Sears...You Had Me at Hello, You Lost Me at No

SearsThis past weekend was a tax-free weekend here in Massachusetts, which many of us also refer to as Christmas in August. This seemed like the perfect time to purchase those new appliances I had been eying. The day began with a visit to a local appliance store, whose idea of low-end appliances began at the top of most people's ranges (and I do mean ranges.) We left the store with a quote that seemed a bit high and immediately headed over to Sears.

That's where we immediately fell in love with Cynthia. I've never encountered a sales person who could dance across the floor like Cynthia. She immediately took our list and began to work her magic. Her keystrokes were so fast that she had to wait for the computer to catch up with her. Her knowledge of appliances was outstanding. I tried to hire her for my own business, but then my husband reminded me that I don't own a retail store. We thought for sure that Cynthia would put together a package that would surpass that of the local retailer. And then it happened. Sears was $141 more than the other guys.

We wondered how this could happen. Alas, they did not have the same access to the rebates that the other guys could offer. We looked at one another sadly. But Cynthia didn't despair. She asked us if she could call us first thing in the morning, after she had time to ask the store manager to adjust her pricing.

Now many of you might be wondering why we were routing for the big guys. We really weren't. We wanted to give this sale to the woman who had clearly earned it. We went home optimistically thinking that tomorrow we would walk into the sunset with Cynthia. Imagine our surprise when she never called. Yes, I know tax-free weekend is crazy, so I called her three times. On the third try, I reached Cynthia. I asked her if she were able to match the prices. She responded by telling me how management said that because we weren't taking the profit-making service agreements (basically her words), they weren't willing to adjust their pricing. She also told me that they were the best prices in town. I reminded her this certainly wasn't the case as I was holding a lower quote, which she had seen.

I found it quite interesting that in this economy, a retailer would allow a long-time customer to walk away over $141 and that $4,100 in sales from one customer was of no interest. So please, the next time you complain about your revenues, take a closer look at your practices. I've gotten over our breakup with Cynthia and am now happily engaged to a local business that is delighted to have me as a customer!

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the forthcoming book, Suddenly in Charge! Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, January 2011). Visit Roberta's Blog on the Generations at Work or her Linked-in Group Suddenly in Charge! Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.

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