Posted by: mick | October 16, 2007

A lost art

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of customer service lately.  Jason knows that this has always been a big deal to me; I notice the little things when we dine out or go to a store, and I always appreciate them.  I understand that everyone has bad days and, having been a server myself for many years, I make a lot of allowances.  For me, though, a little consideration goes a long way.

When we bought our bikes, the salesman was going on about the importance of supporting local business.  I think he had a point in many respects, though he was a little extreme.  I do try to support local business as often as possible, and go to a local store first if I can before resorting to online shopping.  I do this because, in the long run, the level of service is typically much higher, and that is worth the difference in price to me.

A recent yarn experience has me rethinking my stance, unfortunately.  I’ve been really wanting to try my hand at colorwork, and I’ve decided to try the ever-popular Endpaper Mitts.  I’ve been doing my yarn shopping at Stitching Memories since moving here, and I couldn’t be happier with their shop.  I’d heard great things about Handweavers’ Inspiring Yarn Shop, the other LYS here in Kalamazoo, so I thought I’d give them a try as well.  I frequented two different LYSs in Boston, and each carried different yarns, accessories, etc.  Handweavers was cute; they had a great atmosphere, but didn’t have the selection that Stitching Memories has.  However, the staff was nice and they handed over the Brown Sheep color book.  I picked out two colorways of a fingering weight for the mitts and, anxious to get started, was assured that they’d call me as soon as the yarn came in.  I was also assured that it would take 1-2 weeks at the most.

Two weeks later, I gave them a call to check if my yarn had come in, as I was really excited to get started.  I was met with the phone equivalent of a blank stare.  The person who answered, after several long pauses, said that my order had just recently been placed.  I asked why it had taken over two weeks to place an order, and was met with another silence.  I then asked if they’d call me when it got in, and was assured they would.

I called again today (over four weeks after placing the first order) and was given the run around again.  This time, the woman told me, “I assume they placed your order.  Sometimes things get back-ordered, certain colors.”  So I asked if she knew for sure if it had been ordered.  Silence.  I then asked if it was back-ordered, if that’s the problem.  She said she didn’t know.  At this point I’m trying not to laugh at her for how ridiculous this is.  After an awkward silence, she says, “Would you like me to call them and ask?”  Um, that would be nice.  I then tell her that I’m frustrated because it’s been over four weeks.  I completely understand that mistakes happen, but it would have been nice for someone to contact me in the over four weeks since I placed the order to keep me abreast of the situation.  She said she’d call me back later today with the update.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the call.  I won’t be shopping at Handweavers again.  I understand that things happen beyond people’s control, and I’m sure yarn suppliers aren’t always reliable.  The thing is, I know that some of Handweavers’ yarn is more expensive than at other shops.  I bought two skeins of Wildfoote there for socks, and two weeks later got two skeins of the exact same yarn at Stitching Memories for almost two dollars fewer per skein.  There are many reasons for this, I’m sure, and price alone wouldn’t make me forsake a yarn shop.  But the utter lack of consideration and customer service will.  I’m sure there are others who have had wonderful experiences there, but mine was bad enough to keep me from going back.

I just had a wonderful experience with an online yarn company, however.  I needed to buy some laceweight for my mom’s shawl and tried a supplier that Lindsay always seems pleased with: Sarah’s Yarns.   I ordered a cone of Zephyr Wool Silk in pewter and two balls of Sarah’s Yarns cashmere-merino blend.  I receieved a confirmation email right away, and the yarn was shipped literally within the half hour of my order.  I received it today, and included in the package was a color card for both of the yarns I ordered, free of charge, as well as a price list.  I cannot recommend their service enough.  It’s funny that an online business was so much more welcoming and customer oriented than a local one.  Go figure.

Okay, that’s my rant for today.  I’ll continue to try and shop locally, but I know I’ve also got a great place to buy bulk yarns when the mood strikes.  Now I’m going to go play with my new yarn.  Thanks, Sarah!



  1. You certainly tried to support one of your LYS – and no one can fault you for going elsewhere for the yarn and better service. It’s a shame that shop did not make a better effort at making sure a potential long time customer was satisfied.

  2. The same thing happened to me with Handweavers. I want so desperately to like them…

    Have you heard of Briar Rose Fibers? It’s a local-ish hand-dyer and she’s having an open house in a couple weeks. Let me know if you want more info because it’s not on her web site.

  3. I know there’s a bit of a debate raging about Sarah’s, but I totally agree with you about service. I also think there’s a huge difference between shopping at a small, online business and going to a Michael’s or even *gasp* Wal-Mart.

    Something else great about Sarah’s that I just tried for the first time: free swatching samples! For the cost of shipping (which was $8+ in my case) I got as many swatching samples as I wanted, plus the color cards for those yarns. She carries AWESOME, incredible, soft cashmere at a very good price, and of course I am a devotee of anything from Jaggerspun . . .

    Let me know how the lace goes — I really enjoyed working from a cone — no messy splicing or ends to weave in 🙂

  4. I am sooo sorry about Handweavers!!

    They are soo weird. If you don’t get the one normal person the whole experience in there is, uh, weird, frustrating, and just creepy.

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