My fish tank leaked.

Forget about the dead fish for a minute, but this cracked glass case caused a chain reaction in our house. Sure, the tank was easy enough to replace, and dead fish aside, so were the occupants.

But the carpet was stained (and you don’t want to know about the smell).  So the carpeting had to go.

That sent me to a well-known national home improvement store.  This store advertises its low prices, so it was a great place to get a sense of pricing for replacement.  Nobody bothered me as I went through the samples.  I found something I liked, got a price point, and left happy.

But then it was time to get serious. The return trip to the store didn’t go so well.  I mentioned that on my first trip there, no one bothered me. Well, when I was ready to buy, no one was ready to “bother me” either. In fact, the wait was over 30 minutes because the only salesperson in that area was already with a customer.

Then, when they finished up they apologized it took so long, but the guy who works carpeting had called in sick, so he was filling in, but didn’t know how to put the order in the system.

Doesn’t matter that they had a great selection and  low prices.  They weren’t available to sell it to me. I went elsewhere to buy the new carpet.

I mentioned a chain reaction, didn’t I?  Well, it turns out the old furniture didn’t go with the new carpeting.  I know, you’re probably laughing at that, but if you’re married, you understand.

So, off to the furniture store.  Same process, different problem.

After searching and pricing, I found what I wanted at a well-known local furniture store. This particular store advertises their “personalized customer service.” In fact, I had worked with a particular salesperson that gave me great attention and service.  She spent a ton of time with me and really worked for the sale.  So, after thinking about it for a day or two, I returned to the store to “close the deal.”

Maybe it’s my great sense (or lack) of timing, but the salesperson had left early that day.  So, I asked when she’d be working next.

The guy at the desk first said, “Well, I can get you a better deal than she can.”  That made me uncomfortable. Really?  You’re going to undercut one of your co-workers?

When I explained that the salesperson had put a lot of extra work into the deal and I wanted to make sure she got the sale, the guy at the desk inexplicably got angry. In a fairly hostile voice, he told me, “I’m the manager and I would never cheat one of my salespeople out of a commission.  But it’s obvious you don’t want to work with me, so you’ll have to come back some other time.”  While saying this, he had turned his back and walked away.

Amazing!  The manager blew the sale.  With that little interchange, he indeed did cheat his salesperson out of her commission… because I was ready to buy right then.

So, the next stop was to their competitor that carried the same product line.  Surprisingly, it was cheaper.  The competitor got the sale.  I never would have shopped the second store if the first store’s manager hadn’t driven me there.  Now that I know they have better prices, I’ll shop the second store first next time.

It doesn’t matter what you advertise, or how you say you do business.  If you can’t deliver when somebody is ready to buy, you’re going to lose the sale.