Become a Fan
By Sandra Lee Novelly
Saturday, February 22, 2003
Is the customer always right?
“It’s absolutely ruined. My beautiful antique dress! This dress belonged to my grandmother. I was promised that you knew how to handle this fabric…”
The brow of the woman standing at the counter was creased in a deep frown and her eyes flashed angrily. The clerk’s heart sank to the level of her shoe tops. She knew this was going to be a difficult customer.
“Ma’am,” the clerk replied evenly, “there is no damage to this garment that wasn’t there before we cleaned it. The fabric was thin and worn in those spots when you brought it in.”
“I beg your pardon. That is a lie! This dress was in perfect shape when I brought it in. Why, I had just worn it so I ought to know. I made it a point to examine the dress before I wore it. And I’m quite certain my friends would have let me know if they had seen holes…”
“Ma’am, I respectfully disagree…”
“Disagree if you feel you must, but let me speak with the manager. Now!” The customer had begun tapping her toe. In addition to the frown upon her brow, her lips were now pursed and her eyes were narrowed, like those of an angry cat.
“May I help you?” asked the manager in a soothing tone. “My clerk tells me there’s a problem with a dress…”
“Indeed there is. I trusted your establishment to clean a prized antique dress because I was promised that your personnel knew how to clean such old and delicate fabric. This dress was in fine shape when I brought it to you. Now look at it!” The customer waved her hand toward the soft material that formed the skirt of the old dress. “Holes in several places; looks like moths have been at it.”
“Yes, I see that there are several worn spots in the material. It’s a shame for it’s quite a beautiful garment. I must point out, however, that the clerk on duty noted on the intake form that there were several small holes in the skirt at the time the dress was dropped off, and in fact she discussed the situation with you…”
The agitated customer interrupted Mr. Simon. “I am becoming very angry at these lies you insist on telling. I have no such written notation nor did anyone point out any holes to me. I am not a stupid woman. I believe you are attempting to avoid admitting that you have ruined my dress.”
Mr. Simon laid a yellow piece of paper on the counter. “Here is the notated copy of the intake form. Isn’t this your signature?”
“Hmmm…yes, it does appear to be my signature. But I would definitely remember someone pointing out holes in the dress and I am positive no one did anything of the kind. I was in a hurry that day because I was late for an appointment but I know nothing was said about holes.”
“I’m in a quandary,” said Mr. Simon. “On one hand I have an intake form filled out by a trusted clerk who has worked here for many years and the form indicates that there were small holes in the garment at the time of its drop off to us. That same form bears your signature attesting to the fact that you were notified about the holes. On the other hand you say that no one mentioned to you that there were holes in your garment at the time you dropped it off here to be cleaned. Furthermore you are stating that you think our cleaning of the garment has caused the problem. We seem to be at a standoff,” stated the manager matter-of-factly.
“What do you intend to do about it? I haven’t got all day you know.” The last statement was delivered in a peevish tone as the customer raised a hand to smooth her already perfect hairdo.
Several other customers were now in the shop. Wishing to avoid further confrontation, Mr. Simon thought a minute and came up with what he felt was a reasonable solution.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do. I know an excellent seamstress. Since the holes are quite small and the dress contains beadwork already, how about if I have her work some beads into designs over the holes, catching the threads together to seal the holes. Then they will be hidden behind the beads and no one will ever know the beads weren’t there from the beginning. We’ll pay for the work of course. Will that suffice? Of course, I will need your signature authorizing the work. And I’ll throw in a ticket for $10 off of your next load of dry cleaning.”
“No thank you! If your seamstress doesn’t do any better work than your other personnel, I wouldn’t trust her to mend a seam. Just give me my dress. I won’t be back, that’s for certain.”
Mr. Simon waived the charge for the cleaning of the dress and handed it over to the irritated woman. She took it with a final disdainful sniff and swept out of the door.
Mr. Simon slowly walked back into his office. He knew, with a terrible clarity, that his high society mother-in-law was never going to let him forget that he was only the manager of a dry cleaning store and that she would never cease to make his life miserable for marrying her only daughter.
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