A note to small business owners: the following is the easiest way to lose a customer.
For my birthday, my mother bought me a gift certificate for some lessons, specifying that I would call for them in the summertime. When summertime came, I emailed and called asking to get set up, and after a few attempts, I was given the number for my instructor. I called her a few times, and after two weeks of no response, I emailed the owner and asked for the number of another instructor. Again no response for days. I contacted the owner again and said, “Look, if you can’t do the lessons, that’s fine — just issue a refund.”
They’re hardly the only ones in the Angelborough area. I drove past three other service providers in order to reach their location.
Suddenly a new instructor materialized (the other instructor’s mother) with a time slot. I attended two lessons and then a repeating medical appointment for one of my children moved into that same time slot. I asked the instructor for another time for my lessons. No response. I waited a few days and tried again. She said she was “pretty full” but would find something for me.
After eleven days, I emailed again and said, “When should I show up?” and she wrote back and told me I had to be patient because she needed to check her schedule. I replied, “It shouldn’t take eleven days to check your schedule.” The instructor wrote back and told me she didn’t like my tone.
So let’s see — unreturned calls, unreturned emails, threats required to get the paid-for service, and then I get the pleasure of being told she doesn’t like my tone of voice young lady?
New email from me to the owner: I cannot work under these circumstances. I want a refund of the remaining money.
The owner then fired back full of invective. I have been DIFFICULT and IMPATIENT since day one. I didn’t even start lessons until the summertime! And eleven days is NOT too long to wait for someone to look at her schedule! She even claimed I was mistreating her horses. She said I had never given their business a fair chance. She said my mother was difficult to work with too. And then she said, “So what time did you want to come here?”
1. I had not asked for a specific time. I had asked for ANY time and received no response.
2. Getting fed up after two weeks of no contact (repeatedly) means a customer is impatient. Now you guys know.
3. I was mistreating her horse, and therefore she wants to put me back on the horse. (By the way, if someone was mistreating your horse, would you give the woman a riding crop and tell her, “Beat the horse! You’re not hitting her hard enough! You’ll never get her to move with little taps like that!”)
4. At any point in time, responding to me with “I still haven’t found a good time, but I’ll get back to you by Monday” would have mollified me.
5. What possible motivation could I have for not giving them a fair chance?
6. If waiting for summertime was a problem, the opportunity to say so was when my mother was arranging the gift certificate.
I had no idea what response the owner expected. Was I supposed to simper that yes, I was worthy only of being ignored by someone of her caliber, and would she please forgive me for expecting a callback within two weeks?
In retrospect, I think she wanted a fight. It would have made her feel justified if I’d said nasty things to her.
Instead I replied with, “Given that I have been so difficult and impatient since day one, you might as well write my mother a check for the remaining $### and find another, more grateful customer. Thank you for your quick refund.”
My lack of outrage seems to have been the correct response. The next email said she would happily refund the balance.
Note to small business owners: Just because you already have the customer’s money does not mean you get to keep it no matter what.