Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boliantz Hardware Service vs. Megastore Service Malaise

VS Dear Readers,

Boliantz Hardware in Mansfield, OH = approximately 3000 sq. ft of floor space.
Menards Hardware, Lumber chain = approximately 140,000 sq. ft. of floor space.

Boliantz = variety of specialty items driven by local customer and community demand.
Menards = conglomeration of miscellaneous items driven by corporate office mandates.

Boliantz = family owned.
Menards = corporate owned.

Boliantz = consistent good customer service with helpful store associates at every turn.
Menards = sporadic good customer service if a store associate can be found.

You probably get my gist. I am a “mom and pop” owned business enthusiast. My family and I go to the megastores to get bargains and variety, but I miss the “good old days” of personal customer service and a sense of community like Boliantz Hardware currently offers.

I am not against entrepreneurship and big business as a whole. They provide many people with jobs. I just wish they would learn that a personal touch and a sense of community is what people crave and I think would flock to if companies implemented them effectively.

My wife affectionately tells the story of her dad Ray who owned Ray’s Sohio, a combination gasoline station and auto repair garage franchised from Sohio. She said Ray offered a friendly greeting, good customer service, and a smile to every customer. She said he especially loved the car repair side of the business. Sohio, however, began phasing out car repair in all their gas stations. My wife said that Ray hated that.

The final straw, however, came when Sohio mandated Ray to switch exclusively to self-serve gasoline pumping. They wanted to put in a cashier window and have Ray just sit at the window and collect the money for the gasoline. She said that he thought it a travesty to allow a woman to get out in the cold weather to pump her own gasoline. It was almost in Ray’s blood to offer direct help to his customers. Ray soon sold out his share of the business and went to work at Westinghouse.

I can understand why Ray felt he had to quit, even with the urging of his family to continue in what many might consider an easier way to earn a living. Sohio took away the personal touch for the sake of progress. While it might have helped their immediate bottom line, I wonder if it really helped them in the long run, and whether becoming impersonal helps the bottom line today with many companies.

I think that many persons enjoy watching television shows like American Pickers to gain a sense of a time when business was conducted face to face and good personal customer service was a high priority. The show is produced by the History Channel and is about two men who scour the countryside to find a treasured antique like a rusty old tin Sohio sign.

I think shows like American Pickers reminds people of days gone by. Days where many stores like Boliantz Hardware and gasoline stations like Ray’s Sohio thrived because of a good personal customer service and a sense of community.

I also see some parallels of the above dilemma to today’s church, but addressing that will have to wait for another time.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Colossians 3:23.

See you next time,

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mr. Robert Prigmore, A True American Hero

Dear Readers,

Tonight my wife and I went to a local funeral home to visit some family friends who lost a loved one. The lost loved one was not just any man. He was a true American hero.

We got to know Mr. Robert Prigmore, his wife Anna, his daughter and son-in law, grandchildren and their families through a church small group. Mr. Prigmore did not accompany his wife to the group at the outset, but came later, and I am so thankful he did.

Mr. Prigmore was by all accounts “a character”. He was outspoken about his beliefs and had many stories to tell from a long full life. I especially enjoyed listening to stories about his many years as the head of the records department at the Mansfield Reformatory. 

Mr. Prigmore was a devoted family man. Every Tuesday evening of the year it was dinner at the Prigmores. He took pride in being the chef to feed a household of descendants.

I was especially interested in the fact that the obituary said that Mr. Prigmore was to be buried with full military honors, and that he won the Purple Heart for being wounded serving in the Army during World War II. Anna said that he also won the Bronze Star for bravery in carrying a wounded soldier to safety.

My feet were hurting, so I asked Mr. Prigmore’s grandson Jeremy if I could take a seat beside him. He told me a story that almost brought tears to my eyes. He proudly spoke of his grandfather’s exploits in the Battle of the Bulge, where 19,000 soldiers died. Mr. Prigmore was severely wounded and lay in the battlefield for three days surrounded by dead comrades. At night German soldiers scoured the area for wounded allied soldiers. Their goal was to bayonet living ones to death.

Jeremy said that his grandfather camouflaged himself from the Germans by pulling over himself anything he could reach nearby, even dead bodies. He identified Germans in the area by their speech. He passed out several times and finally woke up one time to hear men using English. The allied forces finally invaded the area to rescue survivors.

Mr. Prigmore survived some major innovative surgeries of the day. Jeremy and his wife commented that if Mr. Prigmore had not lived they would not even exist. I am very thankful for his survival, and I'm proud to have known Mr. Prigmore…and his family.

“Join with me in suffering , like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
II Timothy 2:3 (NIV)

See you next time,