A Great Customer Service Experience At Kohls

I love posting great customer service experiences. It’s common to post negative experiences, but I find positive customer service stories just as helpful as negative ones. Here’s a wonderful shopping experience we had at Kohls on Saturday.
We stopped into our nearby Kohls, as I needed some new shoes and shorts. When it comes to athletic shoes, I have found that Nike shoes are the best for me. They size right on my feet, they last a good amount of time, and I am very comfortable in them. I’ve had mixed luck with other shoes, some good and some bad, but Nike always comes through.
As we were armed with a 30% off Kohls coupon, we quickly found the shorts we wanted and then headed over to the shoe section to look for shoes.
We narrowed the search down to three pair that I liked, but they didn’t have my size in any of them on the floor.
I found an employee, and he checked the back, but they didn’t have any there either. He brought another employee out who informed me that I could call Kohls.com from the back of their store, and if they had them in stock, they would ship it to me for free.
So, off I went to the back of the store to use the courtesy phone near the customer service desk. I called and spoke with a very friendly woman, and she was happy to walk me through the process. They did have the style in my size, and I was even able to give her my coupon code for additional savings!
After it was all said and done, I paid exactly what I would have at the register, and I’ll have a pair of shoes delivered to my doorstep within a week.
How does it get any better than that?
Oh, it sort of does. If, on the off chance they don’t fit, I can simply return them to a Kohls store for a refund or exchange. I don’t have to go through the hassle of sending them back.
I love this type of service, and I wish Kohls publicized it more. We’ve walked out of the store on several occasions when they didn’t have something in a size or color that we wanted. If not for the great customer service yesterday, I would have probably walked out shoeless (except for the ones on my feet) or with a pair that I was less happy about. Even though they have to pay shipping costs, my guess is that they realized that a sale with a little less profit margin is better than no sale at all.
Thanks, Kohls, for offering that, telling me about it, and making it an easy process!

Is The Sunday Paper Going The Way Of The Dinosaur?

Recently, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, the two major newspapers in the local market, announced that they would be making drastic changes due to the decline in the newspaper industry, as well as the economy. Both papers have been producing the daily paper for decades upon decades.

In the 1980’s, the papers combined a lot of operations including printing and distribution, though they had separate writers, columnists, and editorial staff. That move, at the time, was seen as somewhat dramatic, but it has since been applauded and probably saved one, if not both, of the papers. Many cities, in the meantime, have seen at least one of their major papers shut down.

Still, the papers took another revolutionary step in the last couple of weeks. Instead of doing seven day home delivery, they are now cutting back to three days. The other four days, you either have to purchase the paper at a newsstand, pay to have it delivered by mail, or read an electronic edition that displays the pages on a computer screen just as if you were reading the paper. With any paid subscription, you get seven day a week access to the complete digital edition. They also have the ‘traditional’ free web versions which are supported by advertising.

I’ve been a subscriber of the Sunday only Free Press for a few years now. I enjoy sitting down and reading through the bigger edition, and I also find that the coupons and advertisements pay for themselves.

But, with the change to three day home delivery, I’ve found that the Sunday option to my Free Press subscription is no longer available. They are forcing subscribers that want home delivery to take all three days! Right now, my subscription rate is locked in until the end of the year for about $5 per month, or $1.25 per Sunday edition. This is a savings off the newsstand price of $1.50. But after the end of the year, my price will jump to $12 per month. I consider this a $3 per copy charge.

Why?

Because even though I’m getting two extra days, I don’t want them! Let me say that again: I don’t want the extra two days of print editions. I only want my Sunday Free Press! I don’t have time during the week to read the extra editions. Most of the time since they started delivering them, it goes right into the recycling bucket. While I’m happy to have recycled, it still seems like a big waste to produce something that customers don’t want.

The funny thing is that I’ve e-mailed them about this, and have also read through the many editions of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ that they publish regularly during the transition. Not once is the lack of a Sunday only option mentioned.

I hope that they correct this by the time that 2009 ends. I have a feeling that there a lot of subscribers in the same boat that I’m in. We are currently purchasing the paper because the price makes sense, and ‘putting up with’ the extra two days of delivery. But, once the price jumps, there could be a mass exodus of subscribers. If that happened, I would simply cancel my subscription and plan on going to the gas station on the corner to pick up the paper.

Still, it’d be much easier if they gave this customer what they want, and not force an option that is undesirable at a higher cost. I don’t think I’m the only ‘dinosaur’ that wants the Sunday paper, am I?

Farewell County General: How Much Has Changed In 15 Years

Tonight is the finale of the NBC show ER, and I thought I’d take a moment to look at some of different things that have happened in the time since the show debuted in the September 1994.

Gallon of Gas
Then: Approximately $1.15
Now: Approximately $2.00

Dow Jones Industrial Average
Then: Around 3,800
Now: Around 8,000

Money Beagle’s College Education
Then: Just starting the third year
Now: A distant memory

Sitting President
Then: Bill Clinton, pre-blue-stained-dress
Now: Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Then: 33 and Lecturer at Chicago University
Now: 47 and President of the United States

Gallon of Milk
Then: Between $1 and $1.50
Now: Between $2.50 and $4

Movie Tickets
Then: $4 – $5 on average
Now: $8 – $10 on average

30 Year Mortgage Rate
Then: 9%
Now: 5%

Unemployment Rate
Then: 5.9%
Now: 8.1%

UAW Membership
Then: 750,000
Now: 490,000

Months Since Black Monday Stock Market Crash
Then: 83
Now: 257

Popular Web Browsers
Then: Mosaic (neither Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator had been released yet, and Firefox and Opera were still years away)
Now: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera

Average Cost Per Megabyte of Hard Disk Space
Then: $0.95
Now: $0.0011
(that’s 863 times higher back then)

OJ Simpson
Then: Everybody thought he did it
Now: Well, OK, some things never change…

I wonder how much things will change in 15 years…one thing’s for sure, there probably won’t be too many shows currently on TV that will make it that long….though I’m counting on The Simpsons still going strong!

Busy As A Beagle

I apologize that I’ve gotten off my posting pattern a bit. I like to get five or six posts a week, but I realize I’ve been coming up just a bit short on that. We’ve got a major project at work that I’ve been on for two and a half years, and the final pieces are coming together, and it’s been consuming lots and lots of time. I should see some time free up in two or three weeks, but until then, the postings may be a little less.
Hang in there because I’ve got lots of ideas in my head for some great posts!
I will also say that this has been a busy month in the financial sense. We’ve got a few major things going on this February:

  • Property taxes are due for the winter months
  • The last of the tax stuff arrived yesterday, so it’s time to get everything together and get it over to our tax prep specialist.
  • Paying off our furniture – We used a good portion of the monetary gifts from our September 2007 to purchase furniture for various rooms in the house. We made the purchases quite a ways back, but the store was offering (at the time) same as cash for a year or more. We qualified so we were free of making any payments for the entire time. We’ve had the money stashed away earning interest, but now it’s time to pay it off. I’ve had this day circled on the calendar for awhile, because if we didn’t pay it by the end of the promotion, it would add about 40% to the bill. That’s probably how they get a lot of people, but not this Money Beagle!

Answering A Reader: Our Own Child Care

In a comment to my last post, reader Dog Ate My Finances (love the name, by the way), asked why my wife doesn’t start her own child care to make up for the difference in pay that we’ll be taking once she leaves her job to have our baby.
There are some financial reasons and some non-financial reasons for not doing so. I’ll start with the financial reasons:

  • The local economy in Michigan is not that good. Many parents are pulling their kids out of day care as they are losing their jobs, so the market is very tight. As such, there would be no guarantee that it would even take off.
  • The costs involved are not something we’re interested in. To open a home day care would require significant costs for certification, licensing, as well as changes I’m sure that we’d have to make around the house. Not to mention insurance that would have to be taken out. While I wouldn’t mind someday taking the venture into a start-up, this isn’t a risk that we really want to take.

This leads me to the non-financial reasons of why this idea wouldn’t fly around here. The biggest is that my wife simply has no desire to continue in that role in a long term fashion. Right now, her and I are both excited for her to have the opportunity to focus on our baby.
Her background in college was in Child Development. She had hoped to do something to the level where she could work within a health system or some other parallel position, and work with children who needed special assistance or had developmental needs. She didn’t have her teaching certificate, although this is something that she briefly considered, so classroom instruction was out of the question.
But to get the type of jobs that I described, at least here in Michigan, she would have needed a Masters Degree. She didn’t want to simply accumulate loans, so before she made that jump, she wanted to work for awhile, and see if she even was interested in pursuing that. Which would give her time to pay down some of the student loan debt she accumulated in her undergraduate studies. The job that was most available was working in child care facilities. These decisions were made solely by her as her and i were just dating at the time.
While she enjoys the interactions with children and is great at what she does, the bottom line is that she doesn’t have the passion to commit to it for a career. Now, before anybody says that taking care of our children is parallel, let me just say that there’s a huge difference in taking care of our children versus taking care of somebody else’s. She has a passion and a fire for one and not the other. I’ll let you guess which one!
And, honestly, once we started talking about when we wanted to start our family, we came to the conclusion that the timing wouldn’t make it so that going back for her Master’s was a good idea, at least not yet. Why? Because either way, we wanted my wife to take some time to focus on our family. This was something we discussed before we were even engaged, so we’ve been on the same page with this for a long time. Going back to school now would simply have added debt that we knew we wouldn’t have time to pay off before we started our family.
So, while there are financial reasons involved, the non-financial aspects hopefully fill in the rest of the picture.

An Important Non Personal Finance Post

I wanted to take a moment away from the personal finance theme to send a great big hug to a very special woman in my life.
My mom has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer for over a year, and she completed her last scheduled treatment yesterday! It was great and I’m so proud of her, as I know everybody else is. I know it’s been tough and she’s gone through it with strength and resolve that I can’t even imagine.
I’m hoping and praying that the treatments worked and that it proves that she is cancer free. I know it takes a while to know that’s the case, but since they caught it at a very early stage (discovered at a routine checkup), the odds are definitely in her favor.
She’s so excited to be a grandma later this year once Baby Beagle comes along, and it’s great to think that she can hopefully have the treatments and all that out of the way as she enjoys her grandchild.
So, if any women reading this haven’t had their regular mammogram, it’s definitely time!