Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Phoenix & Dragon Flames Out

Last night, a colleague and I went to an event at Phoenix & Dragon in Sandy Springs, I at the invitation of the event’s organizer, my colleague at my suggestion.

When we walked in, the cashiers at the counter – one male, one female – asked us if they could help us. I said we were there for the event and the male cashier decided to assist us, while his female colleague attended the store’s customers who were beginning to line up behind us.

“It will start in 20 minutes; they are just setting up”, the man said, “so you will have time to look around the store”, which is exactly the reason why we had arrived early. I’ve been to at least half a dozen events at Phoenix & Dragon, going back to the time when it was still located on Hammond Drive, and bought things there on almost every occasion. For my colleague, it was her first visit; I had told her lots of good things about the store.

The man then asked if we would like to pay. Yes, fine, of course. We had not known beforehand what the arrangement would be (I had imagined we would pay the event’s organizer, but never mind). We pulled out our coupon, provided by the organizer. If two people were to come to the event together, each got $5 off the attendance fee (in these dire economic times, every little $5 helps!). He looked at the coupon with suspicion, saying he had never seen such a thing before, and didn’t it look like someone had just printed it from their computer? Yes, someone had (“jerk”)! His female colleague leaned over to inspect this ‘suspicious’ coupon also and confirmed she had never seen such a thing either. So, the guy picked up the phone and called Candace Apple, the owner. Long conversation, glances of suspicion in my and my colleague’s direction, but finally he hung up and said he would accept the coupon. My colleague handed him cash, I wrote a check – a business check, with name, address and phone number printed on it. He looked at it, turning it over a few times – more suspicion! Then he wanted my driver’s license and I told him, untruthfully, that I did not think I had it with me. Asking to see a driver’s license when a personal check is presented is common; for a business check, it makes no sense.

Another phone call to the owner. I told him: “Candace knows me and she knows my business”, which seemed to make him even more suspicious, so he came away from behind the counter and started walking in the direction of where I suppose Candace’s office is. “You know what”, I said to him, “never mind the check; I’ll just give you cash.” So, he game me the check back, I handed him the cash and he handed me a receipt. He asked for my name, which I gave him. Then he accepted my colleague’s cash and asked her of she needed a receipt. Stupid question to ask when you are paying for a business event in cash! She told him “yes”, he gave it to her and then asked for her name. “Why?”, she challenged him, “I’ve paid in cash”. He told her they “just like to keep a list”, so she gave him her name as well and we were told where the event was taking place (next door, in a different building). We could not get out of the store fast enough, I, speaking just for myself, never to return again!

Oh, the event? My colleague and I were the only two in attendance! The presentation was excellent, the introduction was another disaster. Read: “Politeness Gone Too Far – Way Too Far” – next post.


Barb Giamanco said...

By way of full disclosure, I've known Candace Apple for years and love the store. At the same time, this is an all too familiar commentary on the lack of customer service. Great service should be the norm. Not rudeness and suspicion. Someone showing up to pay for your event should not be viewed as a "cheater" looking to save $5 bucks. Get a clue people.

Phoenix and Dragon said...

I would like to join you in frustration. I regret your experience at Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore was tarnished by your class registration experience. However, my frustration is not with the sales associate attempting to help you, but with the sometimes cumbersome and less than people friendly constraints of the computer tools which are supposed to make all of our lives easier.

I am sorry you took the look of consternation on my employee's face as suspicion. As we were not informed of this coupon ahead of time by the event organizer our computer was not programed to accept it. (I agree the coupon was a great idea!) In order to keep accurate records for payment to our presenters we need to request names, even on cash transactions and accurately enter the payment in a way that reflects the method of payment and accurately matches the charges. Thus the employee needed some guidance in how to fool the computer into accepting your payment. Oh for the days of a sign up sheets and a cash box. I wonder sometimes how much time and frustration is wasted on these "modern conveniences".

I am surprised you found it unusual to be asked for your ID with a business check. I waited 15 minutes last week at Target across the street in the Prado for the appropriate supervisor to come approve my business check. On the bright side, it gave me time to market my store to the clerk and give her a gift certificate to Phoenix & Dragon. The lesson learned there was to turn what could be perceived as a negative experience into a positive opportunity to market your business. Again it was the tyranny of the computer system that has to sync all transactions with the customer who is signing the check and not duplicate entries having a separate business entry.

I appreciate your taking the time to express your frustrations and am glad I was forwarded this blog by a friend. I will use this as an opportunity to see how we can improve our systems to decrease the negative impact on customers in the face any such unexpected coupon offers or other computer defying experiences. In the future, know I welcome any such feedback directly. It is the only way we can continue to work to improve our service to customers and clients.

I regret your decision to not visit Phoenix & Dragon again. I would like to offer you a gift certificate in appreciation for you business over these many years and your frank input concerning your disappointment with your recent experience at Phoenix & Dragon. Since you graciously gave the clerk your name for our customer list we can enter your $10.00 gift credit there and it will be available for your next purchase at Phoenix & Dragon should you change your mind about visiting us again. - Candace Apple