The Price of Satisfaction

When a box store boasts of 100% satisfaction, it becomes a challenge for the employees to find new and original ways to satisfy our customers. Add to this the unique clients with unique situations that are attracted to this guarantee.

When a box store boasts of 100% satisfaction, it becomes a challenge for the employees to find new and original ways to satisfy our customers. Add to this the unique clients with unique situations that are attracted to this guarantee.

Working in an outdoor retailer as a bicycle technician allowed me to meet Mr. Blue for the first time by phone. I had finished tuning his bicycle, a two-year-old entry-level bike with some expected wear and tear. This prompted my call to Mr. Blue, to tell him that his bike was ready and to explain what issues need be addressed.

You must understand that Mr. Blue is an intolerably inquisitive individual with more interest in his questions than patience for to listen to the answers provided. In fact, my first two words of response had enough pause between each for him to fire off two more questions. With his inquisition, I learned that Mr. Blue had purchased the bike from a dealer thirty miles away. He believed he had been sold a used bicycle as new. He was preposterously frugal, and my simple repair call had become very complex. The last statement from him was “Will you tell “S” (the owner of the bike shop) exactly what you told me?” Without response, Mr. Blue hung up to call “S”.

I found myself a mediator a few minutes later when Mr. Blue called to say that “S” would be in contact, their conversation wasn’t fruitful, and ended with “S”, lacking patience for Blue’s inquisitive manner, hanging up on him. Smart man.

With the call from “S”, I worked out an arrangement, which solved their situation with limited contact.

Then Mr. Blue shopped our store for a new bike. His frugality surfaced with his first choice, a bike that had been returned after a year of use. Carefully, we steered him away from that choice still unable to answer a single question in full. Then we found a perfect closeout bike marked down fifteen percent, within his low price expectations, and easily matching the minimal quality, which he was accustomed.

Early in negotiations, the unwitting outfitter mentioned a coupon sent out to Co-op members allowing a twenty percent reduction off a full-priced item. Despite his rapid-fire questions, we informed Mr. Blue that he could use the coupon against the full value of the bicycle.

With this solution, Mr. Blue walked out the door to consider his options. Two days later the Vice-President of the retail division called our supervisor. Apparently Mr. Blue had contacted our CEO, a significant feat in itself, to solve his dilemma.

He wanted twenty percent off of a bicycle rather than fifteen percent; the deal we had already struck, effectively giving us the added support of the head of the company on this transaction. In the end, Mr. Blue had a friend from Oregon purchase the bike (no sales tax) and saved thirteen dollars.

He left with a bicycle and at least 95% satisfied.
-- Bruce Schuster, REI - Bellingham, WA

Through July 1, retail sales staff answered the contest call to submit a story of survival and perseverance in the face of challenging customers. The story titles with summaries that made the first round of qualifications are listed below, and each is now in the hands of our judges to decide on the top 10. You can read each story in its entirety by going to the contest landing page -- click here.

Ten lucky story writers will each win over $1,000 in product prizes based on the contest judges' votes. Here is where you come in! Of those 10, one will be named the grand prizewinner, cashing in on a trip for two to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2007. Three others will be named official "honorable mentions," and in addition to the valuable prizes, each will receive a gift certificate that can be redeemed toward attendance at an Outdoor Industry Association-sponsored event, such as Outdoor University, Mountain Sports Festival or the OIA Rendezvous. The grand prize winner will be announced at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2006. We will determine the grand prize winner and the three runner up winners based on popular vote (sorry judges) -- those among the top ten receiving the most votes win, it's that simple. This is for store pride, for knowing you have a winner amongst you, so vote as often as you like. Tell your friends. Tell your friends friends. Tell your dog -- but only if he can work a computer keyboard.

Deadline for voting is August 1, 2006.Click here to register your vote now!

Did you miss out on this year's contest? Bummer, but no worries. If you haven't already done so, outdoor retail staff can get ready for next year by activating a subscription now at Then, watch your SNEWS® for announcements calling for our next contest entries and get ready to be a winner.


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