Kim Penstone

The lure of the brand

2005-03-03 08:27

I'm a firm believer in the power of service. If I could find a bank that gave great (actually, even good... hold on, make that "acceptable") service, I'd be a client for life.

On the flip side of the coin, should a bank treat me badly, even once, I turn against said financial institution quicker than it can claim to be "listening".

It's fair to say that, in South Africa at least, I'm fast running out of banking options.

But before I get caught up in the woes of banks and bankers (I could go on, and on, and on) let me get to the point of this tale: sometimes, to some people, service means squat.

And it simply doesn't matter how well you treat your customers, especially if your competition is Italian...

The story

My tale begins with an accident, involving a man, a bicycle, and a car.

Said man and bicycle were hurled over said car during a not-so-sedate morning ride. Said man survived unscathed. Said bicycle did not.

The man was initially devastated. He loved his bike. It "slept" indoors, was cleaned on a Persian rug (also indoors) at least once a week, and admired on occasions too numerous to mention.

As he never fails to remind me, this particular man does more mileage on his bike than I do in my car.

But then he had a light bulb moment. The bike was broken, which meant that, inevitably, he would have to buy a new bike! Few realisations could please him more.

So the (broken) bike was carted off to a bike shop for a quote for insurance.

All was proceeding according to plan, until the manufacturer of the broken bike called, and informed the man that they would replace the broken bike with a brand new bike, for free, just because they could, and because they valued this man's business.

And, clearly, because they understand how much this man is likely to spend on bikes in his lifetime - trust me, it's a lot.

(Pause here for the sake of accuracy. Bicycles at a certain level are not manufactured in their entirety by one manufacturer. That would make the sport too inexpensive. Each part is manufactured, and can be bought, separately. To clarify here, I'm talking about the frame.)

And here's where the confusion set in.

I would have expected the man to be ecstatic. More than that, I would expect him to be a loyal customer for life.

But no. He wavered. You see, the replacement frame that he had in mind was Italian. And the replacement frame that he was offered - the selfsame make and model that he had loved and cared for - was not.

As I write, the tale remains in limbo. The man is blown away by the service of the non-Italian manufacturer and believes that he should continue his support by riding (at the very least) an upgraded version of the frame that crashed and burned.

But he can't hide from the fact that, if he could cast his feelings of guilt aside, he would also cast the service-minded, non-Italian manufacturer aside - in favour of the Italian model that, he admits, is not necessarily a better frame. Just, in his mind, a better brand.

The moral of the story? Sometimes, good service means squat, especially if your competition is Italian...

  • Kim Penstone is not Italian. She hopes said man stays away from Italian women, lest the need to upgrade hits.

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