We have another wonderful story from Kathy Gamble, whose mother worked at Rudin’s. In this essay, focusing on an incident in the 60s, Kathy talks about Rudin’s policy that the “customer is always right.”
In a previous post, I presented a poll to ask people what trait they most valued in a sales clerk. (The poll is at the end of this post.) Of the 84 respondents, the majority said, “Greeted me by name,” “was happy to see me,” and “knew the merchandise.”
Olive Huggins was one of the best. She knew the customers and was always friendly, but in the incident Kathy reveals to us, her mother’s vast knowledge of the merchandise had a temporary disadvantage for a mis-informed customer. Find out what happened by reading Kathy’s story.
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My mother, Olive Huggins, worked at Rudin’s Department Store for many years. I’m sure Mother never challenged Mr. Walter’s decisions, but there was a time she questioned his judgment.
When she was working in the men’s wear department, a customer wanted to return a shirt. According to the customer, everything was wrong with the shirt she had purchased for her husband, and she wanted a refund. In those days sales receipts were appreciated with a return, but not absolutely necessary. The customer had no sales receipt, and it was Mother’s job to find a shirt like the one returned, check the price, and refund that amount. As soon as she saw the shirt, she recognized the Towncraft label as being a house brand of the J. C. Penney Co., a store one block north of Rudin’s. Mother questioned the customer, asking if she was sure she purchased it at Rudin’s. The customer emphatically answered “yes.” Mother knew not to argue with the customer, but thought perhaps Mr. Walter should be advised of the situation.
She approached Mr. Walter with shirt in hand and explained the situation. “You need to refund the customer a fair amount based on the price of shirts we carry here the store,” he said.
“But it’s a J. C. Penney Co. brand,” Mother protested, “and the brands carried by Rudin’s are a better quality and higher price than the Towncraft shirt.”
In his calm manner, Mr. Walter again told mother to do as the customer requested. “The goodwill of the woman was worth more than the price of a shirt.”
After dealing with a difficult customer during the day, Mother would sometimes repeat this story at home in the evening. She appreciated the Rudin policy that the customer is always right, even if the store lost a little money.