The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Friday, 11 April 2008

A Close Shave

Today I would like to talk about something very near and dear to my heart. Those who know me know that I place a lot of value on something that seems to be disappearing from business today.

Cormac McCarthy says in his novel No Country For Old Men that you can tell that the world is going to hell when people stop saying their “sirs and ma'ams”. I would substitute with “please's and thank yous”. When simple manners begin to fall by the wayside you know that you’re in trouble.

Try to imagine the last time you were at... let’s say Tim Horton’s. The service staff were probably polite – they’re trained that way. But try to remember the person who was ahead of you in line. Did they say please when they ordered? Did they say thank you when they got their order? My anecdotal evidence suggests the answer is probably not.

Imagine the last time you were purchasing a product and the service staff were disinterested or even downright rude. Call me a curmudgeon -you probably already have - but I can honestly say I don’t remember service staff ever being as rude in the past as they are today. I am, of course, overgeneralizing but the genuine "Have a nice day"s seem few and far between.

But I don’t want to focus on the negative today. I would like to relate a tale of customer service done just right. I’ve always been a big advocate of customer service. I find that businesses don’t emphasize it enough. Let’s face it, good customer service is free. It doesn’t cost a penny to be polite. It doesn’t cost a cent to go out of your way to be helpful. And don’t get me started on the insignificant cost of being cheerful. When I patronize a business and I see a disinterested, uninvolved or chatting-on-the-phone-with-his-friend service person – well, let’s just say that unless they have a monopoly I will not be visiting that place of business again. On the other hand, if I walk into a place and the person says, “Is there anything I can help you with?” and means it, that store can definitely count on a repeat visit from me.

The particular case study I would like to present today has a little bit of back-story. Early last week while I was grocery shopping at our local mega foodmart I looked down at the list and saw that the next item I needed was a package of razor blades. Now I use a Gillette Mach 3 razorblade for the smooth-as-a- baby’s-bottom feel it lends my rugged, manly features. I’ve used other blades, even flirted with those four and five blade monstrosities, but for my money the Mach 3 always left me with the most satisfying shave… That was until last week.

When I reached that alarm-rigged, metal and plastic display case they imprison razor blades in nowadays I reached for my beloved Mach 3 blades and was taken aback by what I saw. The cost of eight blades had to crept over the psychological 20 dollar barrier. My hand got to shoulder height and would go no farther.

That’s waaaaay too much to pay for some metal and plastic, my common sense told me and for once I was in complete agreement.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Well, there was only one thing to do – go retro.

About eleven inches to the left and three rows down sat a row of lonely double-edged razor blades. Normally I would have passed them by but today they caught my eye. Actually, the $6.49 price for 10 caught my eye. I bought them, knowing in my heart of hearts that I must still had a safety razor somewhere at home.

I didn’t.

I looked all around town. I looked all around some nearby towns. I checked every drugstore and every grocery store that I can think of and I could not find a single safety razor. Well, I thought, I might be going retro but that doesn’t mean I can't use the Internet.

I checked a few places online and settled upon a Canadian company called Momentum Grooming. I ordered from them a Merkur Safety Razor [Classic] – a wonder of machine tooled stainless steel with a knurled handle for a no-slip grip.

This was an Internet order made without one bit of contact with a human being. From the beginning I had a good feeling about this company. The website was easy to navigate. The prices were clearly visible and the different shipping options, as well as their associated costs, were shown upfront. After placing my order a confirmation came through to my e-mail almost immediately. The following day when my order was processed, another e-mail was sent letting me know that I would be receiving the shipping information the following day. As promised, I received a Canada Post tracking number the following day, again via e-mail.

Today I received my safety razor from the good people at Momentum Grooming. Remember, this razor is made from stainless steel and is virtually indestructible. If anything could ship traveling around in a box with little concern about damage my German safety razor would have to be it. Buried among the packing noodles was a box containing my razor but we also had the following items thrown in for good measure:

Baxter of California facial scrub – two applications

Truefitt & Hill ultimate comfort pre-shave oil – one application

Truefitt & Hill ultimate comfort shaving cream – one application

Truefitt & Hill ultimate comfort aftershave balm – one application

Anthony Logistics For Men – ingrown hair treatment (OK, that one’s a little gross)

A Truefitt &Hill information card

A Momentum Grooming business card

All I ordered was a razor.

The last little thing that prompted me to write about this today was the receipt. Tucked away in the box was the receipt charged to my Visa showing the usual associated costs but what was written on the lower left hand corner in blue ballpoint ink was what showed me that Momentum Grooming knows what customer service is about. As someone was packing out my order they took the few seconds it needed to make a difference. There were three little words written on my receipt (you should be able to see them in the picture to the right) that will have me thinking of Momentum Grooming whenever I need anything related to caring for my manly visage.

I’ll leave you with those three little words:

Thank you, Dave!