(Editorial published in the Anchorage Daily News on March 12, 2003)
This is a story about service and why one business wins out over another when both are unknown. But, let me start at the beginning. Sometime earlier this winter, I became aware of a little critter that had started calling my house his home. At first he seemed quiet and polite enough, I even named him Shadow. Shadow went out early in the morning and came home late at night, so I really didn’t get too worked up over him. Then Shadow rudely took advantage of my hospitality and invited some friends over.
I found this out one night when my parrot and cockatoo launched themselves into the air from their cage while screeching at the top of their lungs and circling something on the floor. Thanks to some recent eye surgery, I couldn’t really see what had caught their attention but to hear them tell it, it was at least as dangerous as a raging elephant in heat. My dog hopped down from the couch and went running around the room chasing every dust ball he could find while barking hysterically. Of course, having Pergo floors means he gets no traction. So every time he found a dust ball he thought needed dispatching, his little legs would race as hard as they could and he would go nowhere.
Meanwhile, the mice were all sitting in front of the fire place taking bets on how long it would be before he could actually launch himself and how many pieces of furniture it would take to stop him once he started. When this scene repeated itself the next night and then moved to my downstairs, I decided it was time to take action. But killing Shadow just seemed wrong after all the time we’d spent together. So I bought some humane traps.
I had visions of gently capturing these critters and bringing them to some parkland where I would set them free while music swelled in the background. There was just one small glitch in my plan. They wouldn’t go in the traps. As the problem worsened, it occurred to me I was going to have to get professional help and that if I did, living free in a park was probably not in their future. I didn’t know any exterminators either by reputation or referral from friends. So I went to the yellow pages.
The first number I called came from a big half page ad that caught my eye. The lady who answered seemed barely able to muster the energy to say hello. She told me that I could come in and buy traps and that’s what she’d recommend. I explained I’d never done this before. In Barrow you just don’t have mice in your house. Lemmings maybe, and the occasional nosy polar bear, but not mice. I asked for help and what it would cost to have someone come out and show me what to do and where to place the traps. I explained the other animals in my house and my need to assure that whatever was put down, they wouldn’t be harmed. She could barely stifle her yawn and repeated that I should just come buy some traps. I thanked her, hung up and called the next ad that caught my eye.
The gentleman who answered could not have been more helpful. In fact, he sounded downright interested. He talked with me for about 15 minutes, offered me all kinds of information about different things that could be done and had a worker at my house before morning was out. The gentleman who came was equally helpful. I think he realized he might have a problem on his hands when he found out I’d named one of the mice. He told me the poison he put down would cause them to get sleepy and that they’d just die in their sleep. I don’t know whether this is true or whether he said it to comfort me but either way I appreciated it. He showed me what to look for and where to look should this happen again. He laid traps out and then gave me a detailed list of where each was. He made me feel as though he cared about me as a customer and actually wanted to do his best for me.
So be aware that all the big ads in the world won’t do your business any good if the person answering the phone leaves the impression that you could give a darn about having customers. And remember to never name your little mice friends. It just makes it that much harder to kill them.
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