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The customer is always right. Again.

August 17, 2011

Over the last 30 years, I've seen corporatism rise in our society. Be part of a team, the want ads would say. And thus, the team became important — while more and more, the customer’s importance waned.

Of course, in the old days, the customer came first and the watchphrase of many a thriving business was, “the customer is always right.” That watchphrase was the oil that kept the interchange workable. It might not always have been accurate, but it was prudent because it created a trust. You knew if a company kept to that maxim, you would be treated fairly.

I've frequented Sport Chalet for more than 30 years now and it has been a fixture in La Cañada for much longer than that. And when Norbert Olberz ran the place, he practiced the above maxim. But after his departure, more and more corporatism began taking over, much to my chagrin. So much so that instead of it being my first choice for sporting goods, it became my choice of last resort.

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Until this last Sunday. Via email, I received a flyer from Sport Chalet titled, “Our New Store Policy.” I read further. It carried words to this effect: If customers are dissatisfied with anything the store has sold them, they can take it back in and the company will make it right.

I honestly didn't believe it. So I printed the flier and took it into the store, in search of a manager. I quickly found one as he was standing next to the doorway to greet each customer as they came in. “Is this legit?” I asked when he greeted me. He read the flier and assured me it was. Boy, did he get an earful. A basketball with a lifetime warranty, a sleeping bag with a lifetime warranty, socks and shoes I had purchased recently were all falling apart.

“We will make it right,” he said. And I swear, he did. With personalized service that used to be a hallmark of Sport Chalet, he ensured every single return was handled perfectly.

To put it simply, Sport Chalet has gone “old school” on its customers. And it restored my faith in them. In this day and age, that is worthy of note.

Phil Gilbert

Altadena

A word in favor of Andrew Blumenfeld

Sometimes knowledgeable, charismatic leadership emerges when we least expect it. Andrew “AJ” Blumenfeld is that candidate and he is running for a seat on the La Cañada school board.

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