I admit it. There are times when my attitude mirrors that of Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino – old, crotchety, and yearning for yesteryear. I’m not sure if things were really better in decades past, but there are times when it certainly feels like it.

Case in point: I spent much of my younger days working service industry jobs, and the most notably difference between the jobs I held and the experience I now endure as a customer are wildly different. Back in my day (there I go again…) it was modeled and expected that customer service was the epicenter of building a strong business. That is, if you wanted folks to spend their hard-earned money at your business, you would give them exceptional service. The extreme of this is “the customer is always right,” but the reality is, it’s as simple as greeting folks with a smile, remembering the names and interests of your repeat customers, and sending them away feeling satisfied. The goal of a great customer experience is to remind the consumer why they should spend their money at your business. For those of you who remember the opening jingle from the television show “Cheers,” you want a place where everybody knows your name.

When a comic and game store opened in my local mall, I was ecstatic. It was not only a chance to spend, er, invest some time and money on a personal passion, but it was a great opportunity to “shop local first” – something my particular community takes seriously.

My first experiences at the store were simply amazing. A young woman – I’ll call her “Jessica” (mainly because that’s her name) – was the epitome of all those criteria I listed earlier. Within my first couple of visits, Jessica had remembered my name, and my interests. She even struck-up conversation and seemed genuinely interested in making my experience awesome. In addition to this, she never failed at setting aside the titles I desired. I not only looked forward to my trips to the store, but somehow easily spent more money on each trip than I had planned on.

A few months into the “relationship” with the store, it moved locations within the mall. Soon thereafter, Jessica moved on to other endeavors. The words of Han Solo had never been more true: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

It didn’t take long for the experience to go from “Wow!” to “WTF!?” The young man, who is apparently the manager, is to positive customer service what the Sith are to warm feelings and hugs. Not only was I no longer greeted warmly, but he consistently gave the impression I was bothering him. And, as far as knowing my name and my interests, forget about it. I visited the store close to once a week for more than a year and every single time he would ask my name – as if he was meeting me for the first time.

Of course, if that was it, it would certainly be enough to become a frustrated customer. The straw that broke the Rancor’s back, however, was when I went to retrieve the variant copies the manager promised (literally promised!) and not only were there no variants, but my entire “Subscriber” bag seemed to disappear altogether, effectually meaning I was kicked to the curb.

Mind you, there are two important things to understand: (1) I tried. I really, really tried to make this relationship work. While I certainly left the store disappointed and frustrated on several occasions, never once did I go-off on the staff; and (2) My experience was not isolated – I have spoken with other (former) customers of the store who have reported the same or similar dealings.

So, sadly, I left my local comic and game retailer, and have succumb to subscribing to my comics from a store on the other side of the country. Sure, it’s now merely an exchange of funds for merchandise, but at least the relationship is straight-forward, and I’m not made to feel like I’m bothering the staff. (Although I will say, the comics arrive on time, well-packaged and in great condition).

What are your thoughts? Is a positive customer service experience too much to ask for? Should the benefits of shopping locally trump shopping online, regardless of the local shop’s attitude?