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Customer service? More like torture
Customer service gone seriously wrong

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Date published: 10/14/2007

By Richard Amrhine

CUSTOMER SER- VICE. Have a question or concern? Customer service is there for you. "Our customer service is second to none!" That's what we're told, anyway, as businesses seek a competitive edge in our consumer-driven world.

You'd think all companies would recognize the importance of good customer service and make it a priority from the boardroom to the checkout counter. But far too often, customer frustration and dissatisfaction are allowed to prevail.

The tale I'm about to tell took nearly 20 months from start to finish, but I'll try to take you through it a bit quicker than that.

It was January 2006, and my daughter needed a new pair of sneakers. She was 9 years old then, and on the cusp between children's and women's sizes. She was old enough to know immediately if the color and style were right, but fit and comfort do not lend themselves to snap judgments.

We tried a few stores without success. It was getting late, but we decided to try one more place that carries athletic shoes and apparel. We found a pair that might work, but she wasn't quite certain about the fit.

I wanted her to be certain, because they cost $65. I know that's ridiculous. I know. But it was late, and we'd all had about enough.

Go ahead, wear them out of the store, the sales associate said. Wear them for two weeks if you want. If they aren't right, just bring them back.

"We wouldn't want to sell you a pair of uncomfortable shoes," he said.

We'd never heard of a policy like that before. Are you sure, we asked. No problem, he reiterated. Just bring them back.

She wore them out of the store that Saturday night, and to school the following Monday. By then she'd determined that they didn't fit quite right.

Back to the store we went that night. We want to return or possibly exchange these shoes we bought the other night, I told a different associate, who turned out to be the store manager.

"I'm sorry, sir, we can't take these shoes back," he said. "They've been worn."

I told him we had only done as the sales associate had suggested.

I'm sorry, he said.

But the other guy said she could wear them and then return or exchange them if they weren't right.

"Hearsay," he called that.

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