If we were to offer just one piece of advice to any companies anxious not to appear on this page over the year ahead it would be this: Be sound.
We don’t expect companies to be perfect and we know that things can and do go wrong but when mistakes happen and when systems fail people don’t – generally speaking – race to email this page or phone Joe Duffy.
The process takes a lot longer than that.
What tends to happen is Johnny or Mary buys a product or pays for a service but then the product or service does not do what it is supposed to do so Johnny or Mary contact the company and outline the problems.
The company at this point has a choice. It can opt to resolve the problem to the satisfaction of their customer or it can opt not to do that.
If the problem is not resolved, then Johnny or Mary will try again. And again. And again. Poor Johnny or Mary is either given the runaround, ignored or let down, misled or otherwise mistreated.
It is at this point that they might contact us. We will then contact the service provider and – nine times out of 10 – the problem is resolved within hours.
This is not because we have any class of superpowers but because companies sometimes pay attention only when they are afraid bad publicity is coming their way. It shows us that where there is a will there is – generally speaking – a way to resolve problems. And if more companies reacted the same way when their customers made contact looking for help as they do when The Irish Times makes contact then this page would seriously struggle for material.
But enough of that for now. It is the new year, so we are going to start in an upbeat sort of way by sharing some more of the good news stories Pricewatch readers have sent us over recent times.
“My youngest son Daniel (14) has autism and cerebral palsy – he is a big fan of the bin lorries,” starts a mail from Maeve O’Meara. “He got his own phone recently and managed to email City Bin looking for a ride in a bin lorry,” she continues. “A lovely girl called Emma emailed him back and explained they couldn’t do that but in her email she asked him to show her response to his mum or dad. She was lovely to him in the email. I emailed her after and explained he was just a big fan and thanked her for her email to him. She subsequently arranged for the bin lorry team to call to us during midterm and show Daniel how the truck works. They were so lovely to him. A week later a package arrived and card welcoming Daniel to the team. I was so impressed with them and Daniel is an even bigger fan now.”
The Green Chair Shop
Next up we heard from Caoimhe Delany from Dunshaughlin who was writing on her own behalf as well as on behalf of her daughters Oonagh, who is 6½, and Nia, who is nearly four. “We go to Sneem on holidays every year and since we have now two small daughters with us, we spend a lot of time in the village and always return to the Green Chair Shop – it nearly gets a visit every day. The owner – Sharon, I believe – used be a teacher and spends so much time with my children, who especially love the Maileg mice she sells – they are expensive – so they really put Sharon through her paces asking to look at each little mouse on offer, what’s included and what bits come with which mouse! She greets them with enthusiasm and simple words to create those magic moments for them in her treasure trove of a shop. She is always jolly and spends time with each customer. My girls usually do end up spending their pocket money there and throughout the year talk about Sharon when we are back home in Meath. She once let them use her toilet up stairs in her stockroom and they thought they had landed in Santa’s workshop to see all the boxes of toys up the mystery stairs at the back of the shop!”
Caoimhe says that “personal service and individual attention to the smallest shopper sets her and her shop apart”.
Lehane’s Toyota garage
Fiona Loughran starts her mail by saying she has worked in retail “for near 23 years and I never came across what I would call “great customer service until I came across a guy called Bernard in Lehane’s Toyota garage in Cork”.
Fiona is from Dundalk and had flown home to Cork Airport from a recent holiday. Her flight was delayed “which left me getting back to my car at around 11.40pm on a Sunday night and the car wouldn’t start”.
She called a breakdown assistance service who towed her car to the nearest garage “which happened to be Lehane’s the next morning. As I walked in I was approached by Bernard and I explained my predicament. He informed me that they were backed up for the following two weeks.”
Fiona says that she was not “able to see straight or think straight [and it is] embarrassing to say I went into a serious meltdown. I hadn’t slept or eaten or changed my clothes properly for the previous 42 hours and I had no idea what was wrong with the car or how much it was gonna cost. He really stepped up and swung into action and convinced a staff member who was about to go for a break to at least have a look at my car and see what the problem was.”
And what was the problem? It turns out it was an alternator and [they] tried to track one down through Toyota but couldn’t secure one so I had to start ringing garages to see if I could source one myself. I did manage to find one and it was sent down by courier overnight from Dublin. As I didn’t purchase the part from Bernard in Toyota there was no money to be made but he made sure the part was fitted along with a fan belt and despite being down two mechanics and being backed up so much he eventually got me back on the road by Wednesday afternoon. Throughout the three days I was stuck in Cork he kept in constant contact to assure me he was working on the car and to check I was okay. When I eventually got home traumatised and had a few days to process what actually happened I only realised the extent of the effort he made and I’m highly impressed. I still well up when I think of all he did for me and I’ll forever be grateful. He is the perfect example of customer service and I don’t recall going to those extremes myself in customer service in all the years and stores I worked in retail. He has inspired me to be better and do better and I’m trying to pay it forward since.”
Fiona finishes by saying that before she met Bernard she had had the “delayed flight, lost my purse on the flight and got a parking ticket on my rental car”.
We heard another garage-related story from another reader.
“I had to replace the windshield wiper on the driver’s side of my car the other day, this reader says. “The old one had broken from the hinge that links to the arm because of the frosty weather. I had swapped it for my passenger side one to get to Sligo safely. I went to Top Parts in Sligo. I bought the one wiper I needed, shockingly reasonable at €7 for a Bosch flat blade, and swapped it out myself.
“However, the hinge for the passenger side snapped when I was trying to put it back in place. I went back into the shop to buy a new passenger side wiper. However, rather than selling me a new one, staff there came back with a new hinge that they knew was in the back of the shop. He then fitted both hinge and wiper, no charge. I’m a full-time student and this saving really mattered. I was really impressed by how the staff were more concerned with honesty and efficiency than selling another wiper.”
We also heard from Áine Fitzgerald with a story that was shorter but no less remarkable. “During the summer I did a massive shop in the closest Aldi to me. I put the whole thing through the till, no cards and no nfc set up on the phone I was using, having just changed it. The absolute legend at the till suggested I Revolut her the cost of the shopping and she would pay for it with her Revolut nfc on her own phone. This was really really helpful and just plain sound! I could have cried I was so happy.”
A reader named Eddie and his wife had booked to fly from Ireland West airport (Knock) to Malaga with Ryanair. The flight was delayed by three hours. “When we arrived in Spain we submitted a claim the next day. This must be done through the official Ryanair site, no point sending emails or ringing an airline that flies more than 100 million passengers a year. We were very happy with the outcome – received an email confirming compensation of €400 each on the November 29th, the money hit our accounts the same day. I have flown Ryanair since the start of service and have found the airline a great asset to people who live on an island. I am old enough to remember when it cost a month’s salary for a round trip to the UK.”
And over on Twitter this is what people had to say to our call-out for good news stories.
“The Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth, fabulous service, oozes out of the walls!” – Orla Leydon
“@tweetinggddess is THE most helpful person on Twitter. Samantha has nothing to gain by helping me out but continues to be mega-supportive.” – Ursula Cafferty
“I found Aer Lingus twitter & staff at T2 super on a recent trip to the UK. The could not have done enough for me. Exemplary service.” – Karen O’Sullivan
“I learned last Friday my points from Boots store card were unused for 12 months and lost! I contacted them and had them restored as goodwill gesture :) V happy! Beware all, use points within 12 months.” – Lucy
“Dunnes Stores Naas store for their home delivery when sick or cocooning. Dunnes staff are always helpful. One4All sorted out a lost card issue with good grace recently. And unbelievably good customer service and advice always in Ratoath Garden Centre. Amazing food too.” – Kay Gordan
“I had a wonderful experience of fantastic customer service from Riley in Next on Henry Street December 9th. He was so polite, very pleasant and a pleasure to deal with.” – Geraldine Snow
“Bord Gáis Theatre. Duty manager organised a quiet room for my son and I to retreat to at interval for Beauty and the Beast. He is fine at a normal show with all the effects but we find the melee at the interval a bit much. Shout out to Ramona.” – Lise Marie Domican
“Moyee Coffee HQ in Dublin were fab last week. I’d ordered some of their amazing coffee, but by accident ordered beans not ground. The lovely Meaghan sent me replacement coffee by return – all done with humour and kindness. Such a great company on so many levels.”
“Ardkeen Quality Food Store in Waterford has fantastic quality service, especially Gillian O’Connor, who would cheer anyone up and has a word for everyone & really all the staff at their barista bar. Super shop.”
“A massive thank you to Brian and the staff at the Seafield Hotel for being so understanding and kind when my mother was unwell and we had to take her home in October, cancelling the weekend. Proper service and much appreciated.” – Mick Callaghan
“Can’t speak highly enough about Casanovas in Rathfarnham. Not only do they have fab pizza I’ve seen the owner giving free pizza to teenagers hanging outside, having chats with older customers and regularly give a loaf of fresh-made bread to customers.” – Laura
“Air France incredible to deal with, sorted a credit refund no bother after Covid & even extended the voucher for a further 12 months. Roche’s chemist on Rathmines Road also couldn’t do enough to help. Ultimate Pest Control – service efficient & professional, great job & staff pure sound!” – Tessa K