Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel, Customer Relations and Breakage: A Story

When my husband was stationed in London with the Navy, the wives' club would charter a bus to go to the sales at the Royal Worcester/Spode factory. They had a large showroom with seconds, discontinued pieces and experimental samples at very good prices. We would descend on the place like locusts. It was great fun. The ride from London, though long, was enjoyable. We had lots of time to shop, loaded the bus baggage area with well-packed boxes, stopped someplace interesting to have a meal on the way back.

I liked visiting the museum as much as I liked shopping at the outlet. Most of the modern pieces were not to my taste. I did buy a very plain set of china--pure white with a wide and narrow gold band decoration-- and could pick up interesting serving pieces that coordinated with it.

On one trip, I found two experimental casseroles completely covered with gold glaze. They were never put into production. They are quite stunning.

Anyway, to the story:

A rather operatic lady arrived at the store while we were there and as she shopped, we had no trouble knowing where she was in the building because she was quite vocal. A "Hyacinth Bucket"** in the flesh! Her taste ran to ornate and expensive and she had sales ladies running to the back room to find pieces or sorting through the stock for matches.

She finally settled on a set of chargers (very like the example below or maybe these are the ones) with various paintings of fish. She kept up a loud dialog/monologue while she directed the packing and paid for her set.

When she left the building, the sound level dropped noticeably. Peaceful shopping resumed.

But not for long.

In a few minutes, she was back - a couple of octaves higher, a lot more volume and drama added.

It seems she had tripped on the steps Going Out To The Parking Lot, dropped her packages and broke some of the plates.

The sales ladies were sympathetic. But their concern changed to wide-eyed amazement when the lady demanded the company REPLACE THE BROKEN CHARGERS.

Everyone was aghast.

You could see the whites of the sales ladies' eyes all around. No one knew what to say. Except the lady and she was saying a lot. Every time someone tried to discuss the problem, she just got more agitated. She even mentioned suing them for an "unsafe step".

Well, you can hear it now, can't you?

Finally, one of the sales staff suggested the customer step to the back offices and talk with a supervisor. So, she an a couple of the sales people swirled through the back doors of the sales floor, through an echo-y hall and finally, somewhat muted, the saga of the accident and the demands were repeated.

Some time passed. We resumed our business.

Then the reverse whirlwind began to happen, She was coming back. This time, sounding less staccato, softer, less Wagnerian. She was nearly cooing.

They had agreed to replace the broken chargers! Sales ladies scurried. Plates were packed. A porter was summoned to help her with her packages to her car. She was cajoled out of the building. A huge sigh arose from the sales staff.

Royal Worcester/Spode had class.

**Keeping Up Appearances comedy series, BBC America

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