Now You Tell Us!

My friend Jim just told me about a household episode that speaks volumes about what the word “service” should mean for a service business.

Three years ago Jim and wife Jenny purchased a new dishwasher. It was the same brand that had given them more than a decade of superb performance until it finally fell victim to time’s ravages. So they went to a local appliance store and picked out an updated version of the same dishwasher.

Only this time they bought a lemon. First time they called the appliance store to repair it was a little over a year after the purchase – just outside the warranty period, naturally. It cost them several hundred dollars to get it fixed.

About a year after that another breakdown occurred, again requiring a service call costing a few hundred dollars. The service technician who called on them was the same guy who had installed the unit after purchase and fixed it a year before. Jim and his wife grumbled about having to get two major repairs in the first two years after buying a new dishwasher. The technician told them he was very busy with repair calls for this brand and hearing many complaints. “They switched a lot of metal parts to plastic and started making them in China,” the technician explained. He then told them that another brand was the best money could buy.

The week before last Christmas their dishwasher broke down again. Now contemplating a third repair in a little over three years, Jim and Jenny had a conversation that went something like this:

“Now they tell us that we got a lousy product! Why didn’t they mention that before we bought it and steer us to that better brand. For that matter, why is that store still carrying a product that they know is bleep?”

This time they decided to bite the bullet and buy a new dishwasher rather than throw good money after bad fixing the lemon. They did some online research about the brand recommended by the technician, and saw that it was indeed highly rated. Peeved at having been sold a lemon previously, they decided to buy it from a different store. It cost a little more than they paid for the lemon, but their thinking was that if they didn’t have to get it repaired every year, they’d end up saving money in the long run.

Jim and Jenny were a bit desperate in that they were hosting a dinner party in five days with more than a dozen guests expected. They didn’t look forward to washing all those pots, pans and dishes by hand! The store rep on the phone said they had the desired unit in stock, but couldn’t get it installed until after Christmas – several days after their dinner party. Jim pleaded and said he had his credit card in hand ready to make the purchase RIGHT NOW! The store rep liked that kind of talk and squeezed them into the installation schedule a day before their dinner party.

The installer came at the appointed time and Jim and Jenny are very happy with their new dishwasher. It runs much quieter and has several other useful features they never even knew were available in dishwashers. (It remains to be seen if their new unit will require annual repairs, but if the product lives up to its reputation that won’t happen.)

Moral of the story #1: When a sales or service technician tries to “upsell” you to a better grade of product, listen to what the person has to say about features and benefits of the more expensive product. You may not always think the extra bells and whistles are worth spending more, but at least evaluate your options.

Moral of the story #2: Unless they’re in the grocery business, don’t buy from people who knowingly sell lemons.