Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rural Route Today August Column (pre-release)

This season has been a lawn jockey’s dream. Summer 2009 was a soggy mess resulting in muddy lawnmower tracks, uneven lines, and little choice in when mowing occurred. Last year we waited for successive dry days to present the ideal conditions of dry grass and earth and then had to mow or miss the opportunity for a couple of weeks. This summer, depending on where you live, brought abundant sunny skies and little rain which made mowing our lawns at our leisure a consistent possibility. With iPod ear buds neatly tucked into place and covered by my David Clark headset, Wayfarers on, and an oversized water bottle jammed in the cup holder of my tractor, I get lost in an al fresco world of melody and achievement. To mow my lawn and riding ring takes nearly two hours which is a lifetime of peace and lucid thought. At the onset of this season, my faithful and quite new lawn tractor sputtered, choked and died in our back field, leaving me stranded and confused.

After several calls to the big box store where we had purchased the tractor, hours on hold, weeks of waiting for a service appointment, rousing phone conversations with ‘supervisors’ for whom customer service training courses must have been an elective as opposed to a requirement, and a missed appointment or two, the service technician finally threw up his hands and declared my tractor an inexplicable casualty. I desperately explained to various technicians and supervisors from the box store that we buy all of our appliances and tools from them because we like to have service contracts with a single entity. Nevertheless, my mower remained sulking in the garage, my grass was gracefully blowing in the wind, my ‘me time’ had been obliterated, and we were out hundreds of dollars in parts that fixed nothing.

Unwilling to concede or to give up on a machine I had grown so close to, I called a local tractor dealer, spoke directly to the service manager, spent zero time on hold and was treated like a valued customer from start to finish. They recognized the value of a business opportunity from the minute they answered the phone and never wavered from excellent customer service as a result. This local business was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating situation. My tractor was fixed quickly and reasonably!

In Vermont, we understand the importance of local produce and products. We are fortunate to have abundant backyard resources for everything from wine, organic meat, milk and groceries to tractor services. As a small town citizen, I know how essential the local vendors are, but in a moment of mass market weakness, I let it slip my mind. I can’t promise I won’t pop into a Target when driving though New York, but in the future I will think first about our local vendors. In part, my peace of mind depends on their success!

No comments: