Monday I dropped my expensive dress shoes off at a shoe repair shop. I made sure I talked with the cobbler to let him know how much those shoes meant to me. I have had them for 8 years and I would not mind having them another 8 years, or more. I was wanting the man to realize that I prized the shoes and having them repaired well was more important to me than what it cost to repair them (within reason).
I needed a couple of busted seams to be re-stitched. Through the years both shoes have had to have some re-stitching. The last time they were done by a different repair shop, the cobbler did not do a very good job of cleaning up his extra thread. What did not break over time started to look ratty. I wanted the new guy to clean up the mess and re-stitch some parts of the shoes. While he was at it, even though I probably had another 3 or 4 months worth of sole left on them, I wanted him to re-sole the shoes.
All of this was agreed to be done by 10:00 Wednesday morning (today) for $15. Yes, soles are much cheaper here in Mexico than they are in the US. I emphasized to him that I really needed the shoes Wednesday morning at the agreed upon time because I had to have them that afternoon. He said he understood and that they would be ready.
The odd thing about this cobbler is that he wanted some money up front. While that is common practice here in town, especially where goods are involved, I have never had to pay for my shoe repair up front. I want to know that the job is done well before handing over my cash. I had no cash with me because I did not anticipate this.
I went in this morning at 11:00 to pick up my shoes. They were not done yet. He had not even started working on them. He said they would be ready at 5:00 this afternoon. He said that it would cost $16 and I needed to pay him up front. I argued with him about the price and the time. While $1 is nothing in comparison to what I was having done, it was not the agreed upon price. Furthermore, the agreed upon time was 11:00 am not 5:00 pm.
He finally said that he could have the shoes ready by 1:00 for $15. And if not, I would pay nothing. I did give him $10 at that point and promised that I would be there near 1:00.
I was not able to arrive as close to 1:00 as I hoped, but I was there shortly before 2:00. My shoes were ready and I paid him the final $5. Then I added that I would never be back in his shop and that I would tell my friends to avoid his business based on the fact that he had wanted to change the price and that the shoes were not ready on time. I did consent to him that I understood that sometimes things happen to prevent deadlines from being met, but there is never an excuse for changing the price.
I am not asking for special treatment in any way. But, I think the cobbler could have seen an opportunity and seized it.
While I am not rich, I am richer than most people who would be in this man’s shop. His normal clientèle would be people who are too poor to buy a new $30 pair of shoes so they have him replace the soles for $10 or less. I walked in with a story of having had these shoes for many years and that they were precious to me. I wanted the best treatment I could get for them. I happened to be dressed that day in nice clothes. As a person conducting a business, I think I would have looked at a customer like myself and realized that this could be a very good repeat customer. The cobbler never saw that. Not until I made plain to him that he would never see me again in his shop did he start to think that he should care for the customer and their needs more.
Directly across the street from this cobbler is the jeweler that I have been taking my watches to for the last year. I have been unusually harsh on my watches lately and they have had to be in the shop too often. This jeweler immediately saw me as a potentially good customer. Just recently he did an easy job for me that required $9 worth of parts. He charged me $9. He knows that maybe losing a little bit of money on labor now, will cause me to look to him when I want to buy a new watch. I have already recommended him to a couple of friends. He is a man who knows how to grow a business.
If you work in the service industry you have to remember that your business is people, not shoes.