Tag Archives: Shopping

The Birth of Customer Service

Once upon a time, some 2,000 years ago, a farmer by the name of Mac started selling eggs alongside the road. Once every so often, a neighbour of his would come by and buy a dozen or two. Soon enough, word spread quickly and he had a steady stream of customers to tend to each morning. Farmer Mac found himself content with the sizeable profit he had flowing in each day. Unfortunately for him, Farmer Bob took notice of his easy-going lifestyle and started to sell his eggs on the side of the road as well. To top it off, Farmer Bob offered a free bouquet of flowers with every purchase of a dozen eggs. Naturally, the ladies loved this and flocked to buy eggs from Farmer Bob’s.

Farmer Mac was quite miffed at this turn of events and thought long and hard about how to one-up his crafty neighbour. In the end, he decided to sell fresh meat along with his eggs. His customers loved the convenience and so he won their hearts over, once again.

Farmer Bob thought, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and asked Farmer Mac if he wanted to set up one big shop at the end of the road. Farmer Mac agreed and they teamed up to sell different products together, including eggs, meats, milk, and flowers.

Soon after, more and more farmers asked to join them, selling their own unique wares. The customers loved the convenience of one stop shopping and Farmer Mac and Farmer Bob’s invention is now considered the birthplace of the modern day shopping mall.

To enhance the customer experience, a courier by the name of Jeff started offering a home delivery service, where those who were sick and elderly could buy products from the marketplace from the comfort of their own home. As more and more people preferred to order from home, Jeff’s service became more and more popular. Today, his company is known as the retail-crusher, tech giant, Amazon.

Okay, admittedly we’re just having some fun in advance of April Fool’s Day, but when you think of it, chances are that customer service did indeed start with a small farmer at the side of a road. Today, it is the key to drawing in consumers and making a profit.

 

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Shoes Speak Louder Than Words

A few weeks ago, one of my close friends bought a pair of relatively expensive shoes. Immediately after putting them on for the first time, he realized that there was a very strong smell that didn’t seem to go away.

Even though my friend has purchased many shoes, and is familiar with this particular brand, he’s never had an issue like this before, and he absolutely could not figure out where the smell was coming from or how to get rid of it. He tried airing them out, leaving them outside, shining them, and spraying Febreeze on them, but he just could not get rid of the smell.

After exhausting all the ideas that were suggested to him, he ended up calling the company and explaining his problem. They had never heard of a problem like this, but wanted to please him and so they sent him a gift card to replace the shoes.

I decided I was up to the challenge of finding a way to fix these smelly shoes, so I took them to a certain place I’ve heard about. Nick’s Custom Boots and Shoe Repair on Dupont Avenue near Davenport. This business has been around for many years and I’ve been hearing it’s the go to place in Toronto for people who have a pair of shoes and needed something done. Nick is the go to guy and knows everything about shoes. In addition to repairing shoes, Nick is also known for making custom shoes. Whether you have a weird shaped foot, or want something very fancy, Nick can do it!

When I first called the store, and then went down with the shoes, it was immediately clear that all of the staff were friendly, polite, and knowledgeable. That said, in this case, they were stumped by the odour so they brought out Nick to look at it.

Nick immediately knew what it was. The culprit was the type of rubber on the sole of the shoe and there ended up being no way we could get rid of it because it was the smell of the chemical itself. Whereas some people would have given me a song and dance, he instead simply gave me a few suggestions on how I might be able to lessen the smell, but truly didn’t believe it was possible to get rid of it entirely.

On top of that, when he found out I was going to a wedding that night, he quickly shined a pair of shoes for me and only charged $5.00!

Nick and his staff are very talented and truly a pleasure to deal with. Whether you need shoe products, a shoe repair, your shoes shined, or some nice new shoes, I highly recommend Nick’s Custom Boots and Shoe Repair.

Nick’s Shoe Repair

info@nickscustomboots.com

416-924-5930

https://nickscustomboots.com

 

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Spice Girls Are Not the Headliner Anymore!

If you’re an avid baker, you may have realized that there is a worldwide shortage of vanilla beans. Not only is the price of supply skyrocketing, but it’s also making it difficult to find good quality beans. Since my wife had a recipe that required several vanilla beans, I went on a search looking for beans at a reasonable price. During my research, I came across a store that I used to be familiar with when I lived downtown. House of Spice located in Kensington Market in Toronto on Augusta Avenue.

I called up to find out if they had the product I was looking for, and much to my surprise, they stocked a few different varieties of the bean. The most popular is the Madagascar vanilla bean and while other places quoted as much as $12.00 a bean, House of Spice was selling them for $6.95. My wife and I decided to go down there to check out the quality. Much to her excitement, the beans were fresh and of high quality!

While we were there, my wife started looking around and found a number of different and unique ingredients that she had been searching for. Items like pickling salt, Ethiopian spices, and several different types of coffee were all right there, tucked into the little store. In addition to the wide selection of products and reasonable prices, perhaps what was just as important, if not more, was that the staff were extremely friendly and very knowledgeable.

When it comes to something like simple salt and pepper (this store had 4 different varieties of specialty sea salt and truffle salt!) you don’t need an expert, but with other products you need someone who understands what they are for, and how they should be stored. The employees at House of Spice were helpful, and clearly know their business! Although it is a small store, they manage to stock a lot of different items, so I would plan on browsing the shelves. In fact, why not make an afternoon of it? There are lots of other food stores in the neighborhood, as well as great restaurants to grab a bite.

House of Spice is definitely a worthwhile place to check out for anyone interested. Enjoy your cooking and shopping and remember to invite me for dinner!

House of Spice
416-593-9724
http://www.ehouseofspice.com

 

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Keeping Great Customer Service Up and Running

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog highlighting my great experience at The Running Room. At the same time I was dealing with The Running Room, one of the SQM employees directed me to another shoe store that she’s been dealing with for years, known as Running Free, and in particular the Ajax location.

The owner, Steve Ockrant, immediately called me to introduce himself and while he suggested it was best if I came in, due to his schedule and distance he offered to bring some shoes over to my office, for me to try on. Realizing he was doing me a favour, due to our mutual friend, I must say I’ve never had such special service for a retail product!

Steve came, we chatted, and he brought six pairs of shoes for me to try on. Based on the sizes and styles he brought, he was able to narrow down the shoes that would work best for me, and then a few days later he returned with more shoes. He even left me with a couple of pairs for me to walk around the office in before I made my final decision.

Although I returned both of the pairs that made it to the shoe finals, I eventually made it out to his store where two of his amazing employees found the perfect pair for me.

If you are ever looking for great shoes, at a great price, but more importantly amazing and knowledgeable staff go to Running Free, ask for Steve, and mention my name.

Running Free

(416) 410-3733

www.runningfree.com

 

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Leisurely Shopping at Lee Valley

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Many years ago, I was introduced to Lee Valley Tools when I required some specialized equipment and supplies for a wood working project. Since that time, I have often returned to their stores for specialty items, but quickly realized that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

Not only does the store have fun and creative little stocking stuffers (it may only be November, but the holidays are just around the corner), but these tools are practical and useful – for things you never knew you needed help with.

As an example, my wife once received a portable can opener at a Secret Santa event. It’s small, safe, and easy on the hands, using a butterfly-shaped crank design instead of the usual handles that require great strength and effort. She loved it so much, we immediately ordered a new one when it inevitably broke years later.

Ever since then, she’s loved the place. She told me that any and all types of gifts she was in search of, she could get at Lee Valley. We were recently going through the website and commenting on the cool and practical things we had found on there. It may be important to note that not all items online are available in-store.

The folding phone holder, for example, makes every outlet your personal charging station with a simple, albeit ingenious, solution. Hang it over your charging plug, and create a small shelf for your phone while it charges. Your phone is kept safely out of the way!

The people who work at the store are very helpful, knowledgeable, and polite. In fact, they’ve helped me with my own specialty projects in the past.

For those looking for good quality service and unique items – be it for a gift or a project, I highly recommend checking out Lee Valley Tools.

Lee Valley Tools
416-366-5959
www.leevalley.ca

 

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Woes of the Retail Industry

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Typically, I use this blog to highlight outstanding businesses, however, from time to time I address particular and pressing issues that impact consumers or businesses.

The other night I was in one of the grocery stores in my area, to pick up a few items that we needed the next day.  I arrived at about 8 p.m., and the store was fairly busy with at least five customers in each checkout line, waiting to pay for their groceries. One of the five cashiers had just closed their lane, and despite the long lines, a second cashier indicated that she was closing as well, informing a customer in her line that he would be her last checkout of the evening.

In more recent times I’ve had similar experiences at other grocery stores and retailers alike.  In addition to the frequent frustration that customers are having trying to obtain assistance from a sales person (especially in big box or department stores), retailers are now making it more difficult and time-consuming to pay for purchases and get out.

As a person who works with many companies in the retail industry, I often hear from my colleagues that “the industry is changing” or that “retail is having its challenges.” While this may indeed be the case, I’m beginning to wonder if the industry is partially responsible for causing this to happen.

Let me explain…to be successful in any business, you have to provide an excellent experience for your customers. Time and time again, surveys show that customers want friendly and knowledgeable staff, products readily available, the best possible price, and in many cases, speed of service is also a factor.

Assuming that these businesses have the product in stock, their most important asset is their employees, and they are marginalizing their company’s strengths. As people’s lives become busier and more hectic, retailers are actually pushing their customers to look for better ways of getting what they need.

To add to this, there currently exists a giant online retailer, that provides outstanding service in a very efficient manner, and gets products to their customers in a short amount of time. Is it really any wonder that the retail industry is getting its ass kicked by Amazon?

Make no mistake about it, while Amazon is an amazing company, and gives customers another option for buying products and services, many people still like to see, touch, feel, or try on items (especially clothing) before making a purchase.  This results in them coming to a store and giving that retailer the first…and best…opportunity to make the sale.

Until the retail industry improves the shopping experience and reconnects with their customers, I’m afraid that their woes will continue.

 

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