Thriftilicious Thursday—As Our Savings Go Down, Our Expectations Go Up

As I was thinking about writing the post for this week’s Thriftilicious Thursday on my recent experience with and some awesome customer service, an email popped into my inbox that seemed almost serendipitous. (I love that word.) It was from Marketing Profs, a site I subscribe to both because I do marketing in my “day job” and also because I think consumer behavior is just so fascinating. (You can say it: Big. Nerd.) It’s about a new study just released from Forrester (a big-wig in business and technology research) about how customer service is now the top determinant of customer loyalty. Another article in a marketing pub cites a customer’s “experience” as being the “magic bullet” of loyalty. An analyst for Forrester put it this way: “Marketers need to make sure they are building loyalty the old-fashioned way, one interaction at a time. If you aren’t delivering good interaction and meeting needs and being easy to work with, then customers will leave you.”

The really interesting thing to me is that the correlation between customer service and loyalty increased significantly from Sept. 2007 to Oct. 2008. As the economy worsened, customer service became even more important. The Forrester analyst explained, “When times are good, consumers just continue on their merry way, but in this economic environment, every purchase they make, every service interaction they have is a large portion of what they care about. They’re more emotional about everything and, therefore, a bad experience resonates even more negatively.”

Case in point:
I’ve given you the heads-up on the daily and weekly bargains for shoes at, right? Well, last week I was so excited to order 2 pairs of Reef flip-flops for only $9.95, normally $48. When they arrived, I opened the box and found that one pair was size 9, and the other was size 10. (Yeah, I know, my feet are huge. Has anyone else’s feet grown about a size and a half since having kids, or is it just me?) Anyway, since the two pair came as one “set,” I knew it was impossible that I could’ve ordered two different sizes. And I checked my invoice to assure that I had, indeed, ordered the 9s. So I got on the Web site and looked up what to do to return items. Having already paid shipping, I wasn’t about to pay return shipping as well, which is their policy, so I emailed customer service to ask them how I should handle it.

I emailed on Sunday, and not having heard back on Tuesday, I forwarded my original email and asked them if they had received it since I had not heard anything. I was happy to see a message from the CS mere hours later.

Now, the most I thought they would do was credit my account for the return shipping or just not charge me for sending me the new pair. Maybe send me a prepaid box to send the “mistake” shoes back to them? But to my surprise—and delight!—here is the email I received from “Hector.”

Hello Paula, Thank you for contacting Customer Service. I apologize for the delay in our reply and for sending out the wrong merchandise to you in order XXXX. Unfortunately, we do not have a replacement to send out to you at this time. We will certainly refund your money back to your card in the amount of $16.90, please allow 2-10 business days for this credit to appear on your bank statement. We don’t need you to send these sandals back to us, you can either keep them or donate them. Again, I apologize for the delay in our reply, and any confusion, misunderstanding or inconvenience. If there is anything more we can do for you or if we could improve your experience, please do not hesitate to let us know anytime. We are available Sunday through Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (p.s.t.). You can contact us via Thank you! Hector Customer Service

Okay, so not only did I get to keep both pair of shoes (since they were out of the size 9s), I also get all of my money back, including shipping! Score! If anything, I would’ve thought maybe they’d give me a gift card to use at their store, but my money back? That rocks!

And I promise I was not mean to them and did not threaten them in any way in my original email. I was assertive but polite. It wasn’t that big of a deal in the scheme of things, and I knew there wasn’t likely a vindictive warehouse employee who had intentionally packed the wrong pair of shoes in my box. People make mistakes! I just didn’t want to pay for shipping when it wasn’t my fault I had to ship them back. That’s all. Not a big deal.

I was so impressed that I quick sent a reply to the CS at and quickly got back another nice email, this time from Candace who told me, “You are very welcome. Have a wonderful day.”

And you know what, Candace? I did.

And you know something else? I will definitely buy from again. In fact, I’m trying to decide among these shoes right now from Two Lips: all are $19.95, most of which is a savings of more than 70%! Which ones do you like?

What about you? Any great customer service stories? Do you have stores that you are loyal to because of your “experience” with them? Feel free to name names—after all, now more than ever before, customer is king queen!


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