Thursday, 27 October 2011

Call that "Customer Service"?

We have a sad and sorry tale of woe today - which could be titled How Not To Do Customer Service.

The other day I popped in to a nursery, while I was out and about. Naming no names, but not far from home, it used to be a very average nursery which went bust, probably due to them selling weeds along with every plant.

Earlier this year it was bought, and re-opened, still as a plant nursery, but the new people seemed to be very into chickens, which is not a bad thing (keeping chickens is positively trendy round here) and their wobbly hand-painted signs have been advertising "Come and stroke the bunny's" which made me grit my teeth every time I saw it, and "Come and pet the baby chicks".  Baby chicks? Chicks are babies by definition, surely?

Mostly due to these grammatical annoyances, I hadn't bothered to go and investigate them, and I was feeling a little guilty for not doing so. Not everyone has A levels in English, and it's wrong of me to discriminate against them, just because I think their signs are uneducated. Maybe they did it deliberately in order to lure in people who may have felt a bit shy about going to a new place? Who knows.

Anyway, finally, I went in, interested to see what plants they were offering at this time of year, as I am getting a bit low on choice for my bench at Dews Meadow Farm Shop, (shameless self-publicity) and it's always interesting to see what other people are selling.

It was a weekday afternoon, getting on towards closing time when I drove in and parked in the car park, which was fairly nice: shingled, rather than muddy, and with a row of "show sheds" at the back. They were each set up in a mini-Chelsea plot, the effect somewhat spoilt by the weeds growing within each enclosure.

I was a bit confused by not being able to see into what used to be the main selling area, as it was blocked off by stacks of pallets, shrink-wrapped around bags of compost. Not terribly enticing, but to the left was a big portacabin-type building, with "Shop" in big letters over it.

"Aha!" I thought, "That's the way to go."

I opened the door - after a bit of a struggle - and was nearly choked by the stale, damp smell of the place. Memo to self: don't buy icecream or anything edible from here.  There was no-one there, so I let out a few "Hal-looooo?" noises, somewhat self-consciously. I mean, it can't be hard to set up a bell or buzzer to let them know when anyone drives through the entrance, surely?

Eventually a woman popped out of a door, and looked at me.

This is the point at which I would expect "Can I help you?" or "Sorry to keep you waiting" or even "Hallo". But no, she just looked at me.

OK, I thought, it's up to me to start the conversation, then. I asked "Are you still selling plants?" which I thought would be a good start. "No." she replied. Flatly. This threw me somewhat. Resisting the urge to ask her why they were calling themselves a plant nursery, I said "Oh. Ok, thanks." and turned to go.

Why I said "thanks" I will never know. Years of training, I suppose. "How rude" would have been more appropriate.

As I turned to go, she suddenly came forward to the door, and said "What sort of plants were you looking for, then?" which was a bit odd, from someone who had just said that she wasn't selling any. I replied "oh, perennials mostly, some shrubs, but don't worry, I'll try somewhere else."

"We're not doing any at this time of year, people don't want to buy plants at this time of year," she said, suddenly becoming quite chatty.  Then she turned and pointed beyond the pallets of compost, drawing my attention to a staggering amount of weeds, growing freely in what used to be the neatly shingled sales area of the former owners. "We've got those orange things," she said, "but that's about it."

Sure enough, there were some pots standing amongst the weeds, containing greenery and some orange flowers.

"No-one wants plants at this time of year," she repeated.

"OK," I replied "don't worry, er, I'll be going, then."

So I hurried back to my car and drove off, noticing as I did so the large rack of bedding plants just beside the building, which she had totally failed to bring to my attention.

Call that customer service? I don't!

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