskets. He assured me the parts were in the warehouse, said someone would call to schedule another service appointment, and assured me I would only be charged for a single visit. 

The next day I received an estimate for the cost of the repair, which said I had only five days to schedule an appointment before the estimate expired.  No one had called me so I called and waited a long time to talk to someone in the service department.  It turns out that all parts have to be shipped from the warehouse (here in NJ, where Miele is based and where I live) to the service tech (the techs work from home), and when he received them I would get a call to schedule an appointment. I insisted on prompt scheduling. My next appointment is a week from the first one. Assuming the dishwasher gets fixed then, we will have been without one for two weeks.

And I will have rearranged my schedule not once but twice to accommodate service appointments. 

When I asked the customer service person why Miele operated on this convoluted system, which is inconvenient for the customer, he said it’s because the company wants inventory in the warehouse, not on the service trucks.  My response was that if you send a tech out to fix a leaky dishwasher, he should have all the parts that might be needed in that situation, not just the priciest one. How much room do hoses take?  I pointed out that when you sell high-end appliances, you need to offer high-end service!  I also indicated that I’m in the process of replacing all the appliances in another kitchen and had just been in the Miele showroom two weeks ago to look at the latest dishwashers.  I’d also looked at the products of a competitor.

We have other high-end appliances, and I have had service on some of them over the years. I’ve never had to wait this long to get one of them fixed.  Most of the other brands do not have proprietary service, as Miele does.  Instead, they use authorized repair people who service multiple brands.  My neighbor had a problem with her dryer the other day and the service people were out here almost immediately!

My husband, who is very handy, even looked online to see if he could buy the parts and do the repair himself.  But unlike many of its competitors, Miele doesn’t sell parts.

I don’t mind washing dishes once in a while, although it’s a pain in the tail after a dinner party. But you don’t spend this much on a dishwasher to hand-wash your dishes for two weeks.  And I will be asking very different questions before I buy my next appliances.

People with both tight budgets and deep pockets buy top of the line appliances from local merchants because they expect to get better service when needed–though not too often–as well as to keep the equipment for a long time. Is this a myth? Are they better off buying cheap copies from big boxes and tossing them when they break?

Service of a Timely Partnership: Tourneau Just in Time

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Sohpia Hollander’s story, “Time Tinkerers: Finding a Future Repairing the Workings of Watches,” she wrote about students who are saved by a time-honored profession: Clock repair.

A partnership program between a school for kids who’ve not made it in traditional high schools and the Tourneau Repair Center in Long Island City trains the students. Of 25 from the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School who finished this program–twice a week for two months–Tourneau employed six. Hollander quotes one student who “couldn’t focus and felt embarrassed asking questions or speaking in groups, he said. ‘I felt I was a kid with a hoodie on his head,’ he said. ‘I thought I didn’t have much to say.’

“But seeing the inside of watches sparked questions, he said. He was astonished by the sheer number of parts. He found a new ability to concentrate as he tinkered with the tiny pieces. Understanding watch innards has become as addictive as a new videogame, he said. ‘Now I can take something that’s broken and fix it,’ he said…. ‘It’s a good feeling to solve other people’s problems.’”

Hollander reports that watch sales and production are brisk but that there are only six repair schools today as compared to 50 in 1955. She quotes Terry Irby, technical service director at Tourneau who told her that “If they didn’t make another watch, I think there’s enough work for another 50 years.” He admits there aren’t enough watchmakers. Where Irby works, some of the watches are in the $36,000 range. You’d want to take good care of such a piece.

Hollander continued: “Pablo Gonzalez, 19, enrolled in the program’s first class last spring. He was flunking his courses, clashed with his parents and hung out ‘with a bad group of kids,’ he said.

“‘I was really going downhill,’ he said. ‘Everything was going wrong.’ But he found peace in the three-dimensional puzzle of hundreds of miniature watch pieces. He began experimenting with other activities, learning how to play handball and rediscovering his love of skateboarding. ‘It makes you confident about what other things you could do,’ said Mr. Gonzalez, who was one of the first program graduates hired by Tourneau.”

Do you know of other such programs? Do you agree that while small, this apprenticeship approach, multiplied by businesses around the country, could have the kind of impact we need to get back on our economic feet?

Service at the High End

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

A stunning friend of my mother’s was ignored when she visited Christian Dior in Paris. It was the 1970s when the economy was also in a sling. The weather was beastly so she was wearing a raincoat and headscarf to protect her hair. She thought that may have been why nobody paid her any heed. After a few moments of feeling invisible, she turned and walked out of one of the most prestigious couture houses in the world at the time and told us that as the door closed behind her, she took comfort thinking, “How do they know that I’m not a millionaire-when actually, I am.” [What a billionaire is today is what it was to be a millionaire then.]

There are some luxury brands, such as Tiffany, that have traditionally bent over backwards to make everyone feel welcome regardless of their budget or the size of their billfold and to make customers feel like millionaires or billionaires, whether or not they are.

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Obviously not always, even in today’s economy. My nephew told us about how he was poorly treated at a Mercedes dealer and a friend and follower of this blog, Catherine C., had a similar experience at a BMW dealer. She and her husband went to a different dealer to buy their car.

Catherine C. also generously shared details of another recent experience with a luxury brand that’s worth sharing because it illustrates a crucial disconnect when the level of service isn’t equal to the product. She writes:

“My mink coat came from a prominent NYC furrier. My husband bought it directly from that company 12 years ago because of an introduction from a business associate. The older generation was still around then.  Over the years, the younger generation has gradually taken over.

“In the beginning, I had no problems. But in recent years, there has been a steady stream.

** “One year my coat and headband ended up somewhere on Long Island [I live in New Jersey]. That was the year they insisted that their records showed that I had two coats.  Obviously, the owner of the other coat got hers and mine.

** “Another year I had to fight to get my bag and hanger back.

**  “In yet another year I ordered and paid to have the fur at the coat’s hemline replaced but it didn’t really look as if it had been done–it can be hard to tell for sure.  The next year they called to say it needed to be done!  I questioned why, when they supposedly did it the year before and billed me for it. Lo, there was no bill for anything that year at all – not even storage.

** “This year, I ordered the lining replaced.  I called around November 9 to say I wanted the coat delivered. I was told it would be picked up from the storage facility in NJ on Monday, November 16 and delivered to me a few days later. When it hadn’t been delivered by November 19, I called to find out why. I had been pinned to the house waiting for the delivery for two days and was getting tired of it.  I was told they’d track it and get right back to me.

“After 45 minutes without a call back, I knew there was a problem. So I called again and learned that the relining was not done when the coat went into storage in the spring. The work hadn’t been entered into the system until late so the work had been done about a month ago. They gave me a song and dance about the coat first having to go to the showroom in NY and then be delivered to me in NJ and they didn’t know why that hadn’t happened. I pointed out to the owner, the next gen guy I’m dealing with, that I have had my share of problems with them in recent years.  He told me ‘these glitches do happen.’  Really? So many times to the same customer?

“I can certainly guess what really happened. Maybe the relining had been done and maybe it didn’t get done until I called. Either way, they realized they hadn’t billed for it and they weren’t about to release the coat until they did. So a bill went out after I first called to schedule a delivery and they hadn’t received the check by the day the coat was due to be released.  Rather than tell me that, they conveniently had a ‘glitch.’

“While we are braced to expect this treatment from a phone, cable, or appliance repair service, this company falls into the luxury sector.  That means the customer expects superior quality, service, value, craftsmanship, as well as uniqueness. And the company needs to deliver against a higher set of standards.  When it doesn’t, the brand is tarnished.

“At this point, as much as I love my coat (which is of superior quality, outstanding craftsmanship, excellent value, and unique), I hate the service and would not recommend this furrier to a friend.”

We asked and Catherine C added, “I feel entirely the same way about my BMW and the dealership where I get it serviced.  The sales experience was great.  I love the car, but I hate the service department and would not recommend the dealership.

“If the coat didn’t get repaired and/or sent out on schedule, I should have been notified. They did acknowledge that, but it didn’t happen. They’re quick to call to try to sell me services though. If it was a matter of the bill (which I hadn’t yet received) not being paid, they should have told me that.

“I see two things going on here:  The generational decline in standards and the failure to live up to the promise of a luxury brand.

“One does have to wonder:  Is good service a generational thing?”

And I must add: How is it that with all the help we get from computers and other technological advancements we can’t conduct business as well today as we did before they existed?

Service of White Lies

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

I can be achingly annoying and a stickler when it comes to honesty, but there are times when a white lie seems appropriate.

A chef-turned-favorite-media-personality was interviewing someone touting a charity event involving food. When the guest asked the chef whether he might make the celebration, he sputtered and went on and on and on as to why he wouldn’t be able to attend. Had he said, “I will do my best,” listeners wouldn’t have shared the discomfort of his rambling and who knew–maybe his schedule would lighten up so he could attend after all.

The guest also broke a rule that trial lawyers will tell you: Never ask a question [in this case, on-air] to which you don’t know the answer.

You have to be quick when invited to attend something that doesn’t interest you or that you don’t want to pay for or to break bread with someone with whom you don’t want to spend time. The event is easy: you have a conflict that day. Best not include too much [truthful] information such as you couldn’t think of anything more dull or don’t want to spend the money. Either truth will bite you back in future should you invite that person to support your cause or participate in your event. They will remember that you said they are not worth spending money on, and will surely not support your cause.

The one-on-one invitation white lies are trickier: You can hide behind deadlines, business trips and doctor appointments for only so long.

If a manufacturer tells a customer with a broken product to “expect a replacement,” and sends only parts–that the customer must install so as to repair the busted piece of junk–is that a white lie? Doesn’t “replacement” infer a new item to you? Not according to a manufacturer that wasted hours of our time over a faulty new printer that still isn’t right.

When a colleague or friend is going through a bad time and is making an effort to dust themselves off and carry on, do you need to share company gossip that will further stress them or note that they look better in blue than the green they are wearing at that moment? Or is this an example of a sin of omission rather than a white lie, the subject of another post perhaps?

I wonder how many white lies have been directed at me that I never detected. I know about many of the black ones.

What about you? In what instances have you used white lies? Have people directed any at you that you could tell? Do you think that the white ones are as bad as the standard kind?

Repair Service – Long Forgotten, Much Missed

Friday, April 10th, 2009

H.M. Byington, a retired banker and secretary of J M Byington & Associates, Inc., has written this guest post.

To her dying day, my mother darned socks that had holes in them. She had been taught to do so as a child. Now when you buy a pair of socks, you throw them away after a year when the first hole shows up in one heal. The rest of the sock may be just fine, but “Oh no!”–nobody would think of patching it. “Buy new!” is the motto of our time!

After years of trying to save money by buying inexpensive, generally uncomfortable, and often cheap-looking shoes which regularly fell apart and weren’t worth the cost of repair by the neighborhood shoemaker (thank heavens that at least they still exist in big cities), a very smart shoe salesman talked me into buying a horribly expensive pair of shoes, actually made in America. He explained to me that, one, they wore out slowly, and two, when they did eventually need repair, I should send them back to Alden in Massachusetts.

That was 10 years ago. Since then I have bought only one additional pair of shoes — again from Alden –and paid for two amazingly thorough repairs. As my shoes, which are attractive and fit me, look brand new, I don’t think I will need to buy another pair for at least another five years and probably not even then. I’ve also saved money, because the per-day cost of wearing these shoes is considerably less than what it was when I wore cheap shoes. I also suspect those shoemakers at Alden take pride in their work because they couldn’t make or remake the kind of shoe they put out if they didn’t.

Remember the time when a radio or a watch broke, you didn’t throw it away, you took it to a repairman, who took pride in his work? With all the unemployment we now have, why don’t we start training people how to repair things?

Wouldn’t we all be better off (and Mother Nature too), if we bought less, but better-made products and had them fixed by repairmen, doing work they could take pride in?

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