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Retail Service Hasn't Vanished. You Just Have To Look For It

July 4, 2010

I've never been able to figure out why people who run a retail business haven't been able to figure out that the service they offer is just as important as the merchandise they hope to sell. Most of us need help when we enter a store. Where are men's sport clothes? Are ladies handbags on this floor or should I look elsewhere.? Where will I find kids clothes? Where are the escalators or elevators? You can usually get answers if you can find somebody to ask. Ah! That's the problem — not a clerk to be found anywhere.

We were in Macy's a few months ago in the bedding department and all we wanted was a pair of pillows to match the sheets we had picked out. We must have spent five minutes trying to find somebody to help us and when we finally did I was so far from where I started out, I had a hard time finding my way back. The clerk was wonderful, but it seemed she was the only one on duty for the entire bedding department. Before Macy's took over, we had stopped going to Marshall Field's anyway because the service had become so bad. I, for one, wasn't sorry to have Macy's take over and haven't missed the old creaky days for one minute. Including those highly over rated Frango Mints. The point here is this. There are merchants who have discovered how important service is and I'd like to share with you some that we have found.

Best Retail Service


I can't imagine a finer place to shop for food than Sunset Foods. We have been patrons of their Highland Park Store since 1967. Now there are branches in Northbrook, Lake Forest and Libertyville with a new store to open soon in Long Grove. The Cortesi family, who opened the first store in 1937 is still running things smoothly with the third generation now in charge.

I've used the old joke many times. "Look up the word "service" in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of Sunset Foods. They've continued to expand their Highland Park operation since we started shopping there more than forty years ago and now have not only the everyday grocery items that you would expect, but the greatest array of specialty items you can imagine. You could eat for a week on the salads and meats in their giant deli and the wine and liquor department is excellent. Sunset isn't kidding when they say, "If we don't have it, we'll get it for you." I've lost track of the number of times they've "special ordered" something for us.

In addition to stocking everything you could possible want, courtesy and thoughtfulness seem to be the key to their success. Sheila can remember years ago when she had to shop with three kids in tow, how they would take her first full cart, put it aside and get her another. We are once a week shoppers and with a family of eight that took a lot of food. There was an occasion, many years ago, when I showed up alone to do the weekly shopping and one of the managers noticed my difficulty in finding things. He immediately assigned a "helper" to stay with me and assist in anyway he could.

Oh! and when it comes to checking out, a Sunset employee takes your cart(s), pushes it to an open line and THEY put your items on the movable belt to be tallied and paid for. Your groceries are put into a numbered cart(s), you are given a corresponding number and THEY wheel them out to a covered pick up platform while you get your car. You hand your number(s) to the loaders, they put everything into your vehicle and away you go. This is Service! If they could figure out a way to unload the stuff for you when you get home, I'm sure they would do it.


We discovered Forrest's on Greenbay Rd., in Wilmette, about forty years ago, and being only a few blocks from the house it was the perfect place to gas up and get quick repairs and they were good. Recently the business was sold to Duxler (Complete Auto Care) and the first day I drove in after the change in ownership, I couldn't believe what happened. I was getting out of the car to go the pump and do the usual self -serve, when three guys showed up: One to pump the gas, another to wash my windshield and back window and another asked if I wanted the fluids under the hood checked. What a pleasure to return to the "good old days" when you really got service at a service station. And the gas prices have stayed at self serve prices. Duxler also has stations in Evanston, Skokie and Northbrook,

CD'S, DVD'S etc.

It's not easy to shop for your grandkid's gifts, especially when you're not into the music, video game or movies that they like. If they wanted an album (I'm sorry, I mean CD) by Boz Scaggs, Madonna, Billy Joel or even the Grateful Dead, I'd know where to look for it but where do I look for music by Band of Skulls, Kate Voegele or May Day Parade? Our local Best Buy always comes to the rescue. At 9625, Skokie Blvd across from the Old Orchard Shopping Center, you are greeted at the door and sent to the proper aisle for whatever it is your looking for. And I've always been able to find a clerk who has a computer nearby to check and see if the CD or movie is in stock and he knows where it is. I have found shopping at Best Buy to be easy, quick and very satisfying.


You probably knew I was going to say, "Abt", didn't you? We have had many satisfying experiences over the years in buying a stove, refrigerator, air conditioner and recently, a new HD Television. Sure, you can buy the same appliances at many locations, but I doubt that you'll get the service that Abt offers. A couple of examples will suffice. We had to replace a built-in air conditioner in our kitchen. It was quite a job getting the old one out, but they did it. After the new sleeve and the new unit was put in. the installer wanted to make sure the wooden frame on the outside looked good. Not only did he put in a new frame, but he asked if I had some matching paint, which I did, and he painted the trim on the outside and it looked perfect. There was no extra charge for this extra service. And, more recently, when we decided to get a new HD/TV, they moved the one we were replacing upstairs to my office and hauled away the old one. Shopping in that huge store at 1200 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Glenview is a treat. I think Abt has really redefined the word "service".


One final story. The day I had to leave Sheila at the Whitehall Rehab Center up on Waukegan Rd. in Deerfield one of my sons suggested I stop at Trader Joe's a few miles south, because they had a great selection of meals for one, both fresh and frozen, and I would be eating by myself for a few weeks. Also, it was right on my way home and a very convenient stop. When a clerk saw me looking around he came right over and asked if he could help. I explained the situation and he directed me to a terrific array of meals for one or two and I was able to stock up for whatever the future might have in store. On arriving at the check-out counter, there was a bouquet of roses waiting for me and a request that I take them to my wife along with some good wishes from the folks at Trader Joe's. It's moments like this that help you through difficult times and also a reminder that there are still a lot of decent people in the world.


Sheila is doing well. She walked a block from the house this week with the help of her walker and is able to handle a fork and spoon with some degree of confidence. Next week she will start out-patient therapy, so we will drive her to see her physical, occupational and speech therapists a few time each week. On days she doesn't have an outside appointment, her care giver will help with exercises here at home. She got to the hair dressers this week and you ladies know how that can help! Thanks to all for your continued thoughts and prayers.

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