How I bought a punchbowl and *made* $10

We threw a big party for my wife and her grandmother a few weeks ago (their birthdays are a few days apart). Given the new startup, I thought it was pretty appropriate to make sure that we had a nice punchbowl for the centerpiece of the party.

The day before the party, I went online to do my research. I needed to buy a punchbowl that day, so I looked for places that sold a punchbowl in my area. After a little searching, Target seemed to be a good choice.

I went to Target, and didn’t immediately see any. I asked for help and was told “oh, we only sell punchbowls as a seasonal item at the beginning of summer.” Hmmm…ok, well the website was a bit misleading. Ok, strike 1.

Next, it was on to Macy’s. I figured that with all of their fine china I should find one there. Well,  I did find one– but I wasn’t planning on spending hundreds of dollars for something that looked like it came out of Great Aunt Sarah’s china cabinet. I wanted something modern– not a ornate relic from the 1940’s. Strike 2.

Next to JC Penney’s. Nope. Home Goods, nope. Wal-mart, nope. Filene’s nope. You see where this is going….

At Crate & Barrel I found a really nice punchbowl — but not exactly what I was looking for. I wanted more than just a punchbowl; I wanted the cups and ladel too. Plus, the punchbowl alone was $80– on the upper end of what the budget concious startup guy was willing to pay. I took note of the Crate & Barrel option and moved on.

After a few more stops (oh, I think we are 9 or 10 stores into the quest at this point), I went to Bed Bath and Beyond. I remembered that they have a fairly big kitchen section and I thought I might get lucky. Well, I was right. I walked right into the kitchen section, and there in all of its glory was a beautiful punchbowl with 8 cups, a silver ladel, and a beautiful tray to compliment the whole piece. $50. Perfect! So, I ask the salesperson for help. “I’d like to buy that punchbowl please,” I exclaim. The salesperson leaves and comes back with a face I had seen about a dozen times already that day. “I’m sorry, that’s a floor display, and we don’t carry that item in stock.” Arg. I hadn’t come this far to hear that. “Let me talk to the manager– I’ll convince the manager to sell it to me.” I say hopefully. I’ll spare you the details, but an hour later I had my punchbowl. I was on my way and ready for the party.

Now, I need to cover an important detail: as I was checking out from the store, display model in the cart, my cell rang. It was a fairly important phone call that I had been waiting for all day. So I was a bit distracted during the checkout procedure….why is this important?

I got home after a few more stops (went to the party store, liquor store…). I was very excited about the punchbowl and went to carefully take it out of the car. Imagine my horror when I picked up the bag to find the punchbowl shattered. It was completely broken, with no chance of salvaging. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggggg! The New Yorker in me came pouring out, and I burst into a littany of swears. I can’t believe this– the only freaking punchbowl in town is now in pieces in the backseat of my car! (important note: it was very clear that my distraction when I got the call caused me to neglect to watch how the punchbowl was wrapped. It turned out that the punchbowl was wrapped in a single sheet of paper– destined to be broken on one pothole).

So what to do next? Well, I called Bed Bath and Beyond to talk to the manager on duty. He was unavailable. So I called another BB&B store in Boston. And I talked to a manager named Larry. I explained my plight (35+ people coming to a party at my house, and I’m the punchbowl guy!). Larry was unbelieveable– for the next 45 minutes, he did everything he could to find a replacement punchbowl for the set. Remember: this is a display item only, and Larry tells me that not every BB&B store has a display. After researching all of the options he tells me the one thing I don’t want to hear at 5pm on the Friday before the big party: there are no other punchbowls in the New England area.

What happened next should live on in infamy of amazing customer service. Larry (having overheard my conversation in the background of our phone call) tells me that he has a solution for me: Larry wants me to keep the cups, tray, and ladel, he will refund my entire $50, and are you ready for this: he wants to give me $30 “courtesy cash” to go BUY THE PUNCHBOWL FROM CRATE & BARREL. “Are you kidding me?” I ask Larry. “Nope,” he says “the punchbowl should have been wrapped properly by our staff. You should not be in this situation.” I reply “Larry, you realize this makes me a Bed, Bath, and Beyond customer for life.” His response: “yeah, that’s kinda of the point.”

Half an hour later, I have a brand new punchbowl from Crate & Barrel that matches perfectly with the cups, tray, and ladel from Bed Bath and Beyond. And the kicker: the Crate & Barrel one was on sale: not $80, but $70. So I made $10. Later I tell Larry. “Keep it,” he says “spend it on your next visit to Bed, Bath, and Beyond.”

Lots of people talk about customer service, and there are many books written about the cost to acquire a customer. For a relatively small investment, Larry has made me a Bed, Bath, and Beyond customer for life. Since then, we have shopped there twice– when we rarely shopped there in the past. It’s completely changed my perception of the store, and I feel like I want to tell everyone about it. The punchbowl was a huge hit at the party, and I can’t wait for the first Boston get together where I can show off our namesake.

So there you have it. The story of how I bought my new punchbowl and actually *made* $10 in the process. I’m just hopeful this is an omen for the future of what we are building at

So go on! Shop at Bed, Bath and Beyond!


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