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21 of the Best Customer Service Stories Ever

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Think customer service is becoming a lost art? These companies prove that theory wrong in 21 big ways. 

1. LEGO

LEGO pieces seem to go missing all of the time, and they usually reappear embedded in the soft soles of your feet when you least expect it. But when 7-year-old Luka Apps of Highworth, Wiltshire, England, lost his Jay ZX minifig during a shopping trip, he wrote LEGO to ask for a replacement:

“Hello. My name is Luka and I am seven years old. with all my money I got for Christmas I bought the Ninjago kit of the Ultrasonic Raider. The number is 9449. It is really good. My Daddy just took me to Sainsburys and told me to leave the people at home but I took them and I lost Jay ZX at the shop as it fell out of my coat. I am really upset I have lost him. Daddy said to send you a email to see if you will send me another one. I promise I won’t take him to the shop again if you can. Thank you.”

Spoiler alert: Richard from LEGO Consumer Services sent him the Jay ZX minifig—and a little something extra. Richard explained that his bosses wouldn’t let him replace the minifig for free, but he decided to go over their heads:

“Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever ever let it happen ever again. He told me to tell you, ‘Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

After getting the OK from “Sensei Wu,” Richard upgraded Luka: “You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight! Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.”

2. DELTA AIR LINES

In 2013, Jessie Frank was headed to Atlanta to pick her daughter up from diabetes summer camp. Unfortunately, a series of mechanical problems and weather delays caused Frank to miss her connecting flight. She found herself stuck on standby in Washington, D.C., with seven people ahead of her in line. Miraculously, the agent called her name, and an attendant—who wasn't in uniform—met her at the doorway, helped her get her carry-on stowed, and located her seat.

When the plane landed in Atlanta, the flight attendants made an announcement saying that they had the pleasure of serving a very special guest on the flight—the CEO of Delta. That’s when Frank realized the man who had helped her was CEO Richard Anderson. He had given up his seat, in favor of sitting on a jump seat in the cockpit, so Frank could get to her daughter on time.

3. RITZ-CARLTON, AMELIA ISLAND

If you’re a parent, or if you were once a young child with a strong attachment to a special stuffed animal yourself, then you understand how positively devastating it can be when that toy goes missing. In 2012, Chris Hurn’s family had just arrived home from a trip to the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida, when his young son realized that his stuffed giraffe, Joshie, was nowhere to be found. Trying to buy time, Hurn explained to his son that Joshie had just extended his vacation by a few days.

Luckily, when the Hurns called the hotel, they were informed that the giraffe had indeed been discovered in the hotel laundry. To back up his fib, Hurn asked the Loss Prevention team to snap a picture of the stuffed animal sitting by the pool. The team did that and more, posing Joshie all over the hotel—getting a massage at the spa, chatting with a parrot, and even driving a golf cart. Joshie, the pictures, and a bunch of Ritz-Carlton goodies arrived in the mail a few days after the phone call.

4. KROGER

While waiting on a prescription at Kroger in Suwanee, Georgia, April Villada and her young daughter were chatting about the possibility of monsters under the bed in her new big-girl room—a great concern for many youngsters, of course. Villada was called to pick up the Rx and was surprised when the pharmacist handed her a spray bottle, in addition to the prescribed medication. It was a “custom potion,” complete with an official pharmacy label and directions, that would keep monsters away if sprayed once a day. In a Facebook post, Villada called the token "such a brilliant idea and so very thoughtful!"

5. MARRIOTT

You’ve heard of giving the shirt off of your back, but how about the pants off of your legs? That’s what happened several years ago when a customer in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, packed the wrong black pants for a business meeting. About 10 minutes before his meeting, the customer realized that the black pants he packed were actually his wife’s. Panicked, he ran down to the front desk to ask if there were any extra pants in the lost and found. There weren’t—but the associate working at the front desk just happened to be the customer’s exact size. The associate changed into the casual pants he had with him and let the customer borrow his uniform pants.

6. NETFLIX

Coolcaesar via WikimediaCommons //CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’ve ever been in a “click to chat” experience with a company, you’ll know it can often be painfully scripted. But Netflix seems to have given their customer service representatives quite a bit of leeway—and users have noticed. Here’s a screenshot of a conversation with “Cpt. Mike of the good ship Netflix,” who took a simple request to fix a stalled episode of Parks and Rec and transformed it into a fun interaction.

7. VIRGIN TRAINS

About a year ago, Adam Greenwood was traveling on Virgin Trains when nature called. He realized, too late, that there was no toilet paper in his bathroom stall. Naturally, he whipped his phone out and tweeted about his dilemma, presumably to be funny. Virgin Trains noticed, and a representative delivered toilet paper to him post haste.

8. NINTENDO

Not long after the Nintendo Wii first was released, a Redmond, Washington, resident broke her system. She called Nintendo, and when the employees realized that she was right in town—Nintendo's American headquarters is also in Redmond—they invited her to stop over with her machine. She did, and they fixed it, apologizing profusely for the 30-minute wait.

9. NEIMAN MARCUS

Kristi Gustafson Barlette got a great deal during an online sale at Neiman Marcus and ordered several items at more than 50 percent off retail price. Awesome—until they appeared at her door in a soaking wet cardboard box. The packing material was also drenched, to the point that it had dissolved into the fabric of some of the clothing. Barlette decided to call Neiman Marcus as opposed to FedEx, and she wasn’t disappointed.

The representative offered to replace the order for free and mail it overnight—but upon closer examination, they discovered that two of the four items ordered were now sold out. Instead, Neiman Marcus issued her a credit to pay for dry cleaning on the two pieces she decided to keep, and sent someone to Barlette’s office to pick up the two irreparably damaged dresses, which she also received credit for.

10. WARBY PARKER

Last year, Michael John Mathis accidentally left his Warby Parker reading glasses on the Acela, the Amtrak service that runs between Washington, D.C. and Boston. He was a bit bummed but replaced his beloved glasses the next day. Much to his surprise, a package arrived in the mail a few days later: Two pairs of the exact same reading glasses and a copy of On the Road, accompanied by a note:

“Hi Michael, This might be odd… but you sat across from me on the train ride from NYC to Boston a few weeks ago and left your glasses on the train! As luck would have it, I happen to be the GC of Warby Parker, and there is nothing I like more than a good mystery… I hope these find you in good health! (also, we noticed your lenses were scratched so we made you a fresh pair!) Sincerely, AK

That would be Warby Parker’s General Counsel, Anjali Kumar. Impressed by her detective work? Here’s how Mathis figured it went down: “I imagine it was not that tough—just very kind. Not that many pair of that style, in that exact prescription, sold to a guy in NYC, plus I ordered another pair the following day online. That plus a quick check of a photo on facebook or linkedin to be sure I had been the guy sitting across from her on the train."

11. MORTON'S STEAKHOUSE

Author and business consultant Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a flight that was the last leg of a long day of traveling. It just happened to occur over dinnertime, and he knew he would be starving when he deplaned and headed home. “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” Imagine his surprise when he got off the plane to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 ounce Morton’s porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. Shankman noted that the Tweet had to be noticed, someone had to get approval for the idea, a cook had to make his food, the food had to be driven 23.5 miles away from the nearest Morton’s, and someone had to track down his flight information and figure out where he was landing to meet him at the right location. All while his stomach was grumbling on a 2.5-hour flight. Pretty impressive.

12. SAINBURY'S

Sainsbury’s, a grocery store in the U.K., must have been pretty amused when they received a letter from a three-year-old girl named Lily. “Why is tiger bread called tiger bread?” she asked, referring to one of their bakery items. “It should be called giraffe bread.” Lily was just being observant—the pattern on the bread does resemble a giraffe more than a tiger. To everyone’s surprise, Chris King, a customer service manager at the chain, responded. “I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea—it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.” He enclosed a gift card, and the bread was renamed.

13. ZAPPOS

When one Zappos customer’s mother had some medical treatment that left her feet numb and sensitive to pressure—and also rendered most of her shoes totally useless—she ordered her mother six pairs of shoes from the online retailer, hoping that at least one of them would work. After receiving the shoes, her mother called Zappos to get instructions on how to return the shoes that didn’t work, explaining why she was returning so many shoes. Two days later, she received a large bouquet of flowers from Zappos, wishing her well and hoping that she recovered from her treatments soon. Two days later, the customer, her mother and her sister were all upgraded to “Zappos VIP Members,” which gives them all free expedited shipping on all orders.

Not impressed? Just Google “Zappos” and “customer service” and you’re bound to find something that astounds you.

14. TRADER JOE'S

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A Redditor’s 89-year-old grandfather got snowed in a couple years ago and didn’t have much in the house for meals. His daughter called several markets in the area to see if any of them had grocery delivery services, but the only one that said they did was Trader Joe’s. They don’t, actually, but were willing to help out this WWII vet. As the man’s daughter placed an order, the Trader Joe’s representative on the phone recommended other items that would be good for her dad’s low-sodium diet. An up-sell, you may be asking? Nope. They didn’t charge her a dime for the delivery or the groceries.

15. SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

While these other stories have been nice, this one might actually make you teary (it made me teary, and I’m a hard sell). A man was en route from a business trip in L.A. to his daughter’s home in Denver to see his 3-year-old grandson for the last time. The boy, beaten into a coma by his mother’s live-in boyfriend, was being taken off of life support at 9 p.m. that evening so his organs could be used to save other lives. The man’s wife called Southwest to arrange the last-minute flight and explained the emergency situation. Unfortunately, the man was held up by L.A. traffic and long lines at LAX and didn’t make it to the gate on time. When he finally made it there 12 minutes after the plane was scheduled to leave, he was shocked to find the pilot waiting for him. He thanked the pilot profusely, and the pilot said, “They can’t go anywhere without me, and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”

16. AMAZON

If you order a PlayStation online and it gets snatched from your doorstep instead of being delivered safely to your living room, that’s your problem, right? Or maybe it’s the delivery service’s problem. Or it’s the problem of the neighbor who signed for your expensive gaming system but didn’t bother to bring it inside to protect it from sticky fingers. Wherever the blame lands, it’s definitely not the problem of the company who fulfilled their end of the bargain by shipping the system using a secure method. However, when this scenario happened to an Amazon customer a few years ago, he called them to beg—plead—to see if there was anything that could be done because his son was expecting a PlayStation from Santa. Much to the customer’s shock, they not only sent another, but they didn’t even charge him for shipping. It even made it there on time for Christmas.

17. RITZ-CARLTON, BALI

Because of their son’s food allergies, a family vacationing at the Ritz-Carlton, Bali, was always careful to bring their own supply of specialized eggs and milk. In this particular instance, however, the food was ruined en route. The Ritz-Carlton manager couldn’t find any of the special items in town, but his executive chef recalled that a store in Singapore sold them. The chef contacted his mother-in-law, who lived there, and had her purchase the items, then fly to Bali (about 2.5 hours) to deliver them.

18. NORDSTROM

The tales of Nordie’s customer service are so mind-boggling that some of them are considered urban legend, but here's one that’s definitely true. In 2011, a member of the security staff noticed a woman crawling around on her hands and knees on the sales floor. When he discovered that she was looking for a diamond that had fallen out of her wedding ring while she was trying on clothes, he got down and searched with her. He also recruited a small team of people to help comb the floors. Eventually, the crew painstakingly picked through the dirt and debris in the store vacuum cleaners before coming up with the woman’s diamond.

19. APPLE

This one may turn out to be apocryphal, but the story was all over the place after the launch of the iPad 2. Apparently a man bought an iPad online, then returned it to the company almost immediately, affixing a Post-It to the front of the device that simply read, “Wife said no.” Returns processors must have gotten a kick out of it, because the story eventually made its way to a couple of Apple VPs, who refunded the customer and returned the iPad with an attached Post-It that said, “Apple said yes.”

20. LEXUS

Most of us have experienced it at one time or another—the dreaded vehicle recall. It’s usually some minor part, but replacing it ends up being a huge inconvenience for the car owner, even when replacement parts are free. Lexus certainly knows how to take the sting out of that. Although previous recalls had been addressed by sending technicians to the affected customers’ homes to fix the problem on the spot, when the Lexus ES 350 sedan was recalled in 2006, the company decided to ask owners to come on into the dealership. Instead of sitting in a waiting room waiting for their cars to be worked on, customers were given a brand new Lexus instead, no questions asked.

21. GAYLORD OPRYLAND

A writer was in Nashville for a blogging conference in 2012 and adored the clock radio at her hotel, the Gaylord Opryland. It wasn’t just any clock radio, but a clock radio/noise machine with very specific spa-style music that relaxed this writer as if she were actually getting a deep-tissue massage every time it played. Wanting to experience the same serenity at home, the blogger took to Twitter to ask the folks at the hotel where she could purchase one. Their response, essentially, was, “Sorry, it's made just for us, but here’s a similar one at the Sharper Image.” Unfortunately, the one they recommended lacked the spa music feature that the blogger loved so much. She told them as much and thanked them for the effort anyway. When she returned to her room later, she found a second clock radio sitting next to the permanent one, along with a note saying, “We hope you enjoy these spa sounds at home.”

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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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