OK, I went shopping at the Grove, a local high end center in central Los Angeles. It has a great parking facility with counters telling you which floor has available space and everything. They spent over a million bucks on their valet lobby, but I digress.
I did my shopping and then asked for a validation (I left my ticket in my car). I was told by the store that since I didn’t have my ticket, I should go to the concierge desk and they would give me an exit pass (I had spent enough to have a full day of free parking.)
The concierge told me that I couldn’t get the pass unless I signed up for their “bonus club” program, a deal that meant filling out endless forms and probably exposing my email account to even more spam. So I simply asked again for the exit pass. I was again told, more firmly, that I would have to sign up.
Disgusted, I grumbled off, forming the letter I was going to write developer Rick Caruso telling him how his extremely high class and actually super shopping experience had been ruined by rules that couldn’t be broken by line personnel. (I felt that when I waved my four figure receipt the answer should have been “yes sir, here’s your exit pass, and thank you for visiting the Grove, ” and not some bureaucratic double talk.
I got to my car, letter firmly in my brain and drove to the exit and put in my ticket, ready to pay, under protest, with my credit card. The gate opened. I had come and gone within the “free” time period. (I think its half an hour.)
My anger evaporated, the letter was forgotten.
However, in the end, that’s not the point. The point is that line personnel need to be able to make on the spot decision which cost the company little or nothing, but create fantastic PR. One of Caruso’s tenants, Nordstrom’s, has built its reputation on just such decision making. The is an urban legend that someone showed up at a Nordstrom’s store, asking to return some faulty tires. The clerk accepted the tires. Nordstrom’s doesn’t’ sell tires.
It may have cost the store a few hundred bucks, but in the end, the publicity they got from that one incident has been worth millions.