How A Local Portland Vacuum Store Lost a $500 Sale

I’ve got two big dogs, Luke and Charlie, appearing in the featured image above. They shed year round and keeping up with vacuum cleaning is an every week job for me. For over a year, I’ve been thinking about buying a better vacuum to make this task easier. I was pretty much set on buying a Dyson, until I talked with a friend last week and she suggested a Miele – a German brand I’d never heard of.

This weekend, I decided to finally make the plunge and purchase the right tool for the job. I went to Google and searched for local vacuum stores, calling the one who was closest to where I lived. I explained my situation having two big dogs that shed a lot and how I wanted a vacuum that would do the job. I told the gentleman who answered the phone that a friend had told me about a Miele and I wanted to hear his opinion. He told me they had one that worked really well and it was $1,200. To which I told him that was beyond my budget – I only wanted to spend around $500.

Things Started Going Wrong

I could hear in the tone of his voice that he was put off by this and he switched from “friendly salesman” to “used car salesman, saying, “You need to come into the store.”

“Hmmm, why?” I thought, “I’d like to get a few questions answered before I hop in my car and drive all the way downtown.”  To me, a $500 vacuum is a pretty big purchase; I don’t plan on dropping a grand on vacuum cleaner.

I persisted, asking what he might recommend for $500 to which he responded once again, “You need to come into the store and take a look.”

I get it.  In order to make a good decision, I need to go see them, but couldn’t he spend a few minutes helping me qualify my potential purchase over the phone? Perhaps ask me what kind of dogs I have or what kind of carpet.  Maybe, “What kind of vacuum are you using now and what don’t you like about it?”

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To me, these are just good phone skills.  They come from listening and being patient. Maybe the store owner trains his employees to “just get them into the store”.  Or maybe the guy was just having a bad day.  I don’t know, nor do I care.  And I’m guessing if you’ve made it this far into my story, you don’t care either – you just want great customer service. Anything less is unacceptable, right?  After all, we’re the ones with the cash.

I asked what the store’s return policy was and was gruffly informed it was two weeks. I asked, “For cash back?”

“Uh, yeah.” I was told, as in, “Of course, you idiot.”

“Okay,” I thoughtto myself, “this is not going to be worth going any further.”

So, I ended the call and made the decision to go to Best Buy and get a Dyson, after all. (They don’t sell Miele). From past experience, I knew I could buy it, try it for 15 days and return it if I felt it didn’t do the job – full cash back, no questions asked.

I drove to Best Buy, met up with a friendly and knowledgeable sales person (who happened to also have a big dog and owned a Dyson). I got all my questions answered, got a demonstration of how it worked, and made the purchase 5 minutes later. The model I bought cost $600, a bit more than I’d budgeted – but having connected with the sales person, I gladly upped my budget to purchase what he’d recommended.


The guy at the local vacuum store blew it. He had a “wallet-out” $500+ customer on the phone, ready to buy, but he lost me with his curt attitude.

Every single interaction we have with our potential clients and customers must be built with the intention of cultivating a relationship. Whether your customer buys now, later, or never – serve them well by being courteous and helpful.  Go the extra mile to provide a customer service experience that makes them go, “Wow!”  Treat them how you’d want to be treated.

Sounds simple, right?  It can be challenging to deliver, especially if you have a number of different employees who interact with your customers.

I’m sure you’ve read studies about how costly it is to acquire customers, compared to how inexpensive it is to retain them. Each potential client or customer of your business becomes an outstanding referral source for you. Each one you treat with disdain becomes a customer of your competitor.  Wouldn’t you rather have all that free word of mouth advertising for your business?

Quality customer service lays the foundation for long term healthy relationships between successful businesses and their clients. Be patient, be helpful, and add a little “Wow!” to your next inbound phone call. You might just be developing a customer for life!

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