Sunday, January 15, 2012

Customer Loyalty

This was a post that I wrote back in November.  There were some reasons that I didn't post it initially, but the time is right now and I'll even post a follow-up post afterwards!:

Dave and I are in a good stage of life right now.  We are together (always a plus), we both have jobs (finally), we have a lovely little apartment, we both have the opportunity to serve and teach in our church, we are meeting new friends and reading good books together (a few at a time).  We both feel very blessed.  Now that I have been working for a couple of months, we are preparing to make the largest purchase of our marriage thus far: a new set of sofas.

Our previous sofas came from the living room of David's parents' house in Texas.  When they retired to Utah, they no longer needed the set and gave them to us, since we were newly married.  They were a good set of couches and we were very grateful to have them.

By the end of our time there, though, they were looking a little worn for wear and would have cost us a lot more than we had at the time to move them to Arizona with us.

So we've been couchless!  We have a very nice floor space in the front room and we have become frequent floor-sitters.  We've been surprisingly content with that state of affairs, but it really can't last.  David's service in the congregation requires us to invite families over to our home quite frequently, and right now there is simply no place for them to sit!  We had considered relying on Craigslist, our trusty used furniture finder (our kitchen table and chairs cost us $35, our perfectly good computer desk cost us $10 and our La-z-boy recliner, purchased in Utah and kindly toted down by Dave's mom, was $35).  We have been told, though, that because of Arizona's rampant bed bug problem, it is a very bad idea to buy used upholstered furniture here. We definitely don't want to take that risk.  So, after much saving, new sofas it is.

We have been to four different furniture shops.  Despite our savings, we have a small budget and have been trying to find the best quality for our money.  I hated everything I saw in the first two stores and we shopped there quite a while ago.  We had just been browsing, trying to get an idea of what was out there.  The salespeople were pesky and I was annoyed.

What I've found, though, is that as the time to make a serious decision gets closer, I become very loyal to my salespeople.  At the third place, where Dave and I went together over the weekend, a newly hired sales representative met us at the door and led us around the showroom with all the enthusiasm and eagerness of the unhardened greenie.  Her answers to our questions were plenty questionable themselves, but she was trying hard and I loved her all the more for it.  We liked what we saw and told her we would probably be back.  We made sure to get her work schedule so we could come again when she was working.

Last night, Dave and I traveled into Phoenix to go to a family-owned furniture store.  The place was huge and had plenty of character.  It looked like a sprawling southern plantation house:

We get their ads in the mail every week, and I have liked both the styles and the prices I have seen.  We were greeted at the door by an old man, who asked if he could help us.  We asked if we could browse for a while, which he smilingly allowed us to do.  I've always had a soft spot in my heart for old men, so I was instantly in love with this salesman too.  

It ended up being a very funny sales experience.  He did let us browse for a while, but eventually we noticed that he was trailing along behind us.  After a time, he crept to our sides and we found ourselves treated to long soliloquies about the company and its furniture.  He made no attempt to cater his soliloquies to our needs. This wasn't a man selling a first couch to a young married couple; this was a fine furniture connoisseur  who lovingly spoke about the intricacies of the most expensive brands as if we knew who or what he was talking about.  He continued to show us the most expensive furniture on the floor, and I'm convinced it wasn't even because he wanted the largest commission, but because he loved the fine furniture and just wanted someone to admire the craftsmanship with him.  This conviction was strengthened when he started showing us furniture beyond couches: kitchen hutches and bedroom sets that never could have fit in our small apartment.  David and I tried to steer him back on course several times, but I finally decided that if we could make his day a little better by listening to his very knowledgeable (if irrelevant) discourses, it was a small sacrifice to pay.  It did prove to be beneficial in a few key ways.  He started telling us about the importance of sofa fibers, which is something I knew nothing about.  This came at the detriment of his own commission.  The only couches I really liked at this store were the ones with wide whale-bone corduroy upholstery.  Dave hated them, but when I mentioned to our salesman that I was interested in the texture, he instantly began telling me how quickly they wear down and how little they hold up to heavy use.  He started explaining the difference between polyester-based fibers, cotton-based fibers and ... one other base I don't remember right now.  Dave and I learned a lot about the most durable fabrics, which was something we were able to take with us and were grateful for future reference.  But by the time we left the store at closing, we knew we wouldn't return to purchase.  My heart broke a little when our elderly salesman said, "If you do return to purchase, I would appreciate it if you would mention my name."  No hounding, just a sweet, sweet "I would appreciate...."  I hope his next clients were people with lots of money and sophisticated tastes! 

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