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I believe that customer loyalty is something that should not be given lightly by consumers, but should be cherished by a business when it is rewarded.  A loyal customer is not only to give repeat business time and again, they will likely tell friends, family, and even complete strangers to go do business with the place that they have grown to love so much.

With this said, I thought it was worth it to share stories about two businesses which have had our loyalty for years, but with dramatically different outcomes.

Diamonds are a girl's best friend…and so was this jewelry store….

While we've shopped at other jewelry stores, Store “J” has always been our go-to store of choice for our jewelry needs.  We don't buy that much jewelry, but when we do, Store “J” is always given our first look and has ended up with probably 90% or more of our jewelry purchases.

Our first major purchase was a big one.  The engagement ring and wedding band were purchased as a set back in 2006.  My wedding ring was also purchased at the same store.

When we got married, my wife was surprised when my gift to her was a nice set of diamond earrings, purchased of course at Store “J”.

A Pandora bracelet found its way into our home from Store “J” when they started to take off, and a few charms have been purchased along the way.

I gave my wife a ring and a necklace, respectively, at the birth of each of our children.

None of these were overly extravagant, and over the course of seven years or so, it's about one purchase per year.  The point is that we always looked to Store “J” first.  We always talked about Store “J” and recommended them for our jewelry needs.

So, we were disappointed when we had a very negative experience.  There are several locations near us.  One has always been stellar, but we when we needed to drop our jewelry off for their semi-annual inspection (required by the extended coverage plans that we purchased on many items), we decided to drop them off at a different location.  When we went in, people were busy, but we still had to wait several minutes before anybody could even look over at us to acknowledge that we were in the store.

Other people walked in after us, and when the salespeople started finishing up with their current customers, it seemed that people that came in after us were helped first.

Finally, someone from the back, where the lab and cleaning area is located, came out and asked what we needed.  My wife explained what we were there for at which point the woman that was helping did not say anything, but basically held her hand out to take the jewelry…mmm…kay.

Usually the process of writing up the jewelry takes about ten minutes.  This time it took over half an hour.  The woman went through our paperwork, and even though everything was clearly there, she acted as if we were missing stuff, then would get annoyed with my wife when it was pointed out that the information was right there.  As if my wife was being the rude one.

My wife had a couple of questions and the answers she got were short, abrupt, and made to seem almost as if she was in the wrong for even asking.  Long and short, the experience was horrible.

I wrote a letter to their customer service center, outlining the experience and our dissatisfaction.  I indicated that although we always got great service at the store we usually go to, that any store with the Store “J” name should be expected to deliver the same great service.

I got a response three days later.  They did apologize and that was it.  I thought a nice touch would have been a phone call or e-mail from the store manager, but nothing of the sort came through.

We walked away still happy with our product, but a good portion of the loyalty built up over seven years was erased with that experience.  Now, if friends and family ask, instead of glowing reviews, they'll be told to avoid that particular location, and you can bet that if we buy jewelry from somewhere else and have a great experience, then Store “J” may fall right off the map.

Girls love handbags, too….

Vera Bradley came into our sights over the same weekend.  For those who don't know what Vera Bradley is, they make handbags, wallets, duffel bags, and other assorted ‘carrying things'.  Most have patterns of flowers or other designs in bright, colorful layouts.  My wife has been a fan for as long as I've known her.

The stuff isn't cheap, but it usually lasts a long time, and I love it because, if I'm ever at a loss for a gift idea, I can just pick up a Vera bag or accessory, and I'm all set.

Before our daughter was born, my wife wanted a Vera Bradley diaper bag.  She got one and it worked pretty well…until it didn't.  With everything my wife has, she never once had a problem with a bag, until the zipper started to go on the diaper bag.  Basically, the clasp started to come apart making it harder and harder to unzip until the last piece of the clasp came out altogether.

My wife called explaining what had happened.  Even though the bag was almost a year old, they told her to come into the store.  She did.  They looked at it, and even thought it was well past the normal return time allowed, and even though the bag was being sold now at a less price (as it was last years ‘model'), they took the bag back and offered her a full credit toward a new one.  Which she got and she loved.

If my wife didn't love Vera Bradley enough before, it went up about tenfold after that experience, and if she didn't talk about Vera before to anybody that would listen, well, anybody that mentions the diaper bag or any other Vera bag is going to get a glowing recommendation.

Two businesses had our loyalty.  Both had issues arise.  They handled it in two separate ways, and now one is on the outs, while the other is at or near the top of the list.

Both keep track of our purchase history. Store “J” and Vera Bradley both could look up what we've purchased over the years.  Both likely did when we started our requests.  Seeing the loyalty developed meant something to Vera Bradley, but a similar sense of importance was not conveyed by Store “J”.

Store “J” got made to look even worse, and Vera Bradley was made to look like more of the superstar, simply by the fact that both of these experiences took place on the same weekend.  Because there was such a contrast, Store “J” came out smelling that much worse and Vera came out smelling like roses.

Have you ever had a company that you've been loyal to completely knock it out of the water or fall flat on their face?