We all scream for good service | AspenTimes.com

We all scream for good service

Abigail Eagye

A completely unscientific survey has revealed that Ben & Jerry’s manager Adam Melchiori rocks. At least, that was the experience for a bevy of Aspen Times employees Tuesday.The requisite disclosure: As part of our own customer-service training, the Times was on a mission to see what kind of service we encountered in town. Publisher Jenna Weatherred dispatched six teams to six stores in Aspen, armed with $20 per team and an intent to be difficult customers.Our destinations: a bakery, a sporting goods outlet, a thrift store, an ice cream shop, an upscale boutique and, naturally, a liquor store. We were impressed enough with the responses to print this shamelessly self-centered story giving props to those stores.We’ll be honest. The goal, without revealing our secret mission, was to be difficult and then gauge responses. We’ll admit it. We expected some resistance.Instead, the teams found employees who met our annoying demands with smiles and went the extra mile to help us out.One team hit the Main Street Bakery on its last day before closing for the rest of the offseason. The team posed question after question, asked if the staff could bake a cake or decorate a pie and wanted to know the prices for everything. Only after all the questioning did the team admit they only had $20.Undaunted, the manager offered to cut up some brownies into quarters and decorate them, throwing in some day-old cookies and Halloween swag – all for $16.95.Another team headed for The Thrift Shop, where the volunteers – not paid employees, mind you – helped muster up last-minute Halloween costumes. Reporter Charles Agar said the staff let him name his own price – $5 for a Beauty and the Beast teapot costume and $1 for a cape. Agar wore his costume back to the office, where he showed off his spout to the staff.A third team made tracks for the Ute Mountaineer, where proofreader Sara Garton asked about goggles. When the sales associate couldn’t answer all the questions, she found someone who could and even stayed on to learn more about the product. Their pitch was so effective that Garton said she actually might go back to buy the goggles.Meanwhile, over at Prada, reporter John Colson found the saleswoman treated the team “respectfully, with a sort of amused tolerance,” but he didn’t find it “a superlative service experience.” Colson acknowledged there wasn’t much she could do with five people looking to spend $20 at Prada and that the native Russian’s “understanding of our warped sense of humor might have been poor.”In the end, though, she came through. She gave every employee a Prada pencil – for free.A fifth team made its way to Local Spirits, where the clerk directed them to a nearly $20 bottle of mojito mix. Admittedly, this wasn’t a hard sell for Times employees, but Weatherred did offer these words of caution after the team brought the bottle back to the office: “Mountain Dew and mojito is really not very good.”Finally, the team with the sweetest assignment hoofed it to Ben & Jerry’s, where they found Melchiori minding the store on his own. In an effort to annoy, multiple team members asked for multiple samples of multiple flavors. Sportswriter Jon Maletz even knocked over a stack of cups, although he claims it was an accident.In the midst of the mayhem, actual customers entered the store, but Maletz said Melchiori handled himself with “the poise of a tenured pro.”After letting the regular people order, the Times team asked what six people could get for $20 or less. Melchiori offered six small scoops for just over $20. Knowing that the group came up short, he reached into the tip jar to make up the difference himself.Melchiori’s dip into his tips paid off. After finding good service (but nothing to buy) at their own stores, the Prada and Ute Mountaineer teams brought their funds to Ben & Jerry’s and returned Melchiori’s contribution tenfold.The moral of the story is … honest service offers generous returns, but we were headed to Ben and Jerry’s anyway.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com