Sunday, December 12, 2010

Williams Sonoma Deserves an Attaboy

This is going to be off topic, but here's a little economics lesson, and some good review for a company that did the right thing, when the right thing did not have to be done (and cost them money).

Here's the back story...

Several years ago (and yes, I told them I had it for several years), before I retired, I spent money like a drunken sailer. I enjoy a good cup of coffee, and spent over $300 on a coffee maker from Williams Sonoma.  I did indeed make great coffee, ground the beans fresh each morning, would make the coffee at a pre-programmed time so it was ready fresh when I got up in the morning.  It was one of the appliances I really did miss when I spent my six months out of my kitchen.

Well, a couple of days ago, it stopped.  All the lights worked, but the heating element inside stopped.  i called the company and they were not terribly helpful (spend money to ship to them, they will examine and let me know how much to fix and then pay to have it shipped back).  When asked, they told me average costs are around $100 for repairs, so my costs would be close to $150.  Well, since I retired, I sobered up (a little), and no longer spend that kind of money for an appliance.  But I was dissatisfied with the answer from the parent company of the coffee maker.  I needed to be in the area anyway, and decided to drop it off at the local Williams Sonoma.  And at the least express my dis-pleaser with the coffee maker company.

Long story short, when I arrived, with a store full of Christmas shoppers, I was politely greeted (they knew I was returning an item).  I was allowed a couple of minutes to politely vent (and I was polite.  I knew the situation, years old appliance, unwilling to deal with the manufacturer, no receipt, asking for time at the worst time for a retailer, with a crowded store of shoppers spending money).

So, again, long story short (too late), the sales lady simply asked me how they could make it right.  I was completely speechless.  But, she proceeded to lay out my options.  First, they no longer carried the brand.  She did say that there were problems.  People have expectations when they spend that kind of cash for something.  So, she gave me three options.  First, they would return the coffee maker for me.  Their costs and have it repaired.  Wow, that sounded more than fair.  BUT, she also said I could get a brand new one shipped to me (they had them in back stock at a different location).  DOUBLE WOW.  That was very unexpected, and beyond fair.  Her final option was store credit.  Only down side to that was the credit had to be for the lowest amount the maker sold at.  She said it could be a remainder item that was drastically reduced, but she would check.

Bottom line...

What a great deal... New coffee maker, Cuisenart brand, highly rated.  Plus enough store credit for a new pizza stone, a pizza recipe book, a Silicone baking sheer and a new zester.

But, I am not writing to brag about my new toys (you'll be hearing a lot about pizzas soon).  I am writing to provide a little economics lesson.  The internet has changed shopping habits.  Convenience and customer service is slowly being replaced by price alone.  While I appreciate a bargain as much (more) than the average consumer.  But occasionally it is good to be reminded.

Customer service has a place in the world.  The more we shop for just price, the more cut backs companies must make.  Instead of a beautiful show room, warehouse stores are becoming popular (or virtual internet stores completely replacing brick and mortar stores).  Instead of knowledgeable professional sales people  representing the company brand, we have more and more part time employees who can work a cash register but have no knowledge of the quality or opinions about the tips consumers should know about a product or their manufacturers.  

Shopping for price alone has short term advantages.  Shopping at a store that knows their products, has professional sales staff, provides a beautiful place to shop and most of all stands behind the items sold has long term advantages.

So, often blogs are used as bully pulpits, with the slightest complaint (real or imagined) being posted for the world to google for all of eternity.  They are fun to read, but are at best one sided and at worst lies.

I never did reveal my status as a blogger, never implied or threatened with my "power".  Williams Sonoma simply did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

Keep this post in mind when you shop this season.


  1. I am so glad that it worked out for you Dave! Face to face always works best - you never know who you will get on the phone.

    And my philosophy is if I give nice, I get nice back, and 90% of the time it works!

    Enjoy your Sunday - we only got 1 inch of the predicted 7 so I am happy and off to the grocery store.

  2. This is great to hear and I'm glad you posted it. I love hearing that customer service and kindness is NOT dead :D

  3. thats awesome..i absolutely LOVE William Sonoma...its my favorite store

  4. That is a really good story and I'm glad you posted it... especially this time of year when the stores are so busy and sometimes look like they could care less about you. Great "feel-good" post.

  5. I worked during the holiday one year at a Williams Sonoma in Palm Beach. They always do what's right for the customer - which is what I was taught when I was in management in a Federated store. Make the customer happy.

    There's an old story about Rich's department store in Atlanta (now a Macy's). A little boy told his mother he sure wished he'd gotten his cold at Rich's, because he could take it back.

  6. Alexis worked there two years ago and that is absolutely their policy. I told her she must have misunderstood but she verified, no matter what, they back the product even if they no longer carry it. That's why I buy from them even if Target has the same item for 20% less.

    Side note: They have an AMAZING employee discount (20-40% also good at their other chains) even if you work there one day a week (hint hint). When Alexis worked their I told her they could keep her paycheck, I just wanted the discount, ha ha.

  7. Good for you for posting praise. You are right, rants get too much air time. I am amazed that you got such great treatment. I am also sad that I live hours away from a William-Sonoma store.

  8. Wow that is AWESOME Dave! It's so nice to hear that chivalry still exists.

  9. I buy from Williams Sonoma often and never thought to bring something back if I had a problem. This is a great story for me to remember, I'd much rather buy from a place that has the added benefit of excellent customer service.