A few years ago, Chris and I used to live near a Krispy Kreme. It was literally down the street. I can remember a specific week when we both had overlapping bouts of the flu. During my turn, all I wanted was pumpkin spice donuts and a Slurpee from 7 Eleven. Strange, right? For some reason it was the only thing that sounded good. A sugar coma to get me through the flu.
Yesterday we were visiting a furniture store near Krispy Kreme, and being that I am very pregnant, it is fall, and I want all things pumpkin I asked Chris to stop by Krispy Kreme for pumpkin spice donuts. We go through the drive thru – thinking it is a simple order. We tell her my order of 2 donuts and Chris’ order of 2 donuts. Two times she repeats it incorrectly and we correct her. She tells us to go to the window. We drive up, and since we did not have cash, we pay with a credit card.
Chris gives me the receipt and I look and we’ve been charged for 6 donuts. Ugh. Somehow we knew this would happen when she could not get the order right at the intercom. Our credit card had already been charged. We tell them it was not what we ordered, and we only wanted the four donuts. She stands there and does not know what to do. I am exhausted, need a snack, and am ready to go home. Normally, I would not make a big deal out of it, but I do not want 6 donuts (because I know Chris won’t be able to resist eating them).
She goes and gets someone to help her and a guy comes to the window. He says: “I do not know how to refund your order.” He then says, “Can I give you a latte instead?” I lose it. I already had a coffee and it is visible in my cup holder. I say, “No I do not want a latte, I want my four donuts and I want to pay for only four. How hard it is to put a refund through?” Chris then says, “How about you just give me the difference in cash?” The guys says: “Okay, that would be $1.60.”
Why, oh, why does the customer have to tell the cashier “how” to give a refund? I still am not convinced (not that I ultimately really care) that we actually got back what we should have back. The receipt said:
1 ASST 1/2 DZ
Then at the bottom says: Combo donuts – $1.15. No where does it say the cost of the actual donut. I think because they charged for 1/2 dozen there might have been a deal and the guy had no idea how to break it apart? Or, here is a thought. Refund the original order and ring it up as it should have been? Wow. No brainer right?
In the end, all could have been avoided if she just read the order to us prior to taking our card and swiping it.
It is a topic that comes up often at work, but never mind that right now. I want to talk about service in my backyard. In my living room, on the phone, and wherever I might be. We all want it right? When we go into the store we want the person working in the store to not bug us too much, but be extremely helpful when we are ready for their help. We want to know when we call our bank or credit card company that they will help us with their questions, and make us feel good about the choices we have made to be a patron of their company. They make money off us right? So why should we be made to feel like we owe them?
Here are a couple of recent examples — and by recent, I mean in the last week. There is not enough time in my day to even list out all from the past month. Yes, I am a service addict and I tend to never forget how I was treated by companies. Really, if you think about it, service levels leave a permanent, laser-etched mark in your mind about their brand. You never forget a horrible service experience and you rarely forget an amazing one — if you ever have one.
Anyway, on to the examples:
Redbox: Over the weekend we reserved a movie on the Redbox app. When Chris went to pick it up, the machine did not work, so he went to another kiosk and rented from there – but since we weren’t able to pick up the movie at the kiosk we reserved it at, we needed to let them know so they would not charge us and so they could be alerted to the problem. Now, I do not care about the $1.50 I was charged, but I do care about principle. If everyone that reserved a movie at that machine did not contact them, how much are they making on their customers, and how many customers would they frustrate?
Their response to our email? They’ll give us a “credit” for another movie to use in the next 30 days. Sorry, but I actually paid for two movies, not one. So credit my account for the amount I was charged in error for your faulty machine. I rarely use Redbox and most likely I am not going to remember to use my “credit.” Plus, I might not even have the chance to use it in the next 30 days. Their solution is better for them, but not for the customer.
Contractors: Dating back to last May we have contacted over 30 contractors to do work on our house. Out of the 30+, maybe 5 have actually followed through with the appointment, and 2 of the 5 have given us bids. I know it is a booming housing market and they have all the business they can possibly handle, but do they realize how brand damaging it is? Service = following through with appointments, calling customers back, and providing bids so homeowners can make educated decisions. We cannot do any of that without contractors providing a very easy service. If you are one of the 30 you will never have our business – your brand has already been damaged.
Why oh why is it so hard for companies to see that one of the most important parts of how they communicate with their customers is how they serve them? With there being more and more options available from many different companies, if you can move or change companies or providers and find one that actually understands how to take care of customers, then those are the companies that are going to make it. It is all in the little things and in the details. Follow through, be accountable for problems, and fix them is the brand image customers remember.
How did you learn about money? Did you learn in college when a credit card company sold you on all the benefits, and then you maxed it out not really knowing the repercussions? Did your parents teach you? Did you learn in school?
We can only truly take ownership of our money when it truly belongs to us. I remember when I was nine years old I had a paper route. I would usually keep some of my earnings and would give some to my parents to put into my savings account. My tips usually were my “candy fund” where I would ride my bike on a path that had been worn by the neighborhood kids to the Village Pantry. There I would select something or many things depending on how much money was in my pocket. There was rarely candy in our house, and occasionally we had some at my grandma’s house. So for me, candy was a treat. It was something special.
I truly believed the money I made on my paper route was my money. I worked hard for it. It was my choice to buy the candy. It was not my choice to never receive my money that I was told was put into savings. I have no idea now how much money I never saw. I trusted my parents to put it in my account, never knowing that was not happening. Which is why I loved reading the book: “The First National Bank of Dad: The Best Way to Teach Kids About Money” by David Owen. He talks about how he teaches his children about money. He sets up his own bank and a version of the stock market from his house. One idea he shared was about how kids have to know that the money belongs to them. If they know that, they will make different choices about money.
“My children’s accounts belonged to them alone. When they saved, they reaped the benefit; when they wanted to spend, they didn’t need permission. If my son decided to withdraw twenty dollars, I didn’t ask him why he needed the money—just as my bank doesn’t ask me. What he did with the cash was his business, as long as his balance was sufficient to cover his withdrawal. Why do kids need to control money of their own? Because if the money they spend money of their own? Because if the money they spend isn’t truly theirs, they have no compelling reason to pay attention to how they spend it.” Page 41
An interesting idea. I do remember having a savings account ledger and looking at it from time to time. I was more of a saver. I liked watching it grow and knowing I was working hard as the money accumulated. With the exception of my Village Pantry runs, I really did not spend that much of my money. Although I will never know how much never made it to The First National Bank of Tami. Alas. Live and learn. I will be teaching my kid(s) to take ownership of their money, and to know how to track what they take out and what they are earning. And, no, I will not steal a penny from them. If you have kids, I definitely recommend reading Owen’s book.
Vancouver has inspired me. The first one hit not even thirty minutes after we set foot on Canadian soil. We were starving, and so stopped off for some brunch before embarking on our list of adventures. We parallel park the car (well Chris does) and get out to pay the meter before looking at each other and realizing we do not have any Canadian change. Crap, what are we going to do? I say maybe we can ask the restaurant to give us some change and they can then charge it to our bill. We stand there for a bit and wonder if that is going to work.
Then we realize that the meter says pay by phone. Huh. How does that work? I have to pee though, so I leave Chris to get us a table and relieve myself of hours of sips of sparkling water. I find us a table, and wait for Chris to join me. When he comes in to meet me he states that all you have to do is create an account over the phone, give them your credit card and the number of the meter, and enter the amount of time you want to charge to your card.
Brilliant. Really, why do more cities not handle parking in this way? We find out later that once you have set up your account, then subsequent times you park, you just call the number and enter the meter number. It will recognize you by your phone number. I think of how many times I have stood in the pouring rain in Portland and would have gladly gone to the meter taken note of the meter number and then found my way to a dry spot to feed my meter.
The plot thickens and only gets better.
Yes. After ingesting eggs and coffee, Chris received a text message alerting him that his meter was about to expire and he could call or go to their website to add more time to his meter. That is service! To know that I would not have to go back to my car to put more time on the meter. I could stay at the salon, show, store, wherever I was and pull out my phone to pay for more time. I wonder what I have to do to get Portland on board with this clever way to pay for parking.
Does anyone know of any other cities that have this type of parking system?
As more and more people around me have babies it makes me think about kids more and more. There are so many things to think about: car seats, cribs, bassinets, strollers, names, kinds of diapers, bottles, the list goes on. As they get a bit older the list shifts a bit to other very important ideals that a couple should, for the most part, agree upon in how they want to raise their kids.
When I recently came across this article on how to teach your kids about money it made me think, wow everyone should be starting very early in how they want to approach money with their kids. I was talking to a colleague just the other day. Yes, I can tell you this now, and it is possible that I have no idea what I am talking about! We were discussing how expensive it is to raise a kid these days, let alone thinking about paying for them to go to college. I paid my own way through college. I was in a work/study program, and I worked outside of that too. My parents could not afford to pay for college for any of their three kids. While it would have definitely been nice to have it paid for, it taught me a lot about money, about growing up, and about taking responsibility for my decisions. I probably would not have worked as hard to learn if I was not paying for it.
Now that does not mean that I will not help my future kid(s) out with college, but I want to do it in a way that helps them grow, learn, and understand what their decisions mean financially. Too often, I think parents write a check and walk away, and that does not help their kids learn about life. The above article starts with ages 2-5 on how you can use play money and play “store” together. Oh how I remember the plastic cash register I had when I was little. I loved watching the coins come down the side like it used to at the grocery store. Toy cash registers today I believe have scanners and credit card swipers. Oh well. Parents could still teach the value of money, and include a bit about how someone has to pay for what is put on that credit card.
Start young. Whenever we begin having kids I know I will start young too. I think conversations about wants, needs, and money help kids know and appreciate all that they have in the world. It does not have to be in a way of shame, but from a place of abundance and gratitude.