A few weeks ago on a Sunday night I was traveling through Penn Station in New York City. After getting off the 1 train from the upper west side, I needed to connect to New Jersey Transit for a train to Newark and my eventual destination. After a day full of meetings, my head was throbbing and I set off to buy a bottle of cold water as an attempt to relieve the pounding. If you have visited Penn Station you probably know there is a Duane Reed drugstore with a great location that is always very busy. I had about ten minutes before my train departed for New Jersey and I went to get some water. As I entered Duane Reed, the lines at checkout were long but if they moved quickly, I could get my water and catch the train in time. Bottle of water in hand I got in line anxious to check out as the time was ticking down for my departing train. It was 6:47 pm and my train was scheduled to depart at 6:53 when it was my turn to check out. As I was checking out I noticed my bottle of water was frozen. Opening this bottle would not only cause it to explode and get me wet but the water was not immediately drinkable since most of it was frozen. The whole time I was waiting in line, the Duane Reed “shift manager” was chatting up the cashier slowing her down. As I realized this bottle of water wasn’t going to work and since the shift manager was sitting by idly, I asked him if he would get a bottle of water for me that wasn’t frozen. He promptly replied that “he was not my slave and I could get my own water and get back in line”. All I wanted was a bottle of water for the train ride back to Newark. I wasn’t advocating ownership of humans as property nor did I think the request of an idle employee was over burdensome. With that kind of response, I left the store and bought water from the deli next door (albeit at an increased price relative to Duane Reed). What the Duane Reed shift manager failed to realize was that our interaction was taped on their security system and I am a persistent person that doesn’t tolerate mediocre or poor customer service. The next day while on the train to another meeting, I called the store manager at Duane Reed and let him know of the incident. He said he would check into it and get back to me. Within ten minutes my phone rang and an embarrassed apologetic Duane Reed manager stated that he had watched the video tape and he had no excuse for how his employee acted. He offered to personally deliver a $25 American Express Gift Card to me if I was in the area and he asked that I not hold a grudge against his store or Duane Reed. This was true redemption. I told the manager I was on the train and I live out-of-town. He offered to put the gift card in an envelope and personally mail the gift card to me. Additionally in the future anytime I am in Penn Station, he asked me to come by the store and ask for him personally. Two days later I received the American Express gift card mailed to my home in Skokie. The ownership and responsibility the Duane Reed manager took for his employee’s indiscretion are admirable but even better he worked hard and convinced me that he really cared about the way I felt. Take a lesson from a Duane Reed manager and take negative customer experience and use it as an opportunity to build trust. My first stop in Penn Station on my next trip to New York will be Duane Reed looking for this store manager that understands what customers want.
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