How a Local Merchant Earned My Business

Our good friends and colleagues Larry Berk and his wife visited us this past weekend. I told him a story about an experience with a local merchant. He couldn’t believe I hadn’t written it up on my blog.  You see, when people want to sell me something, they often say they want to “earn” my business.  Here’s how a local merchant—a customer service expert—got that job done.

Three years ago, our barbecue grill needed replacement. My wife ordered a new Weber Genesis from points we had accumulated through our American Express account.  The grill was delivered just before I left for Ireland on a 15-day business trip.

My wife was very sure to remind me again and again when we spoke during those two weeks that when I returned home I’d have to put the grill together. I’d rather have three teeth pulled than deal with assembling this grill.

When I returned from Dublin, she picked me up at Logan airport for the drive down to the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.  Only once during the drive did she mention the arduous task ahead.

When I finally got home and walked out onto the back deck, I immediately saw that the grill had already been assembled. To say I was relieved was an understatement.  I was also incredible grateful—my wife threw a grill assembly party in my absence. Eight or so our friends came over and put the thing together. Nice.

The wrinkle in the story was this: there was a part missing. Not a critical part, but a part nevertheless.  My wife contacted Weber and they agreed to ship the part and have a local hardware store, a Weber reseller, install it.

When the part arrived, we called that hardware store, one of several here on the island. It is one we rarely visit.

A day later, Jesse, the owner of Shirley’s Hardware in Vineyard Haven showed up with his toolkit, ready to install the part.

Within two minutes, it became clear Jesse was upset about something. He told me that the grill had been assembled incorrectly. Certain parts were misaligned, nuts and bolts used in the wrong places, loose doors, etc. He asked if I minded if he spent some time getting it back in shape. “No problem for me,” I said.

Nearly two hours later, the grill was back together, perfectly assembled, with the new part in place.

I told Jesse I wanted to pay him for his time.

In response, this is what he said. “I can’t stand when these grills aren’t assembled properly. I’m not interested in who did it the wrong way. I just need to make it right. I know you’re not a customer of Shirley’s Hardware. What I’d really like is if you’d bring your business to us. That would mean a lot to me.”

I’ve been a loyal customer ever since.

Bad customer service will inhibit sales success. If you’re interested in reading more about good service, here are some other posts on the subject:


  1. says

    In this Internet society it is heartwarming to read how small retailers can make a difference with personal service. Your story about becoming a repeat customer is what this all about.

    • Dave Stein says

      Great comment, Johanna. In case it wasn’t clear, Larry and Johanna work together at our preferred design firm, Bohoy Design!

  2. says

    LOL, I once tried to assemble something. How far does he travel? ;-)

    Seriously, that’s a great reminder post and a phenomenal service attitude. I wish more sales people modeled that. Value comes before Sale, every place except the dictionary.

    • Dave Stein says


      My guess is that if it’s an off-island project (America is on the other end of the ferry, they say here), he’d likely take a pass.

      If you need some help with a grill, glad to help… …you find someone who is competent and willing.


  3. says

    That’s a heartwarming story.

    Like you said good customer service goes a long way in keeping customers. Retuning customers are what truly make a business successful. R

    Returning customers making a business, new customers expand a business.

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