The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The AmerIcan Way

It's all about business, or is it?

by db Conard, The Quill

Sometimes you find yourself thrown into the world of inconveniences because a product or service that for one reason or another has become a problem. It is just a part of the package we all buy into, whether it's the new TV, or a night out for dinner.

In the Heartland, we have an advantage over some of the larger communities that have more traffic in a moment than we do in a year. There are so many choices for every want and need that often the advantages of choice are outweighed by the disadvantages of accountability.

That retail or service shop or office on our main streets can not duck a bad reputation for long and still hope to succeed. They are more than likely the only business in town, so they can't hide amongst many other businesses offering like products and services.

Just before the holidays I watched as my fairly new Flat Screen TV went through a seizure and died. I had done all the research and had chosen the most highly rated model and brand, and until the moment it died, I hadn't one complaint, and would have recommended both the product and the manufacturer.

My TV was seven months out of warranty and I had no legal claim on the company for anything. Instead of returning to the big, box store and their sometimes cumbersome service process, I called our local small town sales and service center in Stronghurst and found what we all sometimes take for granted, and that was caring, honest service.

The sales and services on Broadway could probably have handled my problem, but instead they knew of another store in a neighboring community that had some experience with my TV's symptoms, and suggested I give them a call. Just a few minutes spent on the phone and I had gone from just knowing that my set needed fixing to having an explanation as to what was wrong and a manufactures product service phone number to call.

I called the brand name's service center and was immediately told that my set wasn't covered by warranty. What surprised me though was their willingness to acknowledge that there was a reoccurring problem with the products power board and they knew what was necessary to fix my set. For just a little less than $300.00 (parts and labor) they would have me up and running in probably less than a week, or not more than two weeks.

An expensive item and less than two years of use, and now I was looking at a healthy chunk of what the set had cost originally just to return it to working order. I asked if they would send me just the replacement board, and I would see if I could do the installation myself.

With five minutes of online instructions, three days of shipping time, approximately twelve screws, four snap connectors, $60 plus change, and 15 minutes of work, my flat screen was working correctly.

What had changed was a number of things. First of all, I had found Treasure in the Heartland when I found two honest local businesses who didn't know me from Adam, but didn't try to take advantage of the situation. Instead of chasing an easy dollar, they both offered help to a stranger in the way of being good neighbors and business people. The problem with my TV had been solved. You might think, that was it.

Instead, my experience with this overseas electronics company offered a perfect contrast to the what I call the good old American way of doing better business.

At about the same time that I was dealing with my broken TV, I was chasing a problem with my outboard motor that looked like it was about to cost me way more than the price of a new TV.

I called the manufacturer's service center and got "Walt" on the phone. I knew that my motor was more than a year out of warranty, so I didn't expect anything more than advice.

Boy, was I surprised. Walt said that my motor shouldn't have broken the way that it did, and that he would have a replacement part in the mail for me that day. The gift of many hundreds of dollars was great, and so was the pleasure of doing business with a company that represents itself so honorably.

I was a second owner of this Mercury Marine product which was not even close to being in warranty, yet what was most important to this American manufacturing company was their reputation for quality.

My impression was of a daily pursuit for quality on the part of the company which would not only arrive as a success for their customers, but also their employees, investors, and for America.

The electronics company Samsung will probably continue to get high ratings, and sell lots of products. They knew that their Flat Screen had a problem that was affecting probably thousands of their customers. Because it took a little longer for the fault to show itself than the time period covered by the warranty, it made it great for their bottom line, but it certainly showed no credit to the company nor to the pride they might have shown in their products and service.

We all know Better Business when we see it, and we support it naturally through the dollars we spend and the referrals we make. We also have a surprising power to affect those with less than better business practices that are all too often inflicted upon each of us.

Naturally, I am now drawn to do business with Samsung's competitors, sacrificing top ratings, perhaps, but gaining a better taste in my mouth when I dole out the money. I also will share my experience with my friends, neighbors and others, of the way they do business.

As I run the river or lake with a wake behind me, I will look at the black motor pushing me and be reminded of a different layer of quality that I found in this all AmerIcan product--one of the treasures found and manufactured in the Heartland.

If only every business in America would put service behind everything they sell, and stand behind the quality of their products, there would be no other country or business taking their customers away and there would be more things in our homes marked "made in the USA."