Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How To Get What You Want As a Customer

As a business owner for about 14 years now, and having simultaneously spent about 12 of those years running a wedding cake business, I have probably heard (or been subjected to) about every kind of customer input you can imagine, good and bad.  Between Shane and I, we have over 100 years' combined business experience, so you can rest assured that what follows is gospel truth.

I thought I'd jot down a short list of how get what you want, as a consumer, because I'm helpful like that.  And...why let all my interactions go to waste, right?

Loosely based on my experience--here goes:

1.  When making a complaint, claim the moral high ground in any conversation.  You are the offended party.  Don't allow anyone to imply that your complaint isn't justified.  EVERY complaint is justified, especially yours, no matter how insignificant the details.  Like those muddy tire tracks on your driveway after the delivery truck leaves?  DEFINITELY you should make a phone call about that, and expect someone to "come do something about it."  If no one answers, follow up with several voice-mails.  And emails.

2.  Go ahead and freely use entirely subjective complaints about consumable products, long after they've been consumed.  This makes your complaint impossible to verify and leaves the business owner in a no-win situation.  See below:

Exhibit A:
You:  That was the dryest cake I've ever eaten! How can you call yourself a cake decorator?  Everyone complained about it and my daughter's whole wedding was pretty much ruined and they're possibly getting an annulment because of your cake.  Your feeble excuse that it was eaten while still freezing cold out of the refrigerator is worthless.  I want a full refund right this second! And you should have to pay for our dry-cleaning and unlimited wi-fi for a YEAR.   

Owner:  No problem.  Just bring back the uneaten portion, and we will happily refund you the difference, even though it was perfectly good and just needed to sit out at room temperature before you all bellied up to the cake table, as I clearly stated, and you signed IN INK, right on the "cake instructions" page that you took with you when you picked it UP.   

You:  Oh, there's no cake left.  We ate it all.  But we still hate you and are going to tell everyone what a terrible baker you are.  And you're rude, too!

3.  Don't allow us to answer or defend ourselves on the phone or through emails--we are just trying to overthrow your reign of control and condescension.  You can't let that happen.  If we stand up for ourselves in even the slightest way, flare up with something like, "WHAT did you just say to me?"  No business owner should be allowed to take control of the situation by halting you, mid-tirade.

4.  If nothing else works, and you think we might have a point, play the trump card of age.  You're older than me; hence, you automatically have more wisdom.  Condescendingly ask "How old are you?" Immediately age yourself 20+ years beyond me. This puts you securely back in the driver's seat.

5.  Start any emails or phone calls with the phrase "You people".   This is condescension at its finest and allows you to immediately assert your dominance.  Spend the whole conversation talking to us as if you can't believe you're having to waste your precious time telling us how to do our jobs.  Act surprised that we've survived in business as long as we have.  We appreciate your validation and look forward to feeling like you approve of our business plan.

6.  Threaten to tell both all of your friends how unhappy you are with our services, and convince them not to do business with people like us. This allows you to assert your dominance on the lives of at least one person other person everyone around you, which subsequently improves your life.

7.  Repeatedly tell us that we have failed to make you happy and have possibly ruined your future happiness, while striking down any offers we might make to rectify the situation.  Even if we don't agree with you, we're obligated by law to listen.  Remind yourself this as you repeatedly demand the impossible, and don't let us get a word in edgewise.  When we do...tell us we're being SO RUDE.

8.  Expect free stuff.  If you voice your complaint forcefully enough, expect us to drop everything and deliver you more of our products, at no charge, based on your word alone.  We don't need proof.  Are we calling you a liar?

9.  Ask to "speak to the owner".  Act surprised when the woman who just answered the phone turns out to BE the owner.  Do not let the situation be diffused, though.  Demand to speak to a man.  What could she know?

10.  Feel free to hang up on us.  Nothing says "I'm in control of this situation" better than just hanging up on someone.  Granted, there's no satisfying "slam" to it, with cell phones, but you can make it more gratifying by calling us names before pressing <end>.  Just be careful we don't call you right back in a cheerful voice and say, "I'm sorry, we got cut off.  I wasn't finished."  Because we probably will.

11.  Claim to have had more years' experience as a business owner, than you actually have been alive.  This impresses us to no end, because anyone who's had "300 years' combined business experience" sure as heck knows what they're talking about.  We're all ears.

12.  Pretend to avidly stay abreast of facts, price trends, profit margins, and safety issues relating to our business.  Lord knows we sure don't.

13.  Setting prices and profit margins should NOT be limited to individuals who actually run the business. Everyone knows this.  You should definitely let us know if we're charging too much.  Feel free to tell us what you *will* pay, and don't be embarrassed to offer us less than half our retail prices, "or possibly a little higher".  We will appreciate your savvy negotiating skills and probably offer to just GIVE you this stuff for free.

14.  Make your fight personal.  When emailing your unhappy thoughts, it's helpful if you point out that you resent the owner's having mentioned the fact that she personally delivered your messy bundles of FREE kindling to your house in her brand-new BMW X-5, causing her to get a trunk-full of stupid sawdust and wasting the better part of an hour vacuuming out her car because of YOU.  Her car-keeping troubles are not your concern.  And she didn't bring enough kindling, anyway.

15.  Be loud.  Use LOTS OF UNDERLINING AND HIGHLIGHTED ALL-CAPS IN YOUR EMAILS SO WE ARE SURE TO HEAR YOU YELLING.  Everyone knows the best approach in conflict resolution is to jump right to yelling.

16.  It's also helpful to tell us, when you're ordering, that you will be needing/expecting us to perform about four additional services, which we don't offer, at no charge.  Threaten not to pay for your merchandise if we don't meet your demands.  Act offended when we say we don't offer those services, and threaten to take your business elsewhere.

17.  When you threaten to "take your business elsewhere", rest assured that this will change the business owner's mind, on the spot, 100% of the time, possibly even more than 100% of the time.  Every time. We will always beg you not to take your rude self somewhere else. hashtag goaway

18.  If we actually do encourage you to please take your crazy, rude self somewhere else, act outraged.  It is your right to behave as rudely as you can imagine, and it is our job to put up with anything you want to dish out.  Forever and ever, amen.

19.  When paying in cash, make sure to hand it to the delivery driver as if you're possibly funding Oliver Twist's first real pair of new shoes.  He'll appreciate that you think he's needy and that your two crisp one-hundred-dollar bills might be the most money he's ever handled with his bare hands.

20.  Give expert business advice, even if you're living in your mom's/son's/ex-wife's basement and spending your life trolling comment boards, crafting carefully-worded snide remarks from the behind the safety of your computer screen and an anonymous user name.  We appreciate your input and your obviously higher understanding of our decision-making paradigms.

21.  If you have never worked at all as a business owner, it's just possible you don't have the first idea what it takes to run a thriving business.  To fill this loophole, you'll need to simply act even more condescending.  Learn the art of double-talk.  No one will know.  Or care.

22.  Profess your Christian morals to the owner, but remember to also call them names in the same email, while also pointing out that you're pretty positive that they are NOT Christians.  Your higher level of spirituality absolutely qualifies you to make those kinds of deep personal analyses via email.

23.  Threaten to go on Yelp and make sure everyone in town hears what kind of business we run.  Better yet, GO and post on Yelp and then send emails reminding us that we "really should check our reviews".  Act surprised and offended when you realize we've blocked your email address and phone numbers.

24.  Your negative input is absolutely always correct. We derive all of our personal validation from it and take it as a window into our souls.  Thank you.

25.  Enjoy the renewed sense of purpose that floods into your life as you realize that you've just caused a person you don't know to feel anxious, angry, or offended, without even leaving your couch.

This was going to be a list of ten, but then...I've got over 100 years' experience to pull from.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Is This? Priceline??

Oh. My. Gosh.

Guys.  I'm literally laughing out freaking loud right now.  Here's a customer service laugh for all of you in retail.

We run a business selling retail firewood; we've been doing it for like 14 years.  Per cord, our firewood prices range from 165.00-265.00.  EACH.

I just received an email from an ex-customer, who hasn't ordered since 2006, because even then, he was SO CHEAP that he canceled an order over a $20.00 difference in price and asked us to take him off our mailing list because he "could find it cheaper somewhere else."

No problem.  Took him off the list and never heard from him again.  Until--

TODAY.  *bing*  An email shows up on my phone, which means it came through our website, where our prices are clearly LISTED.

He's ordering our top-priced wood, which is $265.00 PER CORD.  He wants THREE cords.  And here I quote:

Him:  Will pay $110 per cord if it is buckskin tamarack.  Prefer it above red fir, but might go $120 possibly.  Note: Have been a customer previously.


*doubled over laughing so hard*

Is this effing PRICELINE??  OH MY GOSH!  
hold up a sec-

*composes self and wipes tears of laughter*  Oh, my abs...!

I quit laughing long enough to politely write him back, still snorting with laughter but maintaining the professional restraint  to keep from instantly writing back--"You're kidding, right?"  or "How about if I make you a counter-offer, then you can see if that works for you, then you can counter my counter-offer??"  or "Yeah.  1965 was a good year."

What the actual HECK?!??

I wrote back:
Me:  Hi *priceline-type customer*,  Our current prices are available online.  Unfortunately, we don't offer anything in that price range, but thanks for inquiring.

Best regards, yours truly, sincerely...  etc., etc.

Seriously, you guys--we haven't had anything under $140.00, even for our economy wood, since before 2005.  What decade is he writing from?  What response was he expecting?? Do you go the Home Depot counter with your cart and say, "I'll give you $50.00 for this whole cart full, maybe $75, but that's as high as I can go"?

I got such a kick out of this email that I couldn't even delete it, and it's too special to simply "save", so guess what?  I made him his very own folder in my email folder list.  It's called Things Worth Laughing At.  And it now has one email in it.   


whew.  I just had to share that.  Thanks for listening.  

hashtag crazy customers whattheheck  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Time Traveler--Midnight Sledding Parties

If you've been following my Time Traveler posts about growing up in north Idaho in the 70s with no power or water, you know they're really just me telling some stories from my childhood, which usually wasn't normal at all.  They're mostly for my kids, but since not many people had a childhood like this, you're welcome to come along.

Stay with the class, though, OK?

One thing I remember very fondly is midnight sledding parties.  Where I grew up, we all lived in the hills, usually down long, steep driveways that were inaccessible in winter except on foot or by sled, so we took advantage of the snow and the hills and the large community of other hippie-ish folk in our area, and we'd all get together at one or another's property and go sledding at night or to celebrate New Year's Eve.  I have random memories of these nights.
Us with Mom around Christmas one year, c. 1978-9

It was magic.  A lot of stuff I did growing up wasn't "normal", but those nights were pure, unadulterated, brittle-cold, sparkling magic.  Like frozen crystals in time--I have memories of the sound of laughter with friends on clear dark winter nights.

Breath showing like puffs of smoke.  No noise but our voices in the air.

No electric lights, no car headlights, no flashlights.  Just moonlight glinting on the snow, casting the blackest shadows in a silent forest that stretched for miles around us in every direction.  Glittering frozen air, tiny sparkles floating.

The sound of our snow suits going zhip-zhip-zhip as we dragged our runner sleds and toboggans up the hill for another long run down, to land with an "umph" at the bottom.

Struggling with that crazy Flying Carpet blue plastic toboggan that we always got for Christmas.  It came rolled in a tight tube, and never wanted to assume any other shape but a tube.
Image result for flying carpet sled
'member these??

Trying to get up the nerve to take the hill on a saucer sled--that death-defying, sometimes-backwards, sometimes-forward, out-of-control daredevil ride.  Only the serious sledders did that.

Flopping down backwards, full-force with a whoosh, into a snow bank with a friend, to gaze up smiling into an inky sky filled with a million tiny hard-edged stars that seemed to go on forever.  Catching snowflakes on our tongues.

Wondering out loud those age-old childhood questions:

Do you think there's anyone else out there?  

Naaahhh.  Well, maybe somewhere...

If I was Han Solo, I'd take Chewbacca and go visit that bright star, right....there.  I bet there could be someone there.  See it?  



Wanna go again? 

In a minute.

Whoever's house we were at, there would be hot chocolate when we were done and a fire to warm our hands.  It usually wasn't long before we'd get that dreaded frozen crack of doom between the end of our coat sleeves and the cuff of our mittens.  No matter how careful we were at getting dressed, we always  had that frozen red gap of wrist showing, and the snow always got in there.  If you layered your socks, long-johns, pants, boots, and snowpants right, you could avoid the snow getting to your ankles, but I never did get the mitten/shirt/coat thing mastered.

So we'd warm up and go some more.  Say good-night to everyone, wish them Happy New Year, and head back to our various homes, warm from the cocoa and the joy of friendship and shared life.

I don't have any pictures, mainly because probably no one was taking any (because hello--it was NIGHT), but I *did* find this lovely picture that for some reason someone took, of our sledding hill on the property we bought next to ours, called The Meadow.
Imagine this with snow, by moonlight, and full of people...

Good times, you guys.  Good times.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So, I'm an Onion. Or an Artichoke

I always love the random text conversations we have around here.  This was from last night, when my husband and our youngest were out birthday shopping for me.

Her:  home in 15 minutes.  what time were you born?

Me:  12:20 a.m.

Her:  Dad says that's not the right time.  lol

Me.  I'm like an onion

Her:  Because you make everybody cry?

Me:  That.  And you just keep finding layers of stuff you DON'T KNOW

Her:  Hahaha this is true

Me:  Mostly the crying tho.

Me:  If I had a nickel for every time I made someone cry, we'd all be so rich...

Her:  Dad says you're more like an artichoke because that's nicer and people like those.

I love that man.

Monday, March 16, 2015

We Still Have a Glaring, but Also Sort of a Menagerie. Or a Menagerie WITH Glaring?

If you read the last post, you know that we finally got an English mastiff puppy, which we've wanted to do for about five years.

So it's kind of like we have a small dragon living in the house with us now.  Except with less fire-y breath... and about a million times more cuteness factor.
that face...
 The routine has definitely settled down, so I don't spend the days any more wondering "Oh. My. Gosh.  what have I done?" or not finishing important stuff like showering and making dinner.

 Hahahaha I'm just kidding. Of course I make dinner.  

The first 3-4 days were kind of seriously crazy, because all the sudden everything is turned upside down and you can't do anything because DOG and you forget to take your teenager places like school and Driver's Ed because DOG and you can't go sit outside on the porch swing randomly because DOG and you sleep in your clothes because what if she has to get up in the middle of the night?  (she hasn't, not even once--thank you LORD).

Our new dog-life has all sorted itself out, and we have realized that she is actually really and truly awesome and easy to have around.  She spends most of the day napping by my chair or on my actual feet.
Sorry, I can't get up right now

She does love to play with her toys, of course, and she's clumsy and funny when she's starts shaking them and wanting to romp around in the house.  Our youngest coined a new phrase for it the other night when she was flipping one of her rag toys around:
"She's got her crazy pants on"

Best of all, though, she's been absolutely polite and calm with our 'glaring' of cats (because apparently that's what it's called when you have more than two cats, or that's what non-cat people do when you have more than two cats).  The cats are also no longer glaring AT the puppy.  Sam has decided she's not worth the trouble and will now actually touch noses with her and rub his head on her (well, almost- he sort of leans towards her and then seems to think better of it).  But still.  He's definitely not worried...
at all-
Jack's still hiding a lot, but he does that all the time anyway.  He will sneak up to her while she's sleeping, or lie down a few feet away and watch her like, "what ARE you?"

Louis has made it clear that he doesn't care how big she's going to get, he will always be the boss. She already respects him and gives him kind of a wide berth, but she did manage to sneak onto his favorite soft spot in front of the fire the other night.  It worked out OK, and Louis managed to claim more than a corner of the rug by the end, but she did hog the best spot.
Are we good?

Yeah.  I guess you can stay.


That's all for now- I think she's ready to go outside again.   Stay tuned-

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

If the Toddler Years Were a Test, Is This a Do-Over?

I feel like I'm briefly (and voluntarily, let me add) spending some time in hell's waiting room.

Last week my life was great.  Orderly.  Quiet.  Uncluttered.  Simple.  Slobber-free.

Then I decided to act on a long-held dream we've had--to get a mastiff puppy.  Now do you know what my life is?  A circus.  My life is now a circus inside a hamster wheel inside a swirling vortex of nothing getting done BECAUSE PUPPY.  And yes, I'm actually happy about it.

I know, I TOTALLY SIGNED UP FOR THIS, but also--what. the. actual. heck?  I haven't had a puppy in like (counts on fingers while staring at the ceiling).....


....a long time.  At least 10 years.  And that one didn't stay, because she was intensity level = mach 5.  Her idea of a good time was to knock our kids over and tear everyone's clothes off with her teeth while running around like a maniac.


So, we got a baby mastiff.  Which is kind of like suddenly getting a new toddler who likes to chomp on every single thing in sight, especially the things that are not labeled "dog".  I remind myself that I volunteered for this.  If I can raise two kids, I can surely do this.  I want to do this.

After I shower, though, K?

I'm sneaking this post in while she is passed out among a variety of *toys* (and I use the term loosely) that I have been feeding her for the past hour, only one of which originated at Petco.  My living room looks like someone tipped a shopping cart over in it.  Or a small dumpster.

Here's my last two days, schedule-wise:

I haven't showered.

I haven't folded laundry.

I haven't made the bed.

I haven't washed the dishes.

I haven't been to the grocery store or the post office.

I haven't knitted anything.

I haven't slept more than 5 hours in a row.

I haven't done my French lesson.

I haven't called customers.

I haven't been online in days.  No idea what's going on in the world.

I haven't read blogs.  Blogs! So many blogs to catch up on...

I haven't worked out.

I have two broken fingernails that I haven't even had time to FILE.


I actually forgot to drive our youngest to driver's ed at 6 pm the other night.  (Seriously?? Who does that? Have I also lost my mind?)  We were chilling on the couch that night with the puppy, until we both looked at the clock at 6:08 and went OMG DRIVER'S ED!!  Jammed out of there and made it, 20 minutes late.

Them:  "Why are you late?"

Us:  "Um.  Puppy."

Them:  "Oh.  Right."

I think it was a good excuse, because apparently a new puppy shorts out your brain, too.  Even with calendar reminders on my phone for everything except breathing, this is pretty much my mental level right now:

I did manage to balance a bank account yesterday while handing her toys with one hand and writing with the other.

It absolutely feels like a flashback to having a toddler in the house.  You can't leave her alone for more than a few moments.  Walk in the kitchen--peekbackaroundthecorner to make sure she hasn't eaten the couch.  Walk in the bedroom...peekbackaroundthecorner to make sure she hasn't eaten the couch.  Walk to the see a pattern developing, right?  (And yes, we do have a crate, of course, but she doesn't get shut in except for bedtime and when I desperately need a shower or an uninterrupted meal).

So, I wait all day for her to take naps.  go to sleep, little pupppppyyyyy.  Soft kitty, warm kitty-- uh, sorry wrong song.    you're getting sleeeeeppppy.....shhhh....there, there.

This morning I slept clear in until the crack of 5:21 a.m.    Guys.  Do you have any idea what the freaking temperature is outside at 5:21 a.m. in Idaho right now??  LIKE 15 DEGREES.  It might as well be Antarctica, though, when you step out there barefoot out of a dead sleep.  In the dark.

I stumbled into some kind of flannel coat thing and slipped barefoot into krocs, which immediately got freezing-cold pebbles in them, so WOW THAT'S COLD, but I reminded myself that she's housetraining beautifully, so this is worth it. is very much like having a toddler all over again.  Except without the kind of....working up to that stage.  We just woke up one day and said,'s a good day to turn our life upside down.

Actually, she's amazing.  Calm, smart, beautiful, quiet and sweet like 99.9999% of the time, with actually very short-lived, sporadic bursts of what for her qualifies as "crazy", but for puppies of most other breeds it would qualify as possibly not even awake, on the Puppy Richter Scale for Levels of Crazy.  Which is exactly why we wanted a mastiff...because intensity level = 0.  Even as a puppy, she's calmer than any adult dog we've ever had.  If you throw a toy and it's farther than like 2 feet away, she flops down like, I can't.  It's too far.  She won't even try.

And of course we're in LOVE with her, so it's all really so worth it.

Also she's absolutely co-existing with the 3 cats, who are unbelievably fine with her, because she sits and watches them rather than trying to chase them, bark at them, or eat them (which we've experienced with other puppies in the past).  We got an actual nose-touch from Sam this morning, who is our most open-minded cat, so it's going better than I could have hoped for.  Except I could really use a meal and a shower...

*stops typing to listen*

She's actually snoring right now, so I better go redeem the time.  Wish me luck-

p.s.  It's a great weight loss program too!  I haven't had time to eat, and also can't remember when I ate last (see above), plus--I spend our 'outside time' running around more than she does.  Win-win, right?