Tis the season to be jolly, so with that in mind we asked people to send in their good and amazing customer-service stories. The good news is that there were plenty from which to choose.
First up are a couple of Christmassy stories from Claire Pyke that would warm the heart like chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
The main one is from last Christmas, “and isn’t the normal ‘consumer buys goods’ transaction, but I think it’s never misplaced or too late to highlight great service,” she says.
“Back when Covid stopped us from travelling outside our own county, to mark a special occasion my young family and I ended up staying in the Clayton Hotel in Liffey Valley. What was planned as a joke, the novelty of staying in a busy hotel beside a shopping centre 20 minutes from our home, turned out to be a brilliant break. My husband and I realised that a ‘local’ hotel is ideal, no long drives and meets all the kids’ needs of a pool, a hotel bed to bounce on, and a hotel restaurant for breakfast. The hotel is so family friendly, with excellent staff, that we’ve ended up staying there on several occasions, even after we were allowed leave Dublin!”
She says her three- and five-year-old daughters’ “absolute favourite thing about the hotel is the small play area that includes a number of vending machines – €1 and €2 machines that dispense small bouncy balls with different dogs on them, temporary tattoos, etc. So much so that last Christmas, the only thing on my then two-year old’s Santa list was ‘five puppy bouncy balls from our Liffey Valley hotel’.”
Now, this is where the story really starts.
“I thought this would be easy to arrange,” says Claire. “The great hotel staff agreed that they would let me in to the residents’ area and exchange my notes to provide me with coins to use the machines. However, the puppy bouncy ball vending machine was now just a bouncy ball vending machine, with a handful of puppies and a lot of plain balls! €30 later I had two puppy balls and a Christmas disaster brewing.”
So, Claire noted the name of the company who service the vending machines: Carvill Vending.
“Chancing my arm and not really expecting a reply, I emailed the company and explained my situation and asked if they could sell me a few “puppy balls”. They immediately replied, explaining that they no longer carry any of these balls. They had gone through their supplies and put together a range of other puppy-themed merchandise they carry. They sent me pictures of a range of puppy toys and teddies that they had put together and were going to post me, free of charge after refusing any contribution towards postage or the items themselves. They also told me that they had asked their drivers to, while travelling the country servicing their machines, keep an eye out for any ‘puppy balls’.”
A few days later Claire received “a big package of dog-themed presents and received regular email updates as to how their drivers continued to look for these balls. Then, a few days before Christmas, I received an email from the company, along with a picture of the 10 puppy balls their drivers had managed to find on their travels. These arrived on Christmas Eve and made it into my daughter’s Christmas stocking.
“I cannot explain to you just how much kindness Carvill Vending brought my family last Christmas. My then two-year-old was so thrilled to receive her beloved ‘puppy balls’ from Santa. I was heartened to think of a team of van drivers travelling across Ireland to look for these balls, to help make a kid’s Christmas.”
Claire points out that Carvill Vending “had nothing to gain in helping me, they supply commercial products to commercial customers and would get no commercial benefit to even responding to my email, but everyone in the company went out of their way to do so”.
Claire wasn’t done with the good news. “I also have a more recent example to share. Last week, my five-year old daughter asked that if we could turn our car into a ‘reindeer car’ for Christmas.
“Thinking it was easy to buy the antlers kit, I promised that of course we could do so. Then I found out that it was next to impossible to find these kits, that the few places that stocked them had sold out.
“I asked on a local parenting Facebook group if anyone knew where I might find a set. The Paint Pot in Templeogue, Dublin, was suggested to me. I rang them but was told that they had sold out of their stock and while they had requested more from their suppliers, it was unlikely they’d receive any more. I thanked them and said I might try and call them again the following week to see if they’d received any into stock.
“A short while later I received a call from Norman in the Paint Pot. I had not left my name or number with him, but he had somehow found my number from their call log. He explained that he had contacted his supplier who confirmed that they had none of the car antler kits in stock. However, Norman had convinced him to give him their display model which he was going to get and keep for me. I of course travelled over to the shop to collect the kit. It’s not too close to my house so I wasn’t familiar with it but was greeted by lovely warm staff and a vast array of items for sale, from hardware to household to toys.
“I wasn’t known to the company but they again went out of their way to help me. I now have a ‘reindeer car’, a thrilled five year old and a new favourite hardware shop!”
Claire finishes by saying that she believes “the vast majority of people are decent and kind and always willing to go out of their way to help others. I’m delighted you plan to highlight some of these people and places and hope you can consider sharing my stories!”
Next up is Kevin Booker who lives in Wilton in Cork and shops in the Dunnes on the Bandon Road. “I am not sure if you know it but it is a great store,” he starts. “I always get good customer service in the store, particularly from some of the independent retailers they have in there such as Whelan’s butchers, Sheridans Cheesemongers and the great O’Connell’s Fish.”
It was incredible, my visitors were blown away by the quality of the cheeses and by the accompanying jam
But one experience “really stands out” for Kevin. It happened at the Sheridan’s shop. “I had some French visitors (in-laws) visiting for a week and so I thought I would show off with some really good Irish cheese. I am a regular at the cheese counter and the service is always great, I especially love how the staff know so much about the products and that they give you a taste of any cheese you are interested in. On this occasion I explained to the lady behind the counter about my visitors and that I really wanted to impress them.
“We tasted some Irish cheeses that she suggested, I told her how many people there would be and she said she would get them ready while I did the rest of my shop. When I got back to the counter, not only had she the cheeses all ready and wrapped but she had written out a menu in English and French with a little about each cheese, where it came from and who made it. She also suggested that I serve their blackcurrant and sloe gin jam. I was a little dubious but trusted her.”
And was his and the Sheridan’s staff member’s effort rewarded? The good news it was! “I served the cheese that weekend after dinner along with the jam and the menu. It was incredible, my visitors were blown away by the quality of the cheeses and by the accompanying jam! It worked really well with the cheeses. They even admitted that they couldn’t remember having as good a selection of French cheeses! Although this was a standout occasion the service is typical at this counter. it is such a blessing to have this quality of service and passion for Irish food in a supermarket – I honestly doubt there is such quality in any supermarket around the world. Well done Sheridans and Dunnes.”
By coincidence, we received another mail about the same people from an entirely different part of the country. “I don’t have a particular story to tell about one great occasion so I’m am not sure if this counts,’” says Kiera Whestphall. “I shop regularly in Dunnes Stores [in the Pavillion Centre in Swords]. There I frequent the Sheridans Cheesemongers shop. The staff there are always so friendly and helpful, providing advice on different cheeses and other foods, recipe ideas and always allow me to taste a cheese if I am unsure. As I said it is not any one outstanding occasion but rather the consistent lovely customer service. It is so nice to have as shop where someone will actually chat to you, remember you and give you time, it seems to be a rare occurrence these days.”
And then there was Joe Fleming. “The little wheels on our Image shower door disintegrated recently. A search on the internet revealed multiple options so I was totally confused. I popped into Dublin Providers on Kill Avenue and the man on the plumbing counter gave me a phone number for Mary in Image Showers in Kilkenny. A quick chat with Mary and the wheels arrived a few days later and fitted in 15 mins, saving me the hassle of a new shower door. Great service from both!”
We also heard from Alice Burke: “We bought a used car earlier this year from Southern Motors in Inishannon in Cork. Apart from just being extremely thorough during the purchase, they found out that I was going into hospital to have a baby and the owner, Donal, managed to get the service prioritised, and drove the car to Dublin himself the night before I went in for my C-section to make sure we’d have it coming back from the hospital! Amazing service.”
That is indeed amazing. Fair play to Donal and to all the stellar service providers out there. Happy Christmas to yiz all!