Have you ever had someone tell you "You should...."? In the spirit in which that is always meant, you want to be understanding and appreciative. At the same time, after doing things for a while, you would sometimes wish the question asked instead might be "Why don't you...?"
Sometimes, there are very good reasons, and because the phone situation has long been a prickly one, this blog seems a decent place to explain a little, for those who are listening.
"You should use a cell phone." Well, we have land lines here, even if we have remotes we can carry to and from three floors of warehouse space. Why does this matter? Well, not all cell phones, and not all cells, are created equal. We often get calls where we are met with silence on the other end. We have also heard callers mad at us when we've essentially hung up on them after hearing nothing for a couple of minutes. Why do we hear nothing? Well, if you call from a cell phone within a bad cell, we mightn't hear you! But, I also hear we're blamed a lot for this issue in customer service...and I'm sure others are, too. Part of the 21st Century, I suppose. But, please be fair, we're open more hours than our specialist competitors, and we answer our phones as best as we can.
"You should answer your phones instead of sending me to an answering machine." Well, we try. But, we each only have so many hands. And, speaking as one individual to any other individual out there, when you call here and reach me, I give you my attention. I'll also give you, if needed, something I've never heard our competitors give...a LOT of time. Yes, I've had customer calls last five or six HOURS. Those of you who have spent 60-400 minutes on a call just with me, never mind Patty or our staffers, know this is true. It's not always cost-effective, either. But, it's how good business is done. Not every call needs to run hours. With the dearth of action figures and the recent gimmicks from other product producers, we haven't had as much of a need for that lately. But, if I'm on the phone with you, whether the call lasts a minute or a hundred minutes, I can't pick up another line and give another customer 100% attention. So, I stay on the line with one person at a time. Sometimes, that means you need to leave a message. Please do. Calling back 30 seconds later while I'm still on the phone with another customer isn't going to stop me giving that customer all my attention. Or, when I reach you, an incoming call typically won't stop me talking only to you. (Yes, there are rare exceptions for scheduled meetings and the like, but that hasn't yet happened a handful of times in 41+ years of business, and I think we're on safe ground in claiming it's not the way we usually do business.)
"You should filter out spam calls." How? I'd love to! But, seriously, spam callers now account for more than half the calls we receive! If you're a bot or a message and not a human, it's a pretty fair bet you're being hung up on AND REPORTED TO AUTHORITIES. If you're a service making calls for someone and have nothing to contribute to our daily business, same deal...leave us alone and let us deal with customers who deserve our attention. Still, all this wastes time. It costs money because it wastes time. We're not going to thank you, and we're not going to buy from you, if you call here when you shouldn't. That's not to say we don't want legitimate and useful products being offered to us. We're nothing without products to sell to our customers. But, we're not a restaurant, so if you call us offering vegetable oil, expect we don't need it, and will terminate discussion with extreme prejudice. But, we now waste a ton of time daily with entitled, special people who are determined to sell us something we will never, ever buy or use.
"You should take payment on-line." Well, seeing how often attempts are made to hack our site, quietly and not-so-quietly, no, we shouldn't. We take payment info as we state on our web site, and we do take credit cards. We're different. We've NEVER had an issue with stolen credit card info as a result of our methods. It's a reason to trust us over those who don't get it, and have often exposed a lot of customers to a bad situation at what is never a good time for that to happen. Credit cards, checks, money orders, and in person we'll take cash. We've also now got a sister store (anniesbooksworcester.com) we highly recommend, and can have local customers come in and pick up their purchases, too! The other side of this, as I've said in this blog oftentimes in the past, is doing business the way we do allows us to put our hands on an item before running a payment. Unlike others, almost all others, we won't try to collect payment without something actually to sell you. Profound, huh? We're often faster than others, too. Just not the same. Our willingness to consider customers first and be a little different is a reason you should buy from us.
"You should have call waiting." Why? When I'm on the line with a customer, that customer deserves ALL my attention. When you call me, don't you enjoy that I don't have to put you on Hold?
"You should use the latest and greatest..." well, whatever it's the latest and greatest of, we charge less, we get to know our customers as people, we do a lot right, we take time to advocate both for our needs and the needs of our customers with our suppliers, and we think we have a lot right. Why change something not broken when others are broken and struggling as a result?
We do still invite comments and questions. Always! However, there are some things we've thought through a bit. We love discussion. So, if you have an idea or a comment for us, please don't hesitate to let us hear it...but, do understand if we might want to discuss it a bit to understand it well, or to give you an idea of why it may not work the same for us as for other businesses. After all, a lot of technological advance (like an inventory control system built into a web site to sell on line) removes control and responsibility from people...people who really NEED to know what they're doing before your money is paid. So, rather than take money for things we don't have, then have to go "oops, shouldn't have touched your money and your credit card, we don't have this in stock," we, instead, put our hands on items, and tell you in person (or on the phone or in e-mail) we do, indeed, have the item to sell. It's one aspect of real customer service. From real people. Gosh, who'd have thought you could deal with real people still in the Internet Age?
As always, thank you for your support.
Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan