Marc AcitoNow that all of the government's recovery money is gone with no recovery in sight, you'd think that businesses would do anything to keep consumers, right?

Tell that to the Starbucks manager who wouldn't let a customer get a refill because he stepped outside. Or the department at Bank of America that's insisting a Pittsburgh man travel to Texas to close his dead mother's account.

Or the manager at the 24 Hour Fitness in Beaverton, Oregon who rescinded the buy-one-get-one free offer of protein bars.

Now I've had trouble with 24 Hour Fitness before. When I tried to upgrade from a one club to an all club membership, the management insisted I leave the club for 30 days and start over. It was only through the dogged efforts of a college-age employee that I was allowed the privilege of spending more money on my membership.

But I've resisted writing about 24 because I find most online carping about customer service petty and mean. And, let's face it, not getting a bargain on protein bars is hardly worth the effort of even writing a sentence, let alone a column. But these were chocolate protein bars made by Hershey's. Which I didn't get. And that is a catastrophe.

Actually, I found the experience instructive about something that's wrong with our economy.

Here's what happened: our area 24 Hour Fitness clubs offered a two-for-one special on the chocolate bars. Since a balanced diet requires at least one serving daily from the Brown Food Group, I opted for it. Only problem -- there was only one box left.

The employee explained they had only gotten12 boxes. How you can offer a two-for-one sale and end up with an extra, remains a mystery, but I don't go to the gym to do math. She consulted with a co-worker, who not only called another club to find a box, but offered to pick it up on his way in to work.

"I'm just sorry you'll have to wait," he said.

Keep in mind we're talking protein bars here, not plasma. As I left the club, I thought to myself, "Now THAT's customer service."

The next day I showed up to work out -- a/k/a "eat." But when I asked for my boxes of Hershey healthiness, my guy told me the management put the kibosh on his plan.

"The promotion's limited to 12 per location," he said, seeming more disappointed than I was.

And there's the real shame. Over the years I've seen countless young employees show up at 24 Hour Fitness, eager to help people live healthier lives, only to quit in disgust after being hamstrung by customer service policies that only serve the corporation.

My only hope is that the guy who was willing to go the distance will rise up in the ranks, change the business model and then I'll finally get my chocolate.

And that, my friends, is The Upside.




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