Brenden Schaaf / January 16, 2012

Customer Service in Contrast

I was prepared to write a blog post about the excellent service I received today at the new Discount Tire near our house, but before I even arrived home I received such terrible service elsewhere that I’ve decided to highlight both experiences because it makes the good service feel even that much better.

My wife and I were on our way to Caribou Coffee a couple miles from home this morning (we are both off for MLK Day) when our tire pressure warning light came on.  This has happened a couple times before and it has always meant that one tire was a bit low on air.  Since we had our tires filled with nitrogen a few months ago this was a surprise because nitrogen typically doesn’t leak from the tires at all as opposed to “regular air” that does (especially in winter).  After parking at Caribou, my wife noticed that the right front passenger tire was very low…as in it would probably be completely flat if we left it for the day.  Conveniently enough, within the last two months a brand new Discount Tire opened up pretty much next door to the Caribou so we hopped back in and drove across the street to get the tire fixed.  The guy told us it would probably be 20-30 minutes so we told him we’d be back in an hour and walked to Caribou to drink some coffee and read as originally planned.

When we arrived back at the Discount Tire after an hour, another gentleman was at the desk.  He gave me the van keys and then said he wanted to check what they found in the tire so he went out the garage briefly to find out.  When he got back he said they found a screw in the tire but they repaired the puncture and we were good to go.  He gave me a receipt that showed $0.00.  I asked, “there’s no charge for this?” and he replied, “not today…all we ask is that you give us a chance to earn your business the next time you need tires.”  I was blown away.  I expected to pay $50 or more and would have been happy with that.  Instead I was elated like I was after being treated so well by the Kansas City Royals last spring.  My wife and I left feeling very happy and are somewhat excited to actually need tires in the future (who can say that ever?) knowing that we will be well taken care of at Discount Tire.  I can honestly say that the next set of tires we purchase will be from Discount Tire, without question.

After leaving Discount Tire, we went to directly to Osaka Sushi and Hibachi Steakhouse to meet up with an additional four people for lunch (not be confused with the Osaka Seafood Steakhouse whose website confusingly lists some of the same locations including one in Coon Rapids but not this one in particular).  They had purchase a Groupon worth $40 good Monday through Thursday in January so today seemed like a good time to use it.  The six of us were the only ones at our table and there was only one other table being used in the Hibachi portion of the restaurant (where they cook in front of you) so they weren’t all that busy even though it was Noon when we arrived.

Upon ordering, our friends presented their Groupon and were told it was only good at dinner and that it could not be accepted for lunch.  We ordered our food and everyone examined the Groupon more closely.  Nowhere on the Groupon does it restrict the time of day that it can be used, only the day of the week.  Figuring that the waitress was just doing what she was told, our friend approached the manager.  He was again told that the Groupon could only be used at dinner.  I called up the Groupon website on my phone while this was happening and also found no restrictions listed.  Asked to explain again where on the Groupon it restricted usage to only dinner, the manager (David) then offered our friend $30 toward lunch instead of the full $40 that could be applied to dinner (according to him).  Only after an additional protest after dinner did the manager offer up a feeble “I dont’ know why it doesn’t say it on there” and finally agree to take the full $40 off their bill. He was obviously disgusted to do so and offered no apology.  If he was confused as to why it didn’t restrict time of day on the Groupon imagine how his customers felt.  He didn’t seem to care.  Especially since someone took the time to ask if the Groupon could be used for lunch and was told that, in fact, it could!!

The most interesting thing to me in our experiences at two different businesses today isn’t that we were treated well at one business and shabbily at another.  We’ve all grown accustomed to poor service so much that it is hardly a surprise to have to fight for what is right these days.  What surprised me is that the business that treated us well is a part of a national chain and the place we were treated poorly is a locally owned (presumably), small business.  I would have expected our experiences to be flipped.

What isn’t surprising is that I will beat a path to Discount Tire the next time I need work done and I will recommend that my friends do the same.  Also, I will never again set food inside any Osaka location given our treatment today.  According to my 7-year old, Behihana has better food anyway!


Brenden Schaaf / December 27, 2010

Should have froze our jelly or put it in a pie

Apparently frozen food in any quantity is allowed by the TSA.

Q.  Can I take food that is frozen?
A.  In a frozen state, food is considered a solid and not subject to restrictions of liquids, gels, and aerosols. Frozen food will be examined for tampering and additional screening may be necessary. However, liquid-based foods that are frozen (such as gravy) but are partially melted are subject to TSA’s restrictions for liquids, gels, and aerosols. For more information, please read our Liquids Rules:  3-1-1 for Carry-Ons. Please be aware that a Transportation Security Officer has discretion to prohibit a passenger from carrying an item through the screening checkpoint or onboard an aircraft if the item poses a security threat.

Or I could have put the jelly inside a pie (

Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.

I guess I should have read that before traveling through TVC today.  Oh, and KY Jelly is also allowed.  Just don’t plan on going through security with your Welch’s Jelly (

We are continuing to permit prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by
persons with disabilities and medical conditions. This includes:
all prescription and over-the-counter medications (liquid, gel, and aerosol), including
KY jelly, eye drops, and saline solution for medicinal purposes;

Brenden Schaaf / December 27, 2010

TSA power trips don’t keep us safe

Like a lot of other folks, I’ve grown tired of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I’m writing this from the Traverse City Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) where I have just witnessed more idiocy by the agents that are tasked with keeping us safe. My wife inadvertently packed two jars of jam in her carry-on bag and it was detected at the security checkpoint when the bag passed through the scanner. So far so good.

At that point, in my opinion, the bag and the traveler should both be subject to more advanced screening. Instead, though, my wife was allowed to take her bag (which they reversed back through the x-ray machine) and remove the offending items. She was given the option, by a TSA agent, of checking the bag (remember, this is supposedly dangerous stuff) or mailing the goods to herself (do we want explosives  in the mail) or just tossing them in the trash. In the interest of time and money, she chose the latter. So now the jam (which could be an explosive agent) is sitting in a trash bin right by security. Does this make sense?

If people are just allowed to remove offending items from their bags when they are detected, all the terrorists need to do is keep trying until their items get missed by the scanner and/or the agent. And it will happen.

After this charade, my wife was prohibited from locking her bag with a TSA approved lock before the bag was scanned again. The agent barked at her not to lock the bag in case it “needs to be opened.” This is despite the fact that right before her I had a locked bag pass through the scanner without incident and i was standing on the “secure side” of the scanner with that bag.  What is the point of a TSA lock if the TSA makes you leave the bag UNLOCKED?  Surprise…another TSA agent on a power trip.

These little TSA power trips are doing nothing to keep us safe. It is time change from this charade-based security to something that is actually effective. Having to throw out gifted jam does nothing for aviation security and makes me want to fly less and less.  Let’s start investigating further the people that need to be investigated and let grandma go through with her bottled water or hemorrhoid cream. I would actually be less upset if my wife had been subjected to further scrutiny for not following the rules rather than just allowing her to dump the offending jam in the trash.

Terrorists know that it works this way…they will just keep trying until something gets through and the rest of us will be left to suffer.

Brenden Schaaf / November 17, 2009

Amazon vs. UPS — I end up being the loser…

I ordered this cable:

so my wife can hook up her ipod in her van and play it through the stereo.  I have free shipping through Amazon Prime so for 99 cents it shows up at my door two days later.  Excellent deal in my opinion.

For some reason (probably because they are losing their ass on this deal) Amazon sends it as requiring an IN PERSON SIGNATURE!!  So UPS won’t leave the damn thing at my house and I’ll never be home when they deliver to sign for it.  For a 99 cent item!!  The stupid thing is that I also ordered a GPS and they left that box on my porch on the same day they did their 1st attempt.

I emailed Amazon to bitch and they came back to me with an asinine response about “sorry it was lost in transit” and “it is up to UPS to decide to require a signature or not”  — neither of which is true because I called UPS and they said Amazon is the ones requiring a signature.  Of course that makes sense since the tracking information says that too:

So I called UPS when I got home from tonight and they said they won’t attempt to deliver it any more and I have to drive to Maple Grove to pick up my 99 cent wire.   I called Amazon and the guy I talked to called UPS and he came back on the line and said that “UPS is already sending it back to us so there isn’t anything we can do” which contradicts what UPS just told me 10 minutes before.  They said they would hold it until next Tuesday at the Maple Grove office.

So now the Amazon guy said he would call them again and he is going to call me back in a half hour to let me know what the word is.   They still offered to overnight a new one but of course that will probably require a signature too.  Uggggghhh…

[UPDATE 11/17/2009 9:33PM]

The guy at Amazon phone back and said that UPS will not attempt to redeliver even though Amazon has requested that they do.  He did admit that it was an error in the Amazon system that resulted in this situation and he apologized profusely.  He also is going to refund my 99 cents (whoopee!) and they are sending a replacement via overnight service as soon as they get more in stock.  No promises, though, that the new shipment wouldn’t require a signature…stay tuned.

Brenden Schaaf / November 3, 2009

IKEA follow-up

I posted before about an issue I had exchanging a defective cabinet at IKEA.  Proving the “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” theory, someone that I know that works at IKEA happened across the blog post and talked to someone with the abilty to make a decision on my behalf and I received yesterday a gift card for the price of the cabinet.  While this is good for me, it still points out the issues that people can have when employees are not empowered to do what is right by the customer.

Brenden Schaaf / September 26, 2009

IKEA’s flawed exchange policy

Dear IKEA –

I would like to suggest that you examine the exchange policy that is enforced for items with manufacturing defects.  In my opinion, it is unreasonable to require a receipt for an even exchange that is being requested only because IKEA failed to properly manufacture an item.

400px-Ikea_logo.svgEarlier this summer, I purchased, among other things, 3 birch Effectiv wall cabinets (supplier code 13662, item number 30050140) paying $45 each.  Today, I finally had a chance to assemble and hang the cabinets but the 2nd cabinet assembled had a gap on one corner of the face of the cabinet where the laminate from the adjoining side did not properly meet.  Unfortunately, I did not notice this manufacturing defect until I had already assembled the unit.  I hung the two cabinets that didn’t exhibit this defect and decided that I had room to hang two more cabinets above the two that were already on the wall.

It is a 20-mile trip each way from my home in Brooklyn Park to your store in Bloomington, but I decided I had time this evening to make the trip before you closed.  I brought with me the assembled cabinet to exchange and I also planned to purchase a second cabinet and four sets of cabinet doors and handles to finish this project.  I also planned to look at several other items including some lighting, organizational products, bedding, and furniture for my daughter’s bedroom.

I arrived at your store shortly before 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, 2009.  I waited only a couple minutes at the returns/exchange area before I was helped by young lady.  I didn’t note her name, unfortunately, but I told her my story and showed her the defect on the front face of the cabinet and explained that I would like to exchange it a new cabinet.  She said that she could not process and exchange without a receipt, which surprised me since it wasn’t like I was requesting an exchange for a different item – I merely wanted what I had paid for when I purchased this particular cabinet, which was a cabinet free from material defects.

She did go into the back room for a few minutes to see if she could find a replacement for the defective part, but she returned after a fruitless search.  She offered me the following options:

  1. Go home and get my receipt and come back to the store with it to process the exchange.
  2. If I couldn’t find the receipt (a near certainty) I could bring back a credit card statement showing the date of purchase and she could look up the receipt.
  3. She would give me a phone number that I could periodically call to see if a replacement part happened to show up that I could then pick up at the store.  In the meantime, I guess I would either have to not hang this cabinet on the wall or I would have to remove it from the wall when/if a replacement part arrived.

None of these options struck me as being particularly good ones for someone in my situation.  I told the refund/exchange clerk that I had the credit card that had been used for the original purchase but she explained that she couldn’t look it up without the date of purchase as well.  Feeling out of options, I told her to throw the cabinet in the trash as it was no use to me given the manufacturing defect.  She tried, briefly, to get me to take the cabinet with me but I left it there on the cart and set off to do my shopping.

I purchased two more Effective birch wall cabinets and four sets of doors and hardware for a total purchase (before tax) of $239.95.  The barcode at the bottom of my receipt (dated 9/26/09 at 19:50) has this number: 212001110320092609 if you care to look it up.

There are several reasons that I believe your exchange policy is flawed and that there is an opportunity to change it to bring it more into line with what honest people expect of IKEA:

  1. The item I was exchanging had a clear manufacturing defect.  Because your items are sold unassembled, I had no way to know of the defect until I had assembled the item at home.
  2. I was seeking to exchange the defective item for an exact replacement item.  I was not seeking a different color/size/model nor was I seeking a cash refund.  I only wanted what I had paid for in the first place.  I don’t know what IKEA is trying to protect itself from in this case.  Are there really scammers out there that would go to the trouble to return an item for an exact replacement just to stick it to the retailer?
  3. It is quite clear that I purchased the item at IKEA – there isn’t anyone else that sells IKEA products so unlike some retailers you can’t fear people returning items they purchased elsewhere.
  4. I could have defeated your exchange policy by not telling the truth, which was that I had purchased the item earlier this summer.  Instead, I could have purchased a new cabinet and then used the receipt I received from that purchase to process the exchange for the defective cabinet.  I would have still left your store with two new cabinets, but would have saved $45 plus tax.

I do acknowledge that your return/exchange policy is clearly spelled out on the back of your receipts and through signage in your store and that it does clearly state that a “receipt is required for all returns and exchanges.”  So you are well within your rights to follow and strictly enforce such a policy.  Still, I feel that it is unreasonable for you to require a receipt in a case such as the one that brought be to your store tonight and that I have detailed above.  If I were not forced to purchase two more cabinets from IKEA to finish the product I am currently working on, I would have left your store without purchasing a thing.  As it was, in my anger I decided not to purchase several other items that I had planned on buying tonight and I will seriously consider whether or not I will visit IKEA in the future when the need arises.

You have an opportunity to make this situation right by refunding me the $45 I paid to buy another cabinet to replace the one that I had to have your employee throw in the trash.  A better solution, though, would be to inject some common sense into your exchange policy to prevent others from having this experience in the future.