It’s something we’ve learned not to expect—good customer service from your typical “big box” store. We just take it for granted that any problem or question we have while shopping at the store is going to be a struggle to get resolved.  When and if we are able to find someone on the floor to ask a question, most likely that person will not know the answer and will not know who knows the answer. We’ve come to expect that person to treat us with indifference, at best.

Are the times a’ changin’?  Twice over the past week, this writer received above-and-beyond customer service in two different “big box” chain stores.  In one, I was just confused as to where a certain product would be.  I found an employee to ask rather quickly and right up front he said, “You know, I’m not sure, but come with me.”  We went off to find his colleague, which only took a few seconds and then that colleague did not just point in the direction of the product I sought; he led me there and chatted amiably as we went along.  When we arrived at the sought-after product, he apologized for the “long walk” and that, yes, he also thought it was kind of confusing as to where this product was located. Empathy and helpfulness!

The second experience was even more astonishing.  On the quest for a basic bicycle, I found what I thought I wanted on the Internet, listed at a particular big box store, and printed out the web page.  I brought the page with me to the store and, of course, the store did not have that exact product. I had quickly determined that on my own.  But, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  I quickly found an associate who was just passing by. She confessed she did not work in the bicycle department, but immediately spoke into her walkie-talkie to reach the one who did.  Before that person could arrive to help, a second employee was already at my side. She pointed me to a very similar model, suspended out of our reach from a very tall rack.  She summoned the person who could move that rack down and get the bike off it for inspection. At this point, I am being helped by two people in person and two more are one the way! When the rack guy arrived and brought down the bike, my shopping companion noticed an interesting bolt that didn’t seem to belong where it was.  None of the three employees with us knew what it meant, but by now the originally summoned bike department person was at our side and quickly explained the bolt’s purpose and that it could be adjusted or removed if we wanted.  “Oh, and, by the way,” he continued. “Do not agree to the service contract they’ll ask you about at check-out.  I make all adjustments and replace all parts for free, regardless.”

A big box store employee had volunteered helpful information that was going to save me money and make my life easier if I ever had a problem with the product.  And three of his colleagues had already helped me in other ways.  Finally, they all encouraged me to give the bike a little test spin down the aisle and applauded my progress.

Something quite right was going on with that store’s employee training program and, I’m guessing, a corporate culture that had produced a generally cheerful bunch.  Wouldn’t you like to know what these employees had been told, and how management accomplished in practice what others only talk about in theory? Imagine if I had been a “mystery shopper” sent to check up on employee training and their treatment of customers? This store could have had an instant model for employees to follow and to present at its next customer service trainings!