Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Lose a Loyal Customer

Word of mouth can sometimes make or break a business. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that my recommendation can cause a business to go under, but I've been know to use my blog to share my experiences with various businesses. After my car accident a couple of years ago, I had plenty of businesses to give a good shout-out to, and I was more than happy to do so. I believe if someone does something good for you, it's nice to thank them and help them get more business.

I also believe that if a business... how to I put this... screws you over, people should know, so they can avoid them. Here's where I'm torn. Let me use some picture proof.

Here's Sprinkles at 8 this morning:

Here he is again at 2 this afternoon:
Doesn't he look great?? About a year and a half ago on Julie's recommendation, I switched from Petsmart to Petco. Petsmart had gone from charging me $35 to groom Sprinkles to $60+. It was flat out crazy to me that a dog that small would suddenly cost $25 more to groom, and their service there left a lot to be desired. The groomers were rude, and once time when I was trying to save money they said I could wash him at home, and they would just do the grooming there. They wrote it down wrong and tried to charge me even more despite them not giving him the bath or drying him! Not cool.

So off I went to Petco, and for a year and a half I have loved the haircuts that Amanda has been giving him. They were around $30 a pop, so I could tip well for the service too. At Christmas though, she went on an "emergency leave of absence" which they didn't tell me until I called to confirm my appointment, and they tried to cancel on me (not reschedule). I was firmly insistent that they had to groom him before the holiday, and they fit us in. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but I decided to give them another try.

Sprinkles has been groomed there again since Christmas. This was his third since then actually. The time after, they had a new groomer who up-charged me for brushing him. He's a long haired dog! Of course you have to brush him! He did not have more than one or two tiny mattes. The next time though things were fairly back to normal with a small but manageable price increase. They had 2 strikes against them, but I was understanding that things go wrong at holidays when you lose a groomer suddenly.

Today, though, well today took the cake. Petco has lost my business completely. When I went in to pick Sprinkles up, the bill was outrageously more than usual. They had added in $11 worth of up-charges without telling me in advance for things that used to be included in the regular groom, not to mention the base price had jumped again! It put his grooming bill up to around $60 from the typical $30! To say I was shocked is an understatement.

The grooming salon manager was there, so I asked him about the up-charges. He told me that the old manager was undercharging people, and corporate said that they had to charge people correctly. I said I understood that, so I could handle the base price jumping, but the up-charges had not been communicated to me, nor did I think they did enough to merit at least one of the charges. (They charged me $6 for shaving him. That's the grooming package. He gets shaved!) Anyways, we spoke a bit longer (I kept my cool the whole time), and I explained about how I left Petsmart to come to Petco and how I drive well out of my way to get here because they've always been so great. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said the prices compared well to other grooming salons in the area, and that they hadn't been making a profit before with the old manager.

Hold. the. phone.

Excuse me?! Since when is your bottom line my concern? I get that we all need to make a profit, but when you are talking to an unhappy customer is telling her that you must make unnecessary up-charges to make a profit really the best route?? Not cool. I calmly said, "yes, but before you had loyal customers." He said, "you can have loyal customers and make a profit." My response, which is one of two things I'm not proud of saying today, was "let's see how long you keep loyal customers when you keep raping them with your up-charges" and walked out to pay my bill at the register.

*Sigh* At the register I talked to the store manager and relayed what had happened inside the grooming salon. She was very sorry of course especially when I said the second thing I'm not proud of saying today: "It's all well and good that you need to make a profit. You're a business, and I get that, but pardon me for saying that I don't give a damn about your profit when you trap me with up-charges I wasn't warned about and that weren't necessary!" I let her know I wouldn't be coming back, so she gave me a $0.90 discount to try to get me to stay. (I wish that amount were a typo.) She said she would speak to him about how to talk to customers and would make sure in the future that they let me know ahead of time that there would be up-charges. I asked her to tell him that his tip was lost in the charges he added to my bill (which saddens me because he did a great job on the grooming part of the day).

Here's the bottom line:
1. I don't appreciate hidden and unnecessary charges. They're sneaky and no way to run a business.
2. I also am not a fan of managers who don't know how to talk to displeased customers. I have been in the service industry, and I've dealt with dissatisfied customers. I get it. However, I will tell you when you are cheating me and I don't appreciate it. I will give you the courtesy of being polite but firm. I'd like the courtesty of you being polite. Do what it takes to make me happy or I won't come back. In this regard, they could have taken off the up-charges but let me know they would be added next time if those services were provided again.
3. I won't be back to Petco for grooming or anything else. That ship has sailed. That was 3 too many bad experiences with them.

Now here's the stinky part for me and Sprinkles: I need a new groomer, so I need some help from my friends in the DFW area. I'm looking for a reasonably priced groomer who can handle a long haired dog (and by handle I mean shave). Anyone know of a good one?

Another alternative is that I am willing to buy a shaver and learn how to groom Sprinkles myself if there's anyone who can teach me. So if you know how to do this or have done it on your dog before, I'll give you $20 to come help me learn in August. Seriously, $20 for an hour or less... better than a summer rerun! ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Try using a local groomed. They are susally more personal and you don't have to out up with the corporate bull crap!