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If Life Gives You Lemons, Throw Them Back

Everyone I seem to talk to these days complains about the lack of customer service and a general non-concern for the wishes of us shoppers. Like most Canadians I accept this level of mediocrity, but must admit that recently it hit rock bottom.

During a recent trip to the U.S. I found myself staying near one of the largest outlet shopping malls I have ever seen. When I searched for hotels I came across a Doubletree, which is owned by Hilton, so I assumed it was quite reputable. When I discovered that, for $10 more l would receive a $50 shopping voucher for a nearby mall, as well as a full breakfast, I jumped at the opportunity. Though not a shopper by nature I would surely be able to spend $50 (It was actually $25 per night, but I would be there for two nights).

I arrived quite late and checked in with no issues. I asked for the $50 voucher, but was told that I would receive it upon check-out on the second day. Slightly dumbfounded by the logic I asked why that was, as I planned to do my shopping before I left the area. I was told it was their policy - not the best customer service line I have heard. The polite clerk went on to explain that if, for some unexpected reason I was to check out early the hotel would lose out, because it would be difficult to retrieve the vouchers from me.

I explained I had no intention of a premature dismissal, but if they were concerned I would be glad to leave $50 in cash with them, which they could then return when I checked out. She was slightly confused by my suggestion and simply smiled.

Slightly frustrated and not in the mood for an argument I asked to change my reservation to just a room with no shopping card or breakfast. The attendant nodded (I think she sensed my frustration), but she kindly explained they had a package which included breakfast. A terrific idea, as the last thing I would want to do the next morning was search for a restaurant. I agreed, thanked her and she gave me the rate. I paused a moment and realized it was the same rate as my original booking, which included the shopping vouchers. I looked bewildered and asked why that was and received a courteous shrug. I guess it was their policy.

I asked for the duty manager, however, no one was in at this time, but was politely told there would be someone there the next morning. I was tired and gave up, making my way to my room and the comfort of a bed. I awoke the next morning, ready to confront the sentry behind the desk.

I marched to lobby and politely asked for the manager. I was told she was not in yet and the young lady asked if she could help. I briefly explained my story and she looked in a drawer and found an envelope bearing my name, which no doubt contained the shopping vouchers.

She explained their policy and again I explained it did not make sense. After a few minutes of polite bantering she laid the envelope on the counter before me and glanced the other way. It was my cue to grab the goods and quickly stash them in my pocket before anyone else came along. I smiled at her and she smiled back. I thanked her for her courtesy and her ability to place the customer first, at which point she offered me free Internet in my room for the duration of my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised at the resourcefulness and people skills of the lady at the front desk that morning. I sincerely hope that Hilton recognizes their staff and rewards them properly… although it is probably not part of their policy.

Once at the mall I immediately saw a large department store with the familiar yellow daisy as part of their logo. I seldom visit stores that large, because I get frustrated when I cannot find what I am looking for and there is no one to help, however, I gave it a try and right in front of me was the gift I was looking for. I paid and left without incident.

A short drive later I came upon another department store. This one had a big, red bulls-eye as part of their logo. I understand they are moving into Canada this year and many people I have spoken with are quite excited. An opportunity for me to explore this vast phenomenon presented itself and I was not about to pass it up. I went in and was surprised by the cleanliness and organized manner in which the merchandise was laid out. I decided to see if the pricing was the same as my recent purchase and felt my jaw drop when I saw the $25 item on sale for $18. I abruptly left the store, feeling that I had been taken advantage of by the yellow daisy store.

I returned to the daisy store and walked up to customer service. I politely asked if their policy was to match pricing. The lady said it was and I explained what had happened. I showed her a photo on my smartphone of the shelf in the other store with the price clearly marked. She had to call a supervisor and I waited. A stern looking matronly-type woman marched behind the counter. I trembled thinking it was Miss Walsh, my grade three teacher. After hearing the story she looked at me and said they only price match if it was in the 'circular flyer'. No idea what she meant I explained it was on the shelf in the other store.

"Circular flyer," she repeated, as if I was deaf the first time she said it. By now I was losing it.

"What if the flyer is rectangular?" I asked.

"Only circular flyers!" She repeated, adamantly.

"Fine!" I replied. "I will just return it"

She nodded and left me in the hands of the capable clerk who promptly refunded my purchase. Blood boiling I returned to the bulls-eye store to purchase the gift and froze when I arrived. They had sold out. How can that happen in a matter of 20 minutes? The clerk checked stock and sure enough... none left!

I slowly walked to my car frustrated; knowing deep down that the 'Manager' in the daisy department store was enjoying a coffee laughing herself silly at my misfortune. If life throws you lemons, throw them back, for you may lose them if you try and get them cheaper somewhere else.

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