‘Pure gold in these tough times’: The good side of consumers’ stories
Pricewatch: We asked readers to share their positive customer service experiences
Slated.ie sells tableware art pieces made from old roofing slate
We are inclined to focus on the bad news on this page. Week in, week out we highlight examples of bad customer service. That is because people are far more likely to send us complaints than praise. A couple of weeks back we asked for people’s good news stories. They were not slow coming in and some are so lovely, they’d bring a tear to your eye.
Patrick O’Leary got in touch to share his experience of dealing with a company called Slated.ie. It sells tableware art pieces made from old roofing slate. “It’s got a deep personal connection for me,” O’Leary says. “I grew up in West Cork the son of a builder and farmer, who spent his weekends and after school on the farm, and his summers doing odds and ends on my dad’s building sites. These days I’m almost a million miles from that having been fortunate enough to grow up during the Celtic Tiger days, going to UCD and working my way up through technology companies to now live as a CTO in the States, about three minutes from the White House.
“When I first came across the Slated product I was blown away,” he continues. “I remember those old forms of slate from many country houses and sheds as a kid, they had started being replaced with engineered products, and reclaimed slate was being used in new imaginative ways as flooring. It never occurred to me that they could be turned into such beautiful works of art.”
He writes that he “had to get his hands on something, a part of home that I could show off to everyone. But of course Covid popped that balloon and Slated’s supplies had run out. I became friendly with them over Twitter, there’s always a bit of craic that I feel is akin to popping into a local shop to pick up the paper not just for the news, but also to see what’s the scéal. Finally the day came when Slated got their supplies back in, I waited as they started restocking their product online, there was a cheese board that I had been eying for months. At last it was available and customisable!”
He ordered it and got it customised with “Hobbit’s Cheese”. “I nicknamed my other half the Hobbit (don’t tell her I told you or she’ll have for me).”
“Within a week it was making its way across the Atlantic to my door. There was also a set of copper and slate candle lights holders that looked amazing and I just had to have! It took no time to get to me, opening them just showed how much they put into this product, and again it showed it’s really a piece of art. Included was a personalised note from Tara & Ed Hammond who run the show along with two cloth masks for myself and my other half. It makes me miss home and my family even more, but it instils a level of pride that I will always cherish.”
Ghislaine Byrne is keen “to highlight some amazing customer service and what local business is doing while we are locked down”.
She starts with the background. “Mam bought Dad runners for Christmas from the brand Columbia. I bought them online and gave them to her. They didn’t fit and it was a big rigmarole to try to return them. Had to print out a return label and bring to UPS. They had no printer – I printed it for them but then had to post it to them because I live in Newbridge and they live in Tallaght. Anyhow, fast forward a few weeks and Mam’s runners give up (all the walking during lockdown). She doesn’t want to buy online because it was such a hassle and they still have not received the refund for the previous returned runners.”
So Ghislaine got in touch with Cripps in Terenure. “I rang the number on their website. An absolute lady answered straight away, and I explained our predicament. Well, the service that we received was unbelievable. Olga, in Cripps, took photos of all the runners they had in my mam’s size, asked so many questions, wide foot, narrow? Colour preference, material preference etc. She asked me to get my dad to measure my mam’s foot in cm so that she could make sure that the runner would fit.
“They sent a selection of two for her to try on and if the size doesn’t fit, she’ll send their delivery guy to do a swap for a different size. Just incredible service and they have a customer for life in me. Walking is so important to my parents especially in this Lockdown 3. It’s their saviour and if they couldn’t keep it up, they would really struggle.”
She says that “Olga was so careful as they are not allowed to do click and collect and said sure just hold on to the runners that she didn’t want and Mam can drop back after the lockdown! She even put a pair of insoles in the package in case Mam needs them! You don’t get that service with ASOS/ M&S/ Columbia! What a wonderful business! I am so grateful that they have been able to sort Mam out with her new runners.”
Lorraine McMahon has two positive stories about two shops located quite close to eachother in Midleton, Co Cork.
“Angela’s Delicatessen has served the people of Midleton in good stead for many years. During the first lockdown my father became unwell and needed to go to regular appointments at the local community health centre. Both of my parents were cocooning and were cautious and hesitant about going into shops. Just before they headed into town for my dad’s weekly appointment, my mother would ring Angela the proprietor and tell her what she needed – milk, carrots, potatoes etc . . . when they were finished at their appointment, my mother would drive straight to the shop. Once Angela saw my parent’s car outside, she got the order and put it into the boot of their car. If you didn’t have the right money there was never any hassle.
“This might seem like a small thing but it meant a lot to my parents – not having to go into a shop, they just had to hand the money to Angela through the car window. Their produce especially vegetables are always really fresh and it also meant that my parents had some small slight bit of contact with the outside world. It was a gesture that we really appreciated.”
There is another deli located a few hundred metres away called Toastie. “In the evenings I often drove into town to get a takeaway coffee [and] chatted to the lady behind the till. I explained that I lived in Dublin but that I was spending lockdown in Cork as my Dad had been unwell. It was often just before closing time before I landed in and on a few occasions this lady gave me a few leftover scones from the day ‘to take home to your parents’. Again, it was a small gesture but one that was greatly appreciated. My parents were delighted with the scones when I landed home in the evenings! If anything Midleton has definitely proved itself to be a town with kindness at its heart!”
Patricia O’Sullivan has been getting groceries delivered from Brosnan’s Centra in Schull “and they have been so helpful, letting you know if they haven’t got an item etc. They don’t charge for delivery either! But not only that – the hardware ( Brosnan’s Hardware) and pharmacy ( Drinagh Pharmacy) is across the road from Centra and when we have needed medications or something from hardware, the pharmacy/hardware bring it over the road and Centra deliver everything!”
Conor Merriman got in touch to share his family’s “consistent good experiences” with the staff of the pharmacy department of Boots in Liffey Valley.
“In 2019-2020, my dad was suffering with cancer,” he says. “He was on a great number of different sorts of medication for a number of issues. The Boots staff gave us efficient service, advice, guidance and provided a common sense approach that can be rare to find in this sort of retail environment.”
He says their efforts “provided a friendship to my mam and I as well as my dad at such a tough time for our family. Their warmth in approach and concern for their customers and patients was welcomed with open arms, and the time they dedicated to help our understanding of the situation was refreshing. There is no one story to share, because our constant experiences (sometimes daily) were always excellent. We will be forever thankful for their help until my dad’s death last May.”
‘Brightens up my day’
“I’d had an amazing experience with Boutique Wines,” writes Sinéad Smyth. “I first ordered from them in the first lockdown. Pre-Covid they served hospitality but they’re now also delivering to the public. From day one they’ve been a joy to deal with. Both on the phone and online, ordering is super easy and they’re amazing and recommending wines that suits our tastes,” she continues.
And there’s more. “In my recent order they popped in some chocolates and some new bottles they thought I’d like to try (who doesn’t like surprise chocolate?), and before that they even gave my mam a bottle of bubbles on her birthday. Delivery is always so quick and it really brightens up my day getting my delivery.”
Susan McElroy ordered beauty products from Kudos Kildare at 3pm on a Friday a couple of weeks back. “My order arrived by An Post with some welcome extra samples on Saturday morning. User friendly website and always great service but this time around service/shipping was exceptional.”
“A few weeks ago, I made a food order online for Avoca Malahide for pick up same day,” writes Emma Harrington. “The person I spoke to was from the Ballsbridge shop as the orders go through them.”
When she arrived at the store the order had not been received. The person who deals with orders went to check while another staff member offered her a coffee on the house. Turns out the order had got lost so the staff member picked up a basket “and asked what I had ordered and picked up the items for me and brought me over to a separate till to pay for the items and was very apologetic. I wouldn’t be a regular customer but they were so kind and made me feel like I was very important when they didn’t have to.”
She says: “They could have told me at the till that the order didn’t come through and that we should have all the stock over on the shelves if you want to pick it up yourself as there was a queue behind me. What made it even more for me is that the order I made was for my mum as she lost two of her sisters in the same week. These ladies didn’t know this, and I never mentioned it, but their kindness was very much appreciated at a difficult time for our family. Just shows you don’t know what is going on in someone’s life so being kind might make that person’s day a little better.”
‘Above and beyond’
Carolyn McHugh bought a pair of slippers for her sister who lives in France for Christmas from a shoe shop called Gerry McGuire’s in Mayo. “On the day he was quite busy when I rang to enquire about them but held them for me until he could ring me back to take the details. Once he heard they were a Christmas present and going to France he said he would not be charging the €10 international postage as it was hard enough on us not seeing family for Christmas. He also asked me to give him a message that they would write on a Christmas card from us to put in with the slippers.
“She had the slippers within a week and when she opened the box they were beautifully packaged in a fabric black bag with a big red bow on them. Inside the bag with the slippers was the Christmas card with our message and two packets of Tayto cheese and onion crisps. I will never forget Gerry McGuire’s for the joy they gave both myself and my sister and the pleasant experience I had in shopping with them. It’s hard on small businesses for the past year but they went above and beyond to ensure she had a little bit of Ireland in France with her last Christmas.”
‘Helpful and reassuring’
Not long ago Deirdre Foy noticed there was a crack going across the screen of the iPhone she had bought last August. Every time she used the phone the cracks spread more and more. So off she went to Tech Help in the Lucan shopping centre. She explained “to the guy who worked there I wasn’t technical but my screen was literally crumbling under my fingers and I need it repaired ASAP because I was waiting on vaccine dates for my parents who are over 70”.
“I handed over my phone and the staff member who said he’d do his best to fix it,” she says. “Two seconds later he tells me that it was actually just my iPhone protector that was smashed and my phone was absolutely fine. A new phone screen and repair would have cost €160 while a new protector cost €10. I felt so relieved walking home. At the end of the day businesses like people are really struggling financially at the moment and I feel if maybe I’d gone somewhere else my lack of technical knowledge could have been taken advantage of to make a quick buck. This guy was lovely and helpful and reassuring. I did ask for his name and it was something similar to Rakesh.”
“Can I please give a shout out to the wonderful Vic and Ira Anton of the Gourmet Cafe in Greystones,” starts Catherine Boland. “They have literally kept me and the local populace going during this awful Covid year. They always have a cheerful hello for everyone. Vic knows everybody’s name. He has a wonderful sense of humour and keeps all our spirits up. Ira is super careful about keeping everything sanitised. If you stand still for too long in the queue you could end up being sprayed! Ira is a wonderful cook and her homemade sausage rolls, unlike any you’ve ever tasted, are legendary.
“They are the true spirit of your local village cafe. They have managed to keep going and we all know its been very challenging for them. But they never ever complain. Quite the opposite in fact. They go out of their way to say a kind word or in Vic’s case crack a joke. Pure gold in these tough times.”
Joe Smith wanted to share “two great experiences” he had recently. “My mother died in December 2020 and as executor I was dealing with much of the paperwork after her death. I was met with kindness, courtesy professionalism everywhere. Two services stand out, for me. The first was the Civil Registration Service (operated by HSE, which I had not known) in Naas, Co Kildare, where Laura was so helpful. I had to register the death and request death certificates. I had no previous experience of this but Laura was amazing. She advised and guided me through the process, and went the ‘extra mile’, I felt, for me. She was the epitome of professionalism combined with empathy.”
The second was Bank of Ireland. “I wasn’t aware that they had a Bereavement Support Unit but I had to close my mother’s bank account, pay outstanding bills, and refund certain payments that had been made and transfer the remaining balance. The unit was a great help. Again, I was met with kindness and professionalism as I navigated my way through the account. Mary, the manager of the unit, went to great lengths to assist me. She too was exceedingly kind and went above what was expected to help me (she scanned the account to check for certain payments and even discovered an old, but still extant account, which could have been missed only for her diligence).”
Joe says these two people “not only performed their duties in an exemplary manner – they did so with compassion, empathy, understanding and professionalism. They provided great solace and humanity as I navigated my way through what I thought would be a cold, uncaring bureaucracy (it proved to be the extreme opposite). We, the public, are lucky to have such people in such positions.”
‘Lifted our spirits’
And finally we have a reader who asked to remain anonymous. He wanted to mention Corbett Court, just outside Charleville. “I am a man with a physical disability so the lockdown has been tough. In September 2020, just before we went in to Level 5 restrictions, I took my mum for a drive. She thought we were just going shopping but, we went to Corbett Court to celebrate her milestone birthday. Mum didn’t feel like celebrating as her older sister had been diagnosed with cancer just prior to the series of lockdowns, and passed away in the last quarter of 2020.”
He says they know one or two of the staff at Corbett Court but would not be regulars by any stretch of the imagination. “Mum knew the waitress, despite the face covering. We got a quiet corner that was comfortable – being a person with what would be described as an underlying health condition, I was nervous as I had not left the house since the previous March. The waitress came back to the table and mum excitedly and proudly announced that I was treating her to lunch for her birthday. With that in mind, the waitress later returned with a delightful dessert, on the house. It might seem like a small gesture but it really lifted our spirits at a time when we had little to smile about.”