To serve you better it just means do it yourself


Has the concept of service become a lost art and rarer than a redneck with all his teeth? It is an anomaly that we live in an age with every company, from car insurance to incontinence pads, to mobile phone providers, shouting about service, yet not really giving any. Customer Service is on life support. You can experience its death throws in shop assistants who don’t look up when you approach them, people who leave you on hold for a couple of millennia, to being rebuked for misplacing a dry-cleaning ticket etc. Top of the list of people I would like to recommend a visit to the vivisectionist are restauranteurs who present you with sliding scale charges. These starting at (clearly in their opinion a mean and piffly) 15% via 20% to clearly a justifiable 25%.  Add VAT at 20% and before you have so much as nibbled a grissini stick nearly half your bill has been swallowed by tax and services. I appreciate waiters are underpaid but for the life of me I cannot understand why this extra is simply not built into the bill. It’s not as if you can order a meal without a waiter. Seems as basic a requirement in a restaurant as food and a chef. If I have received spectacular service, I leave an amount at my discretion. It’s never a percentage that I have been nudged into paying because it’s printed out and therefore looks official. It’s usually a few pound notes rounded up or down as I see fit.

...and another thing

Anytime you see the words ‘to serve you better’ simply means ‘we simply cannot be bothered to offer this service, but we are happy to let you do it’. Hence the rash of hotel rooms with mini-bars, coffee machines and shoe polish pads instead of room service or being able to leave my loafers outside the door for someone else to polish them.

Does this mean eventually I will be checking into an NHS hospital with an appendicitis and there will be a vending machine ‘to serve me better’ with a scalpel, local anaesthetic and an instructions booklet on how to perform the operation myself?

Service requires people.  Any company whose customer service consists of email contact, punching numbers on my phone or speaking slowly so a computer is not offering me a service… is a machine designed to save the service provider money. Just as important, all machines are programmed to self-destruct rather than say ‘sorry’, or ‘let me compensate you’.

...and another thing

I rarely give personal examples, but this is a classic case of the service malaise that has spread even to the luxury market. The reason we pay a silly premium to Gucci, Rolls Royce, Net Jets, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton etc. is we expect a certain level of service. Getting my ass kissed in return for overpaying. That’s the trade-off.

 Recently I bought my wife a very fancy schmanzy white gold watch as a thank you for moving house. I asked her to photograph her wrist with a tape measure to see her size. I gave the photo to Cartier. They measured the watch and said we needed three more links which were £750 each. I paid through gritted teeth and took the watch back to Malta. The next day I sent Cartier a photo of the watch hanging like a loop earring around my wife’s wrist. The bracelet was so large she could pull the whole thing over her wrist with the clasp closed.

 Naturally I said to Cartier we will remove the excess links at Cartier Malta and return them and ask to be refunded. Cartier London declined saying once bought it was my item and the small print excluded returns. This email of course came courtesy of a lady in customer service.

 After wondering what she would look like with a zeppelin inserted into her, I called.

“So, let me get this straight. I give you a photo showing the measurement. Then you decide to return the watch with1,000,000 links… I would be obliged to pay you £750,000,000 whether I needed them or not!”

 I reminded these people I was a customer who over the years had bought half a dozen watches from this ‘house of quality and service’.

 Eventually they recanted. Their attitude was they were really making an exception here and I was very lucky, rather than they had utterly ballsed this up, pissed off a client of thirty years and were sorry for the inconvenience. Customer Service and the brand Cartier are about as closely associated as Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

 So, my advice is simple. If you want excellent service, do it yourself. Just make sure you give yourself a decent tip.

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One Comment

  1. Magda says:

    😉 2 of the extra links could have been used as Cartier earrings, and the third one as a piercing for Clouseau 😉 It is called luxury Cartier recycling 😉

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