Each week had a rhythm. From Monday through Saturday, at least it seemed, each day had its own rhythm. Repairs followed by installations, advertisements and promotions brought customers into our store, and at the end of the week we had sales night every Friday night, and Saturday was sales and delivery day. For major purchases, most customers visited our store on those days. But sometimes things ran differently.
On Mondays, we often filled the empty spots with new equipment that had come in. Then we would circulate the bills ourselves to our customers. That had a dual function; customer contact to check on the purchase and then the bill was handed over. Service was our Strength. That was written above the store on a large illuminated sign, “Service is our Strength,” and we held that in high regard.
Service was a feeling, an extra, the thick layer of whipped cream on top of a cake. As a customer, you walk in for a purchase and are warmly welcomed. Every customer was greeted by each of us. Each of us had our own specialty within the assortment, but the customer actually never had to wait. If one of us was busy for a moment, the other would contact the customer to find out what they were looking for. The assortment was wide, so we divided everything neatly among ourselves. When one of us was available again, the customer was immediately referred to us with a short introduction so that we immediately knew what he or she came for. Compare it to the BBC comedy series “Are you being served? One catches the customers and refers them to the specialist.
During the week this often ran differently because then not everyone was present and then we took the roles ourselves. Not all customers kept to that weekly rhythm. Some chose to come in early in the week to make a purchase. This included a customer who came in on a Tuesday for a new VCR. There was often still time before the week to unpack and install new models. Exactly at such a moment he walked in interested after he had been watching me for some time in front of the window.
In our store timeline, we have encountered many new products over the years. Now long gone, but we still experienced the introduction of the VCR in those days. The developments surrounding these devices were also very rapid, which sometimes caused some uncertainty among our customers. This customer was no exception. He had heard the bell ring, but clearly did not know where the clapper hung and that was obvious from all his questions. He asked so many questions that I almost grabbed the manual to read to him. But out of respect for the customer, I refrained from that joke.
After a long conversation, we discussed the price of the appliance and that we would deliver, connect and explain it for that price. The man seemed content with the offer, but left our store saying that he would consult with his wife first. I did not see him again after that, so I assumed two scenarios: bought something elsewhere or his wife had not approved the purchase.
‘Yes indeed! All the new models can do that’. A smile came on his face and then he said, ‘Then it will be this television. How much does this one cost? I mentioned the price and almost immediately something unexpected happened. He offered two hundred guilders more than the price of the television.
If I delivered the television to his home, connected it and explained it, he would pay us an extra two hundred guilders. ‘But that’s not necessary at all. You pay the price for the appliance and the service is included. We will deliver it, connect it and explain it. And if necessary we will come back again for a repeated explanation of the appliance’.
The young man interrupted me. ‘That extra money is not for the television, but for the explanation of a video recorder.’ A recorder my father bought in Zwolle weeks ago. An hour after he received such a clear explanation here in the store. In Zwolle the recorder was on sale for ten guilders less. He got on the bus almost immediately and bought it there. But unfortunately for him no explanation and service. That cost me weeks of explanation and I hope you will help me with this’.
Together we drove to his parents’ house to deliver everything. The VCR had been sitting idle for weeks. Everything came together that evening and for the first time everything functioned as it should. After the explanation and a cheat sheet with the operations, the first program was recorded. For the first time, the man enjoyed his new television and VCR.
The next day he came to thank us personally and expressed regret about his purchase in Zwolle. He had tried several times to get an explanation of his VCR. In vain, because he was not offered any service. With us he was given coffee and some additional explanation on the same model we had in the store.
Whoever stood outside that day and looked inside saw a happy face and above it the an illuminated sign saying “Service is our Strength“.