Do you know what I’ve discovered? I’ve been betrayed! I was born a poor black child without a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of and I was told that if I worked hard enough I could have the American Dream and all the respectable, attentive service that came with it. All my life I’ve worked to be able to make enough money to not only live well but to grab hold of that promised American gold ring: “Guaranteed Quality Service.”
But “GQS” has been alluding me most of my life. When I finally had enough money to buy a car, the gas stations went from “full service” to “self-serve” overnight. (I was so pissed that I had missed out on this basic white people perk that I refused to learn how to gas up my car for two years and cajoled my husband, WW (who is “White and also Wonderful”), to do it for me just out of principle. And just when I finally had made enough money to take my sorry-ass off of the Greyhound bus line and onto our nation’s airlines to fly the friendly skies on a 747 in my diva swag and bling with my Louboutin knock-offs, the airline industry went to Hell in a hand basket at record speed.
First-class passengers in a BOAC Boeing 747 being served lunch in the 70s|| Fox Photos/Getty Images
Passengers having a rootin’, tootin’ good time in the “coach lounge” (coach and lounge must be an oxymoron) of a 747 Continental plane in 1971//cruiselinehistory.com
Nowadays when I fly, if the plane can manage to arrive on time, depart on time, doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg for a seat, and doesn’t fall out of the sky with me in it, I feel blessed. I can’t let it bother me anymore if I don’t get fed on a plane and faint dead away, or if I get nickel and dimed for a bag of stale peanuts and a gin and tonic (“no twist of lime—that went away with our cost-saving measures”), or if I encounter angry stewards or stewardesses with a snarky-bark instead of a pleasant smile (“TURN OFF ALL ELECTRONICS—NOOOOW-GRRRRR!”), or if I run into rude passengers who are just as pissed as I am about the missing GQS and lack of overhead storage space. I try not to get dismayed if I get a passenger in front of me who assumes he or she has the right—no, the “inalienable right”—to flat-line his or her seat right into my 38 DDD’S and remain there for the rest of the six-hour trip to California while I pee my pants trying to figure out how to squeeze out of my seat to go to the bathroom and still keep my nipples attached to my breasts. I won’t let it bother me that Alec Baldwin gets kicked off a plane for playing “Words with Friends,” and I have to put up with a half-naked seat mate eating a tuna fish sandwich while passing gaseous fumes at such a furious rate as if his ass contained the fuel needed to help propel the plane while he pontificates on why he is sure God is dead!
“Fat Dude on a Plane” Pinned by Cruiselinehistory.com
But these are one-offs and not the worst of my problems. I realize that “pooh-pooh occurs,” and I’m old enough and mature enough to know one has to learn to go with the flow. My real problem is that I think I’ve become the victim of a grand “GQS” conspiracy: planned obsolescence of any and all electronics and appliances that kick into gear one day to a month after your warranty (factory or extended) gives out and with that a literal burial of any customer service. I was watching The Wiz (black version of The Wizard of Oz) with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Richard Pryor the other day on some offbeat channel, and I started wishing that there was a great and powerful Oz I could go to, to get some GQS.
No matter how great the advertising, or how fabulous the salespeople, at some point, the appliances, the cars, the electronic devices break down, and the customer service people of many of the companies turn into “Evillene,” the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wiz, and they don’t want to hear “no bad news” just at the time when you need a “little tender loving care.” Because many of them never had any intention of making good on that warranty when they suckered you out of your hard-earned money and you sold your first born child to make it happen. The fab sales person told you the warranty was a “must have” or you would rue the day. But you slowly began to realize you’re screwed when the company kept giving you the run-around about the extended warranty that you thought would replace “said item” with a brand new “whatever” at equal value—after they sell you a lemon (s) (Kenmore 790.95664102 oven that would start out heating a Sunday roast and end up setting your kitchen on fire) — (Best Buy HDTV of 2003 that “popped” one day and turned every show and everyone into the color of split-pea soup), and it slowly dawns on you that you don’t have a legal snowball’s chance in Hell of getting that item replaced. Unless, someone like my husband, who logs everything and all business phone calls and has the tenacity of a pit bull, takes a folder 500 pages deep of correspondence and telephone calls on the TV from Hell with the customer service department into the Best Buy store where the HDTV was purchased, and the store manager can do nothing less than replace your shit TV with an even better brand, because he knows he’s met his match—unless you have that kind of advocate—you know your only recourse is to add your complaint to the millions of other “Sears, Best Buy, or Verizon Sucks” consumer complaint sites and hope others heed your warnings.
“Evillene” (Mabel King)||The Wiz||Universal Studios & Motown Productions||Wiki Image
(Evillene is the embodiment of wretched customer services and she expresses it a portion of her signature song below)
“When I wake up in the afternoon
Which it pleases me to do
Don’t nobody bring me no bad news
’Cause I wake up already negative
And I’ve wired up my fuse
So don’t nobody bring me no bad news.
If we’re going to be buddies,
Better bone up on the rules
’Cause don’t nobody bring me no bad news
You can be my best of friends
As opposed to payin’ dues,
But don’t nobody bring me no bad news
“Have you heard about the customer who tried to return pants that had clearly been worn for an extended amount of time, but was still refunded? Or the Nordstrom employee who made a house call to exchange a pair of shoes? How about the blouse that was returned and refunded when it was clearly from another store? And then there’s the one about Nordstrom splitting two pairs of shoes in order to fit the man with different sized feet.” (Toddand.com)
It’s the yearning for all my merchants to be like a Nordstrom that caused me to cut my losses with Sears, get rid of all their broken-down appliances, and restock my home through a local company that I heard had gotten good reviews: Bray and Scarff. They were much more expensive than the box stores (Home Depot and Lowe’s), but their mission statement was just what I was looking for: “Since 1930: Doing Things RIGHT the first time!” WW and I thought, well alrighty now! Bray and Scarff—have at it! Here’s our hard-earned money. Replace our nasty-ass Sears’ stove before we burn up in our sleep, replace our ghetto Sears refrigerator, the demonic Sears Kenmore washer that ate our clothes, replace the microwave that stopped working ages ago and only heated food on one setting (popcorn), and while you’re at it give us granite counter tops (with a bonus free stainless steel sink and garbage disposal) because—dammit—you’re just that fuckin’ good and we’re “grateful” to have you take our money. How do I know all this: Because you say so in your advertising and via those smooth-talkin’ salesmen of yours. We are weary of being played and you are our salvation.
. . .and they lived happily ever after. . .
Until, until the day, the microwave handle broke and Bray and Scarff refused to cover it with the warranty until I finally convinced the fourth customer service person over a course of two days that my warranty said “all parts” and “all labor”included with my 5-year contract. Bray blamed the misunderstanding on their service provider and the service provider blamed it on Bray because they were trying to “ease out those inclusive warranties” (code for: weren’t making barrels of money off of the customers and had to cut those suckers loose).
And then, and then, the garbage disposal exploded one evening (exactly one month upon installation of the “bonus sink” which came with the granite counters by Bray and Scarff) while the dishwasher was running and summarily flooded the entire kitchen. When our plumber came rushing to the rescue, all he could do was shake his head in dismay because, as he said, “I don’t like to speak ill of another tradesman, but it’s obvious the Bray and Scarff’s repairman’s gift was installing granite and not plumbing; they should have called in an experienced plumber but they’ve brought remodeling kitchen work all “in house” to save money. The dude didn’t know what he was doing when he hooked up your pipes and he used the wrong materials—you got screwed.”)
Continuing on, and on, the electric starter that ignites the gas in the oven that is only 6 years old and only 8 months and three days past its 5-year warranty stopped working. I called Bray and Scarff and they gave me a day when a repairman would come and fix my oven. I was assured it would be a nominal charge and they would call and let me know the “window” when the repairman would arrive. They never called. I took off work, I waited and waited, and waited and the dude never showed. I called every hour on the hour; Bray said he’d be there. I called again; they said they didn’t know where he was. He finally showed at 6:00 p.m. complaining about how his company had severely overbooked him which was the reason for the delay.
The repair dude was in my house all of ten minutes. He did not open the oven door, he did not do any diagnostics, he did not test everything else that was working, he simply announced: “You need a new computer board in your stove. That will be $84.95 and I need to order the part because we don’t carry those on the truck, but ‘no worries,’ I’ll put a rush on your order because my word means something and you’ll be good to go by next week.” And then the repairman slipped away as quickly as a specter. My husband and I broke out the grill, the crockpot, and frying pan while waiting for our liberator to return with the part(s). Surely, this company that we had given so much money to would hasten to our aid. The call came and the amorphous voice on the Bray side of the line told me, not that the end was near, but that I needed to authorize the order of the new part before they could proceed. But days had passed since the Bray and Scarff technician had briefly appeared.
Flummoxed Me: (Slightly hysterical with uncontrollable high-pitched voice) “But I thought I had ordered the part with the signing of the “order the part form” and the giving of my $84.95 check to the technician?”
Amorphous Monotone Bray: “No Ma’am. That $84.95 was payment for the repairman’s diagnostics—just to walk across your threshold, so to speak.”
Flummoxed Me: “What diagnostics? He never opened the damn oven door, he didn’t touch the thing. Everything works on it—everything—except the starter fails to ignite the gas in the oven. I just need a starter. This isn’t my first merry-go-round with an oven you know. I told the repairman what was wrong. You should be paying me!
Amorphous M. Bray: “Regardless, Ma’am, you need to authorize us to charge you $495.00 for the new board, $100.00 for the starter, and then there will be labor and taxes (TBD), and any additional costs if this doesn’t fix the problem, Ma’am.”
Flummoxed Me: (GETTING HEART PALPATATIONS AND A NERVOUS TIC) “What about the $84.95? Doesn’t that apply to the bill? The ‘slam-bam-thank-you-ma-am’ repairman said it did. Also, the repairman gave me his word that my stove would be fixed today. Today! I have a horde of company headed this way on trains, planes, and automobiles for my daughter’s college graduation. How long is this going to take? How in hell am I supposed to feed these people? When do you plan to get this motha up and running?
Amorphous M. Bray: “No, Ma’am. . .our repairman wouldn’t have told you that and it could take three weeks or so—give or take a week—to fix your stove. We are going to have to search far and wide for the part. We don’t keep those parts on hand.”
At this point I went off the rails, demanded to talk to a supervisor, demanded to know from the supervisor exactly what the cost would be (more than the cost of a new stove it turns out), demanded my $84.95 back, threatened to call the Better Business Bureau, canceled my order, and summarily announced that I was going to go buy a “new stove,” but it wouldn’t be with Bray and Scarff—in fact, I said I’d go ice-skating in Hell before I bought another thing from Bray and Scarff. It was at that point that I looked down and saw the beginning of the slightest crack in the sealant on my new granite counters installed by Bray and Scarff and I fainted.
ME: (As if waking from a dream) “There’s no place like Nordstrom’s, there’s no place like Nordstrom’s, there’s no place like Nordstrom’s. . .”
WW: “Honey, wake up! Wake up! Are you okay? Why are you napping on the kitchen floor, and why are you knocking your heels together?”
ME: “I don’t know . . .I was getting ready to open up a can of whup ass on Bray and Scarff about the repair of our stove, and the next thing I knew I was dreaming about being in The Wiz and trying to get home to Nordstrom’s while singing its ‘yellow brick road song,’ ‘Ease on Down, ease on down the Road—don’t you carry nothin’ that might be a load, come on ease on down, ease on down the road. . . .’ And suddenly I was clicking together a pair of ‘fabulous’ silver Louboutin’s (they were simply ‘to die for’). . .
“. . .and I was clinging to our grand dog, Wednesday Addams, whose name was ‘BA Mofo’ (Bad Ass Motherfucker) in my dream.
“BA Mofo” (a.k.a. Wednesday Addams) ||courtesy of C. Tomczyk
“In fact, you were there as “Prince Glen” instead of “Glinda the Good Witch,” and you gave me my silver shoes to get me back to Nordstrom. Bray and Scarff was the Wicked Witch of the West (Evillene) that got melted. Amazon.com was there as the Lion, Zappos.com was there as the Scarecrow . . .
“. . .and there was that company that repaired my “bling” and was so kind to me and gave me such fabulous, efficient service—as if I was their most valuable customer—what was their name? Moissaniteco.com? Yeah, that’s it! They were there as the Tin Man.
ME: “We were all traveling to Oz to ask the Wizard where we could find Guaranteed Quality Service to model our businesses after. But somewhere along the way—between fighting the Bray and Scarffs and trying to survive—we realized that my companions all had GQS within themselves. They just needed to keep on improving on what they were doing and spread the word in such a way that people shopped were they were treated with dignity and respect and stopped patronizing the places that didn’t treat them well! No quality service, no business!
WW: “Hum. . . Well, I don’t know about all that. Let me help you up off the floor, because right now you and I need to go to Lowe’s to buy a new stove. I sure hope they are on your ‘GQS’ list, because we’re running out of places to buy things.”
Ersatz Wizard of Oz “Poppy Field” in author’s “dream” (in real life, ET’s 2012 peonies) J Tomczyk Photo
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” Mahatma Gandhi
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.