Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Youthful enthusiasm

As a kid, I wrote to a few businesses over the years and was bowled over by their going the extra mile. Three examples stick in my mind:

-I was given a board game by a friend called Scoop! that had a major piece missing (a sort of cardboard telephone/randomiser device). It was a great game but not the same playing it without the random factor. I dropped a line to the John Waddingtons Head Office and got a nice letter back saying that sadly, it was no longer in production but that they would have a rummage round and see what they could come up with. A week or so later, a parcel arrived with the piece enclosed.

-I discovered that venerated lighting Company Rank Strand Electric had a free quarterly house magazine called Tabs!, available on request. The first or second one I received was their hundredth issue and I dropped them a line asking if they had any back issues for sale. Again, a week or so later, a large jiffy bag arrived with about forty issues enclosed, some going back fifteen or twenty years. They had rummaged around their oddments and effectively given me one of each of all their spare copies.

-On knowing that I was going down to London with my Dad for something, I wrote to the Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, asking if it was possible to visit backstage. I got a lovely letter back telling me that whilst they didn't normally organise visits for individuals, if I went to the Stage Door at 10am and asked for someone by name (I think it was the Master Carpenter), they would give me a quick look. He also apologised that he wouldn't be able to meet me that day as he was elsewhere and finished off the letter with a P.S. paraphrasing my own- "Stage struck for thirty lovely years!" (I think I had claimed three...)

Today, this sort of thing is called giving excellent customer service , but it isn't quite the same thing when you are disputing your gas bill. On these occasions, I would have come across as young, naive, polite but somewhat ignorant of business. However, I also would have conveyed buckets of youthful enthusiasm for the subject and someone else being genuinely interested in what you do has a great feelgood factor.

I also had this effect on adults in the flesh as well. My Mum had an Offy (Off License, a beer & Wine Store) for a couple of years and I would help out at weekends and holidays. The Tudor Crisps man once gave me a number of free bags for helping him carry the boxes in, checking the reject stock and being interested in how crisps were made (and why they didn't always get packed correctly). They were all plain though, as they only carried a surplus of plain bags for shortfalls & faults. He told me to swap them for my favourite flavours from the shop stock!

On that trip to Drury Lane, the Master Carpenter wasn't actually in so I was reluctantly taken onstage by the Stage Manager, for a "quick look". I ended up staying a couple of hours and being taken up onto the Grid by the Flyman as well as being shown all the mind boggling stage machinery.


jmb said...

Good post Ian. There are kind and gracious people out there and you were lucky enough to find some who didn't just blow off a little kid. I'm sure you've paid it forward in your time.

Lord Higham- Murray said...

Yes, great stuff. I ran a piece referring to business practice too. Don't you just want to keep buying from them when they do this sort of thing?

Shades said...

JMB, I have indeed done the same to enthusiastic youngsters over the years. I've even done it to adults- a head teacher blagged my entire boot full of demo stock for a show once when I was a spotlight salesman.

It does make you want to come back if they go the extra mile. For years I favoured Esso because they invited me to a meal in 1980 and also the local garage gave me Tiger Rock & Stickers in the 60s.