A Rant About Customer Service

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, when I was in Des Moines last weekend I spent some time in Valley Junction with friends. We were on a mission to help our good friend Lo make a necklace with the gift certificate we gave her for her birthday months before. The gem store is this fantastic shop absolutely filled with strands of beads and precious gemstones (there's one whole room of different pearls—it's outrageous!), and you get to make your own jewelry from all the pretty baubles.

Great idea. In theory. Not so great in execution.

The problem was ... well, there were a few. First of all, it's a fun spot in which to go and wander around. But when you're actually trying to pick out gems for a necklace, it's overwhelming. It took five of us almost two hours to figure out what to make for one necklace. No joke. And the women working there, who were supposed to be helpful, didn't really help at all.

But, finally, the gems were selected. And we sat down to actually string them on the necklace ourselves. Again, cool in theory. Until you realize that even though you did the work of making the necklace yourself, you get charged $5 a strand (there were three) just for stringing the beads yourself.

But we didn't know that until after the fact, when Lo put on her lovely necklace (and it really did turn out really well) and went to pay. And the bill was double what we estimated based on the prices of the beads. Yes, that's right. We got charged a ridiculous amount for twine and clasps, got charged for stringing the beads ourselves, and then had another service fee because it took the woman working there 30 seconds to attach the clasp. We were all horrified at how much it cost.

Oh, and let's also talk about the fact that we were in there for almost two hours and they didn't even offer anyone a beverage (and, much to our chagrin, the only coffee shop in Valley Junction is now closed). And they weren't very friendly to us anyway. In fact, a couple of times they looked at us like we were going to steal gems. Excuse me? Are you kidding?

That's why I have a bit of customer service advice for the owner of the store (as if she's reading):

1. Your store is filled with incredibly expensive beads, and you do a nice job of clearly stating on each stand how much they cost. The least you could do for customers is display—clearly, where everyone can see it—the other charges. They have a right to know that the prices marked on the beads aren't indicative of the final cost.

2. Don't be rude to your customers who are spending a lot of money to do all the work themselves. I shouldn't even have to say that.

3. You have to get people into your store all the time who are absolutely overwhelmed by the bead selection. Hire a staff who can provide real, genuine advice on how people can narrow down their choices, rather than just telling them to "bring in a shirt they like" or "just wander around."

4. If you're running a business where people are spending a couple of hours wandering (and a couple of hundred dollars leaving, in some cases), provide them refreshments. Make it an enjoyable experience, an event. There's a store in the East Village in Des Moines that, on Saturdays, provides complimentary champagne for shoppers. You could even offer water and tea and we would have been happy.

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