Recently I went to the “Big Box Home Improvement” store to purchase some new lights for the wall in my bathroom. I bought two that my wife and I liked that had the “Big Name Provider” of lights and there were many other types of illumination devices that most would recognize, and why not? Big is good, right?

I did install the lights myself and that is part of the problem. While my 4-H electrical project skills came in handy, my home maintenance and repair skills are complicated by my clumsiness and lack of patience. One of the nuts to the bolt on one of the lamps went scurrying down the drain and I was one nut short of a complete project. It was a decorative nut; one that is all round and for a special purpose.

The light was on the wall but I HATE an uncompleted project. SO I called up the manufacturer (Big Name Light Provider) and asked about how I could get a part. It seemed like the right approach as it said so in the little instruction sheet I was provided. “Big Name Light Provider” informed me that the product was manufactured overseas (surprise, surprise!) and they can’t get the part. The recommended course of action was to go back to the store and they might have one. Now I could have taken the one light down and claimed a part was missing (lied), but I knew that wasn’t the “right” thing to do even though it would have worked.

I enter the “Big Box Home Improvement” store and I’m immediately greeted by a young woman that inquired (really cool) if I needed any help? I related my plight and I was directed to isle 12 and someone would meet me there. A nice gentlemen met me there and, once again, I related my plight. At that point the nice gentlemen who started his rant on how we don’t make anything in this country anymore, how they don’t have or can’t get parts and how we as a country have lost our soul. Surprised and disappointed I left the establishment and proceed down the road.

Another company caught my eye on out way back home. It was much smaller in size and sold decorative art and neat stuff. While browsing the store (and buying some cool art) I noticed wall lights on display. I asked the person that was helping us if she knew if there was any way to get parts of that type. In less than a second she was going back to a small workroom and grabbed a mason jar full of nuts of various colors and sizes. She pulled out one like the one I had described and handed to me. Shocked and thrilled I asked how much? Just take it! She replied. What can it cost? A quarter? I told her I was willing to pay and much more than that to solve my problem, but she would have none of that. I’d fallen in love with Driftwood Galleries that day and I know I’ll return and buy more things in the future and of course recommend them often.

To me this experience is a reminder that big really assures a level of standardization, and in that standardization a sense of reliability. But is that what good service is? To me good service is more about attitude and the genuine effort to solve a problem than having a standard answer to one. The lady at the gallery was happy she could help and had the freedom to provide a solution on the spot. There are many examples, particularly in financial services, of the 800 number, voice mail, tree-type of service and talk to three people (if you’re lucky) before you find someone who can address the issue. There are many alternatives to this “Big Box” mentality that exhibit the service attitude. One of them is people who are interested in helping people solve problems and get things done. The last couple of years proved that size isn’t necessarily the proof of “safe”. There are many firms willing to help, including ours, but you need to ask the right questions to ascertain whether or not a firm is right for you. In a previous post about finding good advisors we offered what we believed to be some good resources and questions to ask. If you think you deserve more than a “Big Box” approach the choice is out there for you.

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