Price gouging, bad service, poor value is driving customers away

Trevor Laffan is all for supporting local - but businesses don't always make it easy
Price gouging, bad service, poor value is driving customers away

Trevor Laffan recalls the bad customer experience he experienced recently and said he’d have been better off ordering online. Picture: Stock

THE business community have had it tough over the last few years due to the pandemic. They’re not out of the woods yet either as the high cost of living, and the predicted rise in interest rates, continue to make life difficult for them. They need their customers now more than ever, but life is difficult for them too.

Everyone is watching their spending these days, so value for money is paramount. I’m all for supporting the local guy where possible, but they don’t always make it easy.

Hotels and car rental companies have lost the run of themselves, encouraging visitors to consider alternative holiday destinations, and many of our shops and stores are failing too. Especially when it comes to customer service.

Some people don’t like their job and you can spot them a mile away. They have no interest in engaging with customers. The pandemic was a blessing for them, with masks and Perspex screens providing additional hiding places.

It’s not uncommon these days to walk into a premises only to find yourself standing there while the staff continue to use the phone or computer without acknowledging your existence, making you feel like an inconvenience.

I was looking for something recently, and I searched the internet to see if it was available in my area. It was advertised for sale in a store in Midleton, so I jumped into the car and off I went. When I got there, the guy told me they weren’t in stock yet. When I pointed out it was advertised on their website, he just shook his head and I left empty-handed.

I checked my phone again and found they were advertised in a store in Little Island, so off I went. When I arrived, I was told they weren’t in stock there either, but they should be getting them in soon. When I suggested that having them advertised on the website was misleading, I got a shoulder shrug but returned home empty-handed.

A few weeks later, I had a similar experience when I wanted a specific present for my grandson. After checking the opening times for a store in Mahon Point on their website, I hit the road. It was due to open at 9.30am but when I got there, a notice on the door advised me that the opening time was 10am.

I sat in the car for half an hour and returned at 10am. They didn’t have what I was looking for but, when I told the lady that it was advertised on their website, she said they didn’t stock it locally. She could order it for me from their main depot, but it would take some time. When I suggested I could have done that myself and saved an unnecessary journey, I got another shoulder shrug.

It seems that stores advertise items they don’t have in stock just to get you through the door. They hope that when you can’t find what you came for, you’ll buy a ladder or a toilet brush instead.

When I got home, two wasted hours later, I sat down with a coffee and my laptop and within five minutes I was sorted. I found the exact item on the internet, ordered it, paid for it, and had it delivered to my front door. There was no fuss, and I didn’t have to find fuel or parking.

Last week, I needed a part for a toilet cistern which I couldn’t get locally so I rang three stores in Cork. In the first one, a lady answered, and I got the impression she hadn’t a clue what I was looking for, but she told me to bring up the broken part and she would find something to match it. Not convinced, I tried another.

This time, the lady wasn’t quite sure what I wanted but was certain they didn’t have it.

On my third attempt, I spoke to a lady who told me she had one left and would leave it at the customer service counter for me, and I could collect it there.

Success at last, so off I went.

It took a while because I was stuck at the Jack Lynch Tunnel for almost an hour. When I got to the store, I asked a young lad where the customer service desk was and he didn’t say a word, just pointed. I followed the finger and asked the lady at the desk for my part, but she couldn’t locate it. Somebody had moved it, so she went off to find it.

After ten minutes, I noticed she had given up her search and was back at her station dealing with other customers. I showed a guy in the plumbing department the broken piece I had with me and asked where I could find a replacement and he told me they didn’t stock them. 

I explained about the lady keeping it for me in the customer service area and he said whatever she was keeping wasn’t what I was looking for because they didn’t have them!

I went to another plumbing supplier. In I went and there was a guy sitting behind a Perspex screen who was busy looking at his phone. When he eventually decided to speak to me, he directed me to the bathroom section. The bathroom section was deserted, and I got fed up waiting and left.

Apart from wasting three hours on my search, it would have been easier, cheaper, and far less stressful if I had just ordered the part online in the first place. Price gouging, bad customer service and poor value for money will drive customers elsewhere and the business community would do well to remember that.

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