Poor customer service sent me elsewhere

Published on January 22, 2016
Telegram letters

Recently I went to get skates sharpened for my youngest daughter.
I went to a small local business, whose primary focus appears to be skating/hockey related.

I made my decision based on a recommendation from the local “experts” at the skating club a few years ago when my oldest started  learning to skate. I have used their services for the past five years.

No more.

I walked into the shop and found a single customer ahead of me. I waited patiently to be served. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter and was told to write my name on a tag so I could identify the skates when they were done.

“It will be about 20 minutes,” I was told.

I replied, “That is fine, I will wait.”

After taking my skates into the back room, the man comes out and says, “It is going to be more like 30 minutes. … There are eight people ahead of you.”

I looked around the shop and there were three people other than staff: myself, the customer ahead of me, and a third man behind me.

“I am not sure I understand,” I said. “There are only three people here, how can there be eight people ahead of me?”

It was then that the man’s attitude turned from indifferent to downright rude. He went into the back room, brought my skates back out and said, “If that’s the way you want to get on, here are your skates.”

I said I’d still like them sharpened.

The man became irate and said, “No, we do not need to sharpen your skates. Take your skates and leave.”

Not wanting to cause a bigger fuss, I took the skates and, as I was leaving, remarked, “This has to be one of the worst customer service experiences I have ever had.”

The man replied, “Well, that’s how we run our business. If you want to do it differently, then you can buy the place and run it yourself!”

I had asked a simple question and was treated so rudely that I will never step into that shop again. Has the small business owner (at least in this case) become so indifferent to the lifeblood of the business that they can treat people in this fashion? I would understand if I had become belligerent or rude, but that was not the case.

I am writing this for two reasons. First, to express my complete surprise at how I was treated at this local establishment, and second, to silence the critics of big box stores and mega-chain establishments. People have long extolled the virtues of mom-and-pop stores and of buying local products. In most cases, I agree. I went to a local business rather than take my skates to Canadian Tire or Sport Chek for exactly that reason.

But why, if this is the type of customer service I can expect, would I ever return? Quite often, larger chains have so much more buying power and deal in such great volumes of product that they can offer a better price than the local merchant. So when customer service is not up to par, why would a consumer choose to subject themselves to this?

People protest multinational corporations such as Walmart and Costco because they can make it impossible for small businesses to compete. I submit that Costco isn’t killing small business, it’s merchants with chips on their shoulders and poor attitudes.

I can’t wait until Costco opens a skate-sharpening counter. The price will be cheaper, the service  quicker, and the person who serves me will have a smile on their face.

Steve Blackwood