When I inspected the first broken shade the severed cord didn't have the fuzzy, frayed look where it passes through the cord lock as I expected. It was broken in a place that would have had little strain put on it. It looked like it had been chewed by the cat, but the lady wouldn't hear of that. She thought I was crazy. I went ahead and put up a temporary shade while Hunter Douglas did the restringing. No questions asked.
Now she is calling again with three more top-down, bottom-up broken shades. When I arrived she was busy with someone else and I began to look at the broken shades. These cord breaks looked just like the earlier failures. No frays, just breaks and also near-breaks in multiple places. How am I going to tell this lady her sweet little kitty is using her Applause shades for dental floss?
THE GUILTY PARTY
I pass the cat in the hall . . . he runs away. Have you ever seen a cat with a guilty look? This one really did! He knows I know! I quickly look to see if he has cords hanging out of his mouth. No luck. Do they make a test for cords on the breath for cats? I guess not.
Back to the shades for more detective work. I inspect all of the cords for breaks. There are two more shades with their cords in shambles and two others that are nearly broken through. Unless the cords are randomly disintegrating, they are being chewed. These shades are over window seats where the "Cat in the Cords" can merrily munch away all day waiting for his master's return.
I just waited until the customer was completely finished with the other party and then showed her where the cords are likely to break (near the cord lock), and that none of her shades show any wear at those points. I showed her the two shades that are about to break. I just had to tell her right out that these are not warranty failures, but her little kitty is gnawing away at her wallet.
She actually took it pretty well. She said, "Well, I have to have them fixed. Let me know how much." Ouch! $33 each times four, my cost, I told her. She said, "OK." I offered to put up temporary shades and she said, "No," because she didn't want me to incur any more costs because of her problem. Whew!
I recommended installing cord cleats and getting the cords out of the reach of the cat. She liked that idea. Another friend arrived taking the attention of the customer away from me, so I removed the broken shades and found that I had the necessary 24 cord cleats with me, so I started installing them.
Twenty minutes later I am about finished and the customer brings her friend over to introduce me. It turns out this lady's friend "works with builders of new homes." Realtor, I think. My customer gives me this terrific introduction: "Steve really knows how to give post-sale customer service and he has helped me several times." Customer's friend: "Do you have a card?"
All's well that ends well.
Steve Walton is president of Shades of the Future, Inc., Beaverton, OR; www.shadesofthefuture.com.