A tale of two very different businesses

A tale of two very different businesses

Here are photos of two businesses in my hometown across the street from each other. One is a gas station with a pretty handy and effective car wash. The other is Batteries Plus.

The fact they are in the same town and the fact they are businesses are where the similarities stop. Let me explain.

Earlier this spring, I took my wife’s truck up to the car wash one night to clean all the salt and grime off it. After I slid my credit card through the scanner (it’s an automatic car wash), the doors would not open and I realized I was not going to get a car wash. Okay, frustrating, but I’ll just go inside, tell the cashier at the register this, she’ll credit my card or give me my money back and I’ll come back. Stuff happens, right? Noooooooooooooooo! The lady working the register was somewhat polite, but she had zero personality, and when I told her what happened, she said and I quote, “You’ll have to call here tomorrow and ask for Andy. I can’t give refunds.” Okay, so now I’m really frustrated. I said, “How can you not give refunds for something you’re selling that I paid for and didn’t get.” She had no answer and told me to call Andy. I don’t do that; I said, “Look, you’re the business; you made the mistake; you have Andy call me.” I also acknowledged to her that it wasn’t her fault her employer didn’t trust her to make decisions to keep clients happy to do what’s right. And I told her it was ridiculous that she could not credit a client’s card for something they did not get, and this was a big waste of time and that I had better things to do than try to scam her out of $11.

To Andy’s credit, he did call me the next day, told me to stop by and he would credit my card. So, a couple of days later, I stopped in about 5:30; the same lady is there again; I tell her I’m there to get my money back on my card. She says she knows nothing about it and I will have to call Andy as he’s not in. Good grief, people. Now I’ve burnt up about $30 worth of gas trying to get 11 bucks back. This car wash is a bit out of my way but I do like the job it does. So now I’m really mad and I tell her that Andy needs to call me. The next day Andy calls me and says that he has it straight now and to stop by and he’ll just give me the 11 bucks back and he’s sorry. I told him how silly this was that he didn’t trust his employee to credit their customers’ cards and that he needs to figure out a better way to handle this kind of situation. I mentioned this mess was his fault and now not only did I want my $11 back, but now I want a couple of free car washes for all this nonsense. I said I liked using his car wash and felt he needs to think about what’s happening here and tell me if he’d like for his mother or father to get the runaround like this. Andy agrees to give me back my 11 bucks and agrees to give me one free car wash. Okay, now we’re talking. So, I go back to the car wash a couple of days later and yep, you guessed it, the cashier couldn’t give me my money back or my free car wash. Sigh! Remember, we are talking about 11 dollars! I said, “Look, you recognize me, don’t you?” She nodded yes. So I said, “Do you really think I’m this desperate for 11 dollars and a free car wash; you call Andy right now; I’m not leaving till I get my 11 bucks back and the car wash I was promised.” Magically, she gave me 11 dollars and a coupon for a free car wash. What the heck, folks?

Then, to add to the entire story, this car wash machine never prints a receipt for my credit card, so every month when our bill comes in, I have to sign off on the missing receipt as I don’t have the proof for our accounting records.

Conversely, across the street at Batteries Plus, I had taken my favorite watch there to get a new battery. After they did that and the watch got wet, it did not function properly any longer. So, back to Batteries Plus I went, sensing I was going to have a problem with this. When I spoke to the employee and showed him the watch, he checked and returned to say it would have to be sent out to be repaired and he was sorry he messed it up. I said, “Do you need my receipt so you know I’m telling you the truth?” He chuckled and said, “No…ha, are you trying to rip us off? I don’t think people do that. I trust you. We messed up; I’ll fix it.” WOW! I thought. So they sent the watch out; it turns out it could not be fixed and they called me, told me to go buy a new watch and stop in and see them, and they would pay me back. Holy smokes, people.

So 3 hours prior to my sitting down to write this post, I am wearing my new watch and I have the money for the watch in my wallet from Batteries Plus. Guess where I’ll go to buy every single battery I need? And guess what car wash I won’t be going to anymore?

Again, two businesses, close to each other, but that’s about all they’re close on. How do you treat your clients? What can you learn from my experience? If you say go to Batteries Plus for all your batteries and stay away from the car wash by Marty’s house, then you’re pretty smart!


  1. Jim Houpt Reply

    So true, empowering employees to make decisions not only improves customer service it raises employee moral. Having the right processes makes all the difference. I plan to share this with my staff. Thanks Marty.

  2. Tim Nichols Reply

    Good one! My son and I went to a deli near my house in Kettering. Kind of a nice looking place! I really liked the feel of it. It’s a relatively new business. There were no customers there. It was 11:00 am. Hmmmm! Interesting! The four employees (one was the owner) were in somewhat of a tizzy over their point of sale computer. It was “down” as they put it. I was ready to order so I just stood there at the counter waiting. After a few blank stare exchanges and a few more minutes, they decided to hand write my order! Imagine that? But, they couldn’t tell me how much I owed of course!!!….until the computer system was back up and running! Wow! They made our lunches and said they would handle payment after we were done eating. Fair enough! Well, lucky for them, they got it all taken care of by the time we were ready to leave. The food was really quite good! I’ll go back.

    But! The point I’m making here is that we, as business owners, absolutely must empower our employees to do what needs to be done! Even if the computers are down!

    So many business owners of commodity type products like the gas station/drive through car wash are absentee. They operate by scaring the crap out of their employees to the point where the employee thinks they will get fired if an $11 refund leaves the cash drawer to satisfy a good customer! My feeling is that your experience there is the RULE for those kinds of places. Not the exception! Commodity consumers have been so focused on buying at the lowest price that the fallout has created business owners that focus on being the low cost supplier and not superior service. As you and I both know, the two goals are constantly in a sparring match! I’m not making excuses for Andy but, this is a fantastic example of why Marty Grunder and Tim Nichols have business models that focus on a high quality product and unmatched service!

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