Stews Leonard’s And The Thumbtack In The Chowder

Today’s tale ended up providing a good business lesson but began as a potentially lethal bit of negligence.

Oyster crackers are better with this than thumbtacks!

Oyster crackers are better with this than thumbtacks!

I went to see my folks the other day and my Mom had something interesting to show me. On her counter was a container of clam chowder from the Stew Leonard’s store down the street from their house.  She had purchased the soup the day before.  On top of the container was a thumbtack as you can see in the photo.  I don’t know about you, but my Dad prefers crackers with his chowder and doesn’t ever consider thumbtacks as a condiment.  However, that is exactly what he found as he ate.

How the tack got in the chowder is a serious problem but not our focus today.  Obviously the commercial kitchen should not have small, sharp, unsterile objects anywhere near food but let’s put that aside and focus on what happened when I returned to the store.   Stew’s is known for great customer service.  At the front of the store here in Norwalk is a big stone that says:

We’ve been going to the Norwalk store for 30+ years and have always found that they practice what they preach.  However, we’ve never had an issue like this.  In any event, I took the tack and the chowder to customer service at the Danbury store and explained the problem.  The young woman didn’t ask for a receipt nor question me in any way.  She just apologized, asked me if I had other shopping to do and to please come back to see her when I had finished.  Upon my return she waved me to the front of the short line, asked for the new clam chowder I had picked up, tagged it as paid and refunded the price in cash.  I gave the soup to my folks along with their refund and they were happy.

We get opportunities in business to take bad experiences and make them worse or to make them better.  This was the latter which I think is a model about handling a customer problem.  Address it immediately, admit blame, tell the customer how you’re going to solve the problem, make restitution, and see if that resolves it.  I suppose if I had carried on about wanting gift cards or something more I might have got it but I wasn’t there to take advantage( I realize some customers are!).  They could have asked me for my parents’ email to send them an apology (about the only improvement I would have made).  They were being adult about it – I thought I’d reciprocate.

Many places would have denied there was a problem (that’s impossible, sir, maybe you dropped it in while you were heating it up).  Many would have demanded a receipt (maybe you were storing someone else’s chowder in one of our containers).  Some would have made me solve the problem (so what do you want me to do about it) instead of offering a solution themselves.  They did none of those things and so what could have been a series of horrible posts on social media are, instead, a blog post that praises them.

How would you have handled it had your customer found the tack?  Any differently?  Could this have been handled any better?

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