Last week, I needed to be measured for some formal wear, so I went to a tux shop at a nearby mall in San Bruno, CA, where I walked in and asked if they could measure my chest. This is a 30-second procedure that involves using a simple measuring tape.
It was the middle of the day on a weekday, and there was only other customer in the store. The couple who worked there (and own the place, I think) looked at me and snarled, “Are you going to rent or buy something?” I wasn’t, so I just politely repeated my request for a quick measurement. They weren’t having any of it. “We charge $5 if you’re not going to rent or buy.”
Um, I don’t think so. “I’m not paying $5 for a measurement that takes 30 seconds,” I told them, “and I’m definitely not renting here.” And then I left.
Here’s the thing: Things could have gone much differently. Imagine if they’d said, “Oh sure, we can do that.” Then, as they were measuring me, they could have tried to make a sale:
Owner: “So, are you getting married?”
Me: “No, not me, I’m too young!”
Owner: “Why, you’re a handsome man? You must have a lot of girls?”
Owner: “Well, when it comes time to get married, you come back and see us, ok? Here’s your size.”
And guess what? The next time I needed to get formalwear, I would have gone back there. To me, this is a no-brainer: I hardly ever go to a tux shop, so next time I need one, I would just go to the first one that came to mind–especially if I had good memories of the place. For places we go to infrequently, we’re guided by the availability heuristic, or what’s familiar to us.
Those rude owners thought of their shop as a one-time transactional shop, but I think formalwear shops can be a relationship business, and you can be sure that I’ll never, ever go back to Nicole’s Bridal and Formalwear in the Tanforan Mall. Unfortunately, if anyone searches for formalwear San Bruno or Nicole’s Bridal and Formalwear or formalwear Tanforan, this post will come up to let others know about how poor their customer service is.
Is this just the rant of an unhappy person who was trying to get a free service from a company? Maybe a little, but I think there are larger implications here. How long would it have taken to measure someone? 10 seconds? 20 seconds? Even if 10 people per day come in for a free measurement, that’s less than 10 minutes. And there’s something else.
It’s the difference in trying to make a quick buck, or treating your company as a relationship business. For example, at PBwiki, we could charge everyone for every wiki and try relentlessly to upsell them. And we’d probably make a little more money — for a while. We chose to do it another way: by giving everyone free accounts and making our service valuable enough to to upgrade. We don’t know if it’s the right answer, but so far it’s working, and I’d rather build a community of people who love our service than run a closed service that nickel-and-dimes everyone for everything. Same thing for iwillteachyoutoberich. It’s the difference between making a quick buck or trying to build relationships.