Defective Parts and Sour Milk

milk and fruit

13 Jun Defective Parts and Sour Milk

Home Improvement Fiasco – Shopping at Lowe’s has always been a ritual for me and my late husband, Gene. We could always find what we needed for our home improvement projects and browsing the isles was fun for we project junkies. However, my most recent trip to find garage shelving has changed my mind (which reminds me that it doesn’t take much for a business to lose consumer loyalty).  In the larger sense, I wonder about the integrity of the manufacturing process as well as distribution.

I bought some reasonably priced lightweight shelving and I figured I could assemble it myself.  Part A goes into Part B etc.  I can do this.  After about an hour of reading directions and assembling the various parts on the floor of my garage, which is not air conditioned by the way, I come upon a defective part.  It’s a section of the shelf’s skeleton that is threaded to receive another part.  Well the threading was missing or misaligned.  One piece did NOT screw into the other as designed.  There was nothing to do but schlep the whole darn thing BACK to Lowe’s for a refund.  There was no way I’m going to try another product with the hope that there is only one of these with a defective part and I was unlucky enough to buy it.  Now, I’m angry.  I’ve wasted hours of my time sweating in my garage and I promise — it will be a while before I buy anything from Lowe’s again.

Now I ask: is it Lowe’s fault or the fault of the manufacturer? I think both are at fault. I don’t know who the manufacturer is but I try to imagine the production process.  Did anyone on the line check to see if the parts fit together before packaging it for sale?  Is there an inspection person who missed this defect?  Did anyone at the factory care at all that someone would be spending hours putting this together before they came to this defective part and had to return the whole thing to the store?  Probably not.

And what’s the responsibility of Lowe’s to ensure the products they sell are made correctly?  They probably take no responsibility, besides accepting the return.

What happened to the idea that companies should exceed customer expectations?  What should Lowe’s do to delight customers and build loyalty?

I say they should take some interest in their customers and have a little compassion.  If the returns clerk at Lowe’s had the authority to call on one of their employees in the storage department to find another product, assemble it in the store for me and deliver it to my home as an apology, I’d be writing about this experience all over social media.  Lowe’s would be a HERO and not only retain customers but attract customers away from Home Depot and other competitors.  Going above and beyond to help a customer and to care when a customer buys a defective product that wastes hours of their time is an opportunity to demonstrate superiority in their market.

But no.  That is way too much to expect from a huge box company like Lowe’s.  Employees are just paper pushers, taking returns, not asking any questions, not solving any problems, not building consumer loyalty.  It’s a shame.

Next Stop: Grocery Shopping

I love it when companies develop marketing strategies with messages that are so obvious they hit the consumer over the head.  Reading the ads, you think, well who wouldn’t want that?  Of course we want QUALITY!  Of course we want to be HEALTHY!  Of course we want LOW PRICES! Of course we want FRESH FOOD!

But then there is the execution of that strategy, and when it falls short, consumers race for the door.

It’s almost like the race between the tortoise and the hare.

In my case, consider my hometown grocery store, PUBLIX, as the “tortoise.”  They’ve been around for decades.  The service is not particularly fast, but friendly and helpful.  The food is fresh and you can find all your favorite brands well-stocked.  There’s nothing really exciting about Publix, or speedy, or new, but the service is reliable and the quality is dependable. I know what to expect and I get it. They are slow and steady.

Recently a new, farm-fresh store opened across the street, and they call it “SPROUTS.” I’ll call them the “hare.” Their name screams freshness!  The store looks somewhat like an indoor farmer’s market with rows and rows of fresh produce and a circular bakery section with packaged baked goods and one or two home-made items like jalapeno corn bread.

I went there for the same reason many consumers shop a store once.  It’s NEW!  The store was packed with people like me, looking to see what’s new about it and expecting a lot of “fresh” options and organic this and gluten-free that.  And yes, the aisle signs read “FRESH” everywhere and there were lots of organics. But then I see the standard deli stand, and a ready-made foods section with labels that say they are loaded with preservatives. For some reason, they also decided to devote a good one third of the floor space to trail mix and nuts and raisins of all varieties! I guess they are trying to appeal to the nature lovers, trail blazers and campers among us here on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Huh?  A great place for squirrels to shop too, I guess.

So I started to feel bad for the tortoise because all of these people are spending their money at Sprouts instead of Publix, and I began to mentally wish the hare well, until I got home with my packages.  In addition to some organic fruits and veggies, I bought milk. When I shop for food, there are the basic needs that have to be satisfied.

The milk, with an expiration date sufficiently in the future, was sour!  I thought about just pouring it down the drain, but I was so annoyed that I was forced to make another trip to the shopping center to get the $%&$# MILK, that I felt compelled to return it to make my point.  When the customer service rep at “SPROUTS” asked if I wanted a replacement, I pointedly said, “No thanks; I’m buying my milk at PUBLIX, because they have never sold me sour milk!”  Made my point.  The tortoise wins.

So the moral of this story is that slow and steady beats fast and new, if the fast and new can’t handle the basics.  The old saying “practice what you preach” comes to mind as well.  You say it’s fresh?  It better be fresh!  Simple.

Master the technology, conquer your market.








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