A hundred years ago Mark Twain said, “We picked up one excellent word – a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get… It is the thirteenth roll in a baker’s dozen. It is something thrown in gratis for good measure.” I also learned the word on my first trip to New Orleans. It was used to describe the little something extra that makes all the difference. It is the reason that the gumbo at one restaurant is better than that at another and you can’t determine why from the recipe.
I am a critic of lousy service. Several years ago I decided that I should be equally aggressive in recognizing something extra service. These are the best stories and each has resulted in a contribution to a worthy charity in acknowledgement of the person who provided the service. These stories are important because leadership at some level played a role.
Local entrepreneurs who build good business and do well serving their neighbors are a welcome respite from the others that dominate the landscape. Those that thrive against the mega-corporate competition are superstars.
Kusler’s Pharmacy is my local superstar. Janet is the entrepreneur that returned to town after selling another successful business she had founded. Janet and partner Mary Pat restarted the family business in 1999 which had been closed since her father retired in 1995.
Janet focuses on the pharmacy which has the uniqueness of also being a specialized compounding pharmacy. Mary Pat runs the kitchen and gift store, which is a great local resource for high quality gifts that would otherwise require a trip to a Seattle boutique, Williams and Sonoma, or the web.
Kusler’s success is largely a result of the persistent commitment to this small town community. Janet gives greatly to both the Snohomish community and also to her professional pharmacy community as a mentor. Kusler’s Pharmacy is a teaching site with alliances to University professional schools of pharmacy and has mentored more than 25 young people into the profession.
In honor of Kusler’s Pharmacy and the something extra they provide that makes all the difference, a contribution will be made to the Everett Community College Foundation.
I made a mistake and ended up scheduled to depart Seattle for Dallas at 11:40 pm when I thought I was leaving at 11:40 am. It was in early November when Hurricane Sandy had wrought destruction to the east coast and pandemonium to air travel nationwide. It was not possible to fix the mistake online or reach anyone via telephone to fix it.
Many hours over many years have been spent aboard Alaska Airlines flights. I took a risk and went to the airport at 10:00 am. My departing flight was not an Alaska Airlines flight. The airline on which I was booked was unable to assist, or at least had no interest in doing so.
A lagniappe oriented Alaska Airlines ticket agent solved the problem. It took her 20 minutes and several back room discussions with her supervisor and it cost me less than 20% of a the price of a new ticket which she called politely a mandatory change fee although I knew it was actually an appropriate and modest penalty for not paying attention.
In appreciation of the lagniappe level of service provided by the Alaska Airlines ticket agent whose name I failed to note, this month’s lagniappe contribution goes to the Redding, California Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Barrier Motors in Bellevue WA
Buying a new car has a long history of being a trying, negative experience. The stereotypes persist for those of us who have bought many cars over many years. Four or five guys smoking and joking under the awning in front of the dealership and it goes downhill from there.
Not so for reader Lacey who suggests Sue Frank of Barrier Motors in Bellevue as a Lagniappe recipient. From the initial meeting through a post purchase issue, Sue was a top-notch professional focused on ensuring her customer got what she needed and wanted at a fair price. Her knowledge of the vehicle was superior and she focused on educating the customer and facilitating a good decision.
All was good and then a week after the sale there was a problem with the car. Sue brought a nice loner car to the customer’s office and took the new car to the shop, had the problem fixed and returned it to the customer. Seems to me that the quality of leadership, culture of a business and integrity of an individual are most well defined by what happens when things don’t go well. Sue and Barrier Motors simply take care of the customer.
In recognition and appreciation of Sue’s professionalism the Lagniappe Award donation goes to her favorite charity, The Salvation Army’s Women’s Shelter.
Edwards House in Fort Collins, Colorado
I have spent 18 days working in Colorado this year. Most of those nights were spent at Edwards House in Fort Collins, CO. This was not only my lodging but also the place where colleague Richard and I led sixty leaders of leaders from nine countries through the Global Leadership Training program.
The something extra service provided by Luke and Rachael who run Edwards House was persistently exceptional. Outstanding meals, special dietary needs accommodated with a smile and all the accoutrements of a great historic venue. A big thanks to Rachael and Luke for understanding and delivering on lagniappe. A contribution will be made to Hearts & Horses in appreciation.
Johnnie’s Pastrami in Culver City, California
Johnnie’s Pastrami in Culver City, California is this month’s Lagniappe winner. A big thanks to recent Global Leadership Program participant Yoshio for the story.
Johnnie’s Pastrami has been in the same spot on Sepulveda Blvd since 1954. The place is completely an anachronism, a horseshoe counter with a few tables along the outside, a patio dining area with lava rock fire pit, Seeburg Jukeboxes at every table and for every two seats on the counter. Other than their Nike tennis shoes, everything about the wait staff looks like they’ve been there since the beginning. It’s very possible that the brine that the Pastrami cooks in has been there just as long.
I know what I want. A pastrami dip sandwich and order of fries. I’ve been going there since I was in high school, and that’s never changed. Well, this time, the onion rings catches my eye. So I ask “What kind of onion rings do you have?”, a puzzled look in response… “Beer batter or breaded?”, I refined the question.
She pauses, “breaded”. I respond, “Okay, I’ll have the fries”. “You don’t like breaded?” “Not really”.
She takes my order to the cooks and in the same motion, grabs an onion ring out from under the heat lamps and puts it in a small paper tub and places it proudly in front of me. “Try it, I’m sure you’ll like it.” So I did, and it was good, but I still prefer beer battered.
Kathy was not only interested in making sure I got what I wanted, she also wanted to show me she was proud of the food that she was serving up. And, she was going to give me a chance to change my mind if the breaded onion rings turned out to be ambrosia. In one motion, Kathy showed me pride in her work, and the food she was serving up, and a sincere drive to please the customer.
The breaded onion ring wasn’t ambrosia, but it came with a heaping serving of Lagniappe.
In recognition of Johnnie’s Pastrami and appreciation of Yoshio for sending in the story, this month’s Lagniappe contribution goes to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society supporting Yoshio’s friend who is running the half marathon fundraiser.
I presented a keynote talk at a corporate convention in Texas recently. One of the components of this particular presentation is an all participant exercise about Hall of Fame vs Wall of Shame customer service specific to leadership. From ten finalist companies, Southwest Airlines was the overwhelming winner.
Yes, this was Texas, and the audience, while international did include a core of Texans. No, the audience was not Southwest Airlines employees. So, in recognition appreciation of the Lagniappe level of service for which this group recognized Southwest Airlines, the February Lagniappe contribution goes to the Texas Fuzzy Friends animal shelter as requested.
Les Schwab, Yakima
The young family took a trip over the mountains and through the woods to grandparent’s house with the little boy (14 months) securely in car seat. The family car had been in the Dealer’s shop for routine maintenance including new brakes the prior week. After two hours at 70 mph the family had crossed the Cascade Mountains and was continuing East. An unusual noise had begun in the left front of the car. It is 4:30 pm the afternoon of the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. Shops are closing people want to go home.
For anything that is related to car tires, batteries, brakes, suspension an unusual noises from any of those areas there is only one place to go if you are in the Great Northwest. Les Schwab is a multi-time winner of the Route 2 Results Lagniappe award and the young family knew that was where there would be knowledgeable help.
The Yakima Les Schwab shop mechanic quickly discovered something big was wrong. The car was put on the lift and each of the lug nuts on the left front tire were removed by the mechanic’s fingers without any tools. The young family had driven over a mountain pass on wet roads at 70 mph with a front tire that could easily have come off.
Les Schwab was not the shop that had done the brake work on the car, yet they were happy to help out and that’s something extra service that makes all the difference. In honor of Les Schwab tires a Route 2 Results contribution will be made to The Wounded Warrior Project.
Milts Body Shop Inc, Omaha Nebraska
A big thanks to friend and subscriber Andrea, an Omaha business owner in for this lagniappe story.
Her fine German automobile was damaged in a hailstorm. A friend told her the only place to take it is Milt’s Body Shop in Omaha, Nebraska. The Results:
Wow… they were great! . They took a quick glance at it and said, “No problem. We’ll work with the insurance carrier and have it back for you when you get back from your trip from Phoenix.”
There was disagreement between the adjustors estimate and the cost of repairs Mike (son of the owner Milt) contacted the adjustor and worked everything out. It is perfect. Plus, I had a chip in my windshield that they took care of while it was in the shop and didn’t charge me for the work. When I went to pick up my car it was 100 degrees outside. My black car was inside their air conditioned shop… nice and cool. And as I drove away, I noticed a box of Russell Stover’s chocolates with a thank you note.
In recognition of Milt’s Body Shop superior customer service a contribution goes to Oasis For Animials.
PEMCO insurance is the winner this time. That is unique in that insurance companies tend to be right up there with airlines, banks, and cell phone companies on the Wall of Shame of customer service. Not so PEMCO.
Last year PEMCO made a mistake with our auto insurance account. A mistake is not a disqualifier. What really defines a company is how mistakes are dealt with. The mistake was discovered. A leader at PEMCO took accountability for the mistake and further made a decision to settle the situation in favor of the customer – us. That is something extra service and in recognition a contribution goes to The Emerald City Rotary Club Foundation
Northern Energy supplies the Propane that fuels some of our appliances including the cooktop. We have been a customer since building the house 20 years ago and are on a regular refill schedule.
Excessive use and exceptional cold over the holidays caused the cooktop flame to go out at breakfast on a day that the kitchen was to be in full swing preparing for the birthday party that evening.
My call was answered at 8am. We do not live near Northern Energy yet the driver showed up before 9am. Tank was filled and all safety checks completed and appliances were back on line by shortly after 9am. That is something extra service and it exemplifies the service we have enjoyed from Northern Energy over a pretty good chunk of a life-time. They are a great example of an excellent local small business that makes things work for our family.
The Route 2 lagniappe check will be written to a local high school trades program in honor of the fine service provided by the good people at Northern Energy.
San Francisco’s The Tablehopper -Marcia Gagliardi
Marcia Gagliardi is The Tablehopper, a San Francisco food writer. She knows what there is to know about the San Francisco restaurant scene. Her edgy and funny book, The Tablehopper, provides dining & drinking recommendations for most any circumstance. Marcia is a character and is Lagniappe personified. If you are headed to San Francisco, buy her book or send her an e-mail with the details of the dining experience you want. She will provide you with recommendations for an evening you won’t forget. That’s a little something extra that makes all the difference. In honor of The Tablehopper, this month’s Lagniappe contribution goes to Seattle’s FareStart.
Carmine’s - Goldie
Goldie is a server at Carmine’s on Rush Street in Chicago. Five of us enjoyed many bottles of Chianti and lots of great Italian food at a sidewalk table last Friday night.
Great location for watching whatever you like to watch. Goldie, however, is that little something extra that makes all the difference. Like when one of the Texans tried to order the Ravioli entrée. “Chef Boyardee doesn’t work here. You don’t want that. Get the Bolognese,” advises Goldie. She enjoys what she does and makes new friends every night.
Every Chicago trip includes at least one night at Carmine’s. Make reservations as they are packed.
A donation will be made to Seattle’s FareStart in appreciation of Goldie’s something extra that makes all the difference service.
Les Schwab Tires
Tuesday evening last week, I realized my car battery was getting weak. Early Wednesday morning, I headed to the local Les Schwab tire and accessory shop to get a new battery. I was there at 7am and realized they did not open until 8am. The door was unlocked and the crew was inside preparing for the day. I was welcomed in, seated with a cup of fresh brewed coffee, a newspaper. Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera and Ann Curry were on the flat screen and I was out of there by 7:25am, gone with a new battery and headed to Portland 35 minutes before they opened. This is yet another one of 30 years of examples as to why Les Schwab is my Tire, Battery and Accessory store for life and if you live in the west they should be yours too.
Big thanks to Assistant Manager Nick Wezenberg for the outstanding hospitality and something special service. A contribution will be made to the local schools foundation scholarship fund to support a graduating senior who will attend an automotive trade school program.
Sonoma Caterers – Amber
His granddaughter’s wedding was one of those magical moments that only comes along a few times in a lucky person’s lifetime. At 88 years of age, the retired minister conducted the ceremony in a nearly-cleared barrel room of a Sonoma County winery.
The temperature in a barrel room is good for wine, but not so good for an 88 year old man. He was soon overtaken and quite uncomfortable in the cold. Bride and groom, mothers and fathers, so wrapped up in the festivities didn’t notice the old gentleman’s discomfort.
One person did, however. Caterer Amber Balshaw, gracefully hustling to set tables and present the first course, saw Papa Bob slumping in a chair and beginning to shiver.
“Are you okay?” she asked gently touching him on the shoulder.
He looked up. “Cold,” is all he said.
“Come with me.”
The better part of an hour went by before Bob’s absence was noted. A short search of the winery found the old man in an adjacent room, a much warmer one, headquarters for the catering crew and the cooking. Sitting in a chair where he could supervise the proceedings, he was asked to taste test each item before it was carried to the barrel room for guests. Comfortable, WARM, and smiling, one of those finest days of life was enhanced through the kindness of Amber and her crew. And that’s a little something extra that makes all the difference.
If you need a caterer in the California wine country, call Amber Balshaw at Sonoma Caterers. Phone: (707) 769-7208
Big thanks to reader Dave Delgardo for this story. Check him out at: http://thechurchoftheopenroad.blogspot.com
Jeff Turfarolo DDS
“This is Jelena. I can help you.” This is how the phone is answered in my dentist for life’s office. I like it. Maybe it’s because over the years, the Dr. Jeff Tufarolo team always does help. A family member takes a bite out of the asphalt and the Tufarolo team makes a U-turn and heads back to the office to repair damaged teeth and sooth wounded pride. These are fine people doing a little something extra every day for patients and the community. Best of all they tolerate the profound insight and side-splitting humor that I offer from under the nitrous mask and that’s a little something extra that makes all the difference.
A $100 contribution will be made to the American Red Cross in recognition of the good folks at Jeff Tufarolo, DDS.
Robert spends his day as an airport van jockey for a local hotel and his afternoons and evenings waiting tables at Don Carlos Restaurant. The thing about Robert, however is that he doesn’t wait tables, he serves people. He makes sure that diners have an excellent experience. Sharon is a subscriber in Texas and she tells the story of a recent thirty person family event. Robert is so good that she requested he be the waiter for this large family event on the patio. Robert is in his sixties and the restaurant is the second job he works each day. Tired? No one can tell because Robert is always engaged with his customers. Smiling, joking, gauging his customer’s needs not only for food and drink but also for laughing, joking, singing and always providing just what is needed for the group at that point in time. Thirty drink orders – got it. Thirty dinner orders – got it and if it’s not right it’s free. One man serving thirty people in the party and all food, drink and interaction is done with a real joy just to be of service. Now that is a little something extra service.
Thanks to Sharon for the story and $100 goes from us to Cal Farley’s Boys Town.
P.S. Between the time Sharon originally sent this story and now Robert’s has had a big change in his life. A Marriot Hotel District Manager was a customer at Don Carlos and she was served by Robert. She returned several times and brought executive colleagues. Significantly impressed she recruited Robert and he is now managing training and serving a new set of customers for this region of the Marriot hotel chain.
Fluevog Shoes – Clayton & Stephanie
Women buying shoes is a bigger deal than I fully understand. Clayton and Stephanie at the Seattle Fluevog store understand selling shoes. They understand buying shoes. Most importantly they understand how to merge the two and build a long-term customer relationship in the process. The relationship they build is unique, however, in that it is not just to them personally but also to the store and the brand. An honest and persistent commitment to make sure that the customer gets exactly the right shoe for the need. A true partnership with the customer to make it happen – and that is a little something extra service.
Expert shopper and Boek to Business reader Lacey suggested Clayton and Stephanie and Fluevog Shoes as this month’s Lagniappe winner. In a day of shopping with visits to many stores, she experienced no service, bad service, average service, good service. Then at the Fluevog store, she received great service with a little something extra.
“Fluevog—Unique soles for Unique souls.” This is a very cool company. Check them out here!
A contribution goes to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance in appreciation of the “something extra service” that Clayton, Stephanie and the team at the Seattle Fluevog store provides.
McClain Insurance – Claudia McClain & Nick Pembroke
Anticipation. A novel customer service concept. Service that doesn’t just react to a request but lives ahead of the request and anticipates how to best serve the customer. Claudia McClain and her team at McClain Insurance do just that. She is our insurance agent for life. Claudia doesn’t rest on the annuity benefit to her business of automatic renewals. Policy comes due for renewal and we get a suggestion for a better coverage at lower cost for longer time. Being a customer of McClain Insurance makes life easier and on top of that they are just a great bunch of people.
A contribution goes to the Snohomish School District Foundation in appreciation of the “something extra service” that Claudia and the McClain team provide.
Lowes Hardware – Chris Espe
Washington’s extreme 2009 winter cold froze and cracked a shower valve in the beach house causing a persistent water leak. It was old and when disassembled showed no brand name or part number to allow a replacement. Visits to specialty plumbing supply houses and several local big-box hardware retailers got no results. John was then referred to the plumbing man at Lowe’s Hardware Smokey Point store, Chris Espe. Chris took on the search. The valve was not to be found in the Lowe’s data base, stock or access. Like the old adage, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, Chris stayed on it for a week. He ultimately identified the brand (one that Lowe’s doesn’t carry) and contact information for John to follow-up with the manufacturer for lifetime warranty and replacement. After, “Sorry I can’t help you,” from 6 customer service posers John was fortunate to find Chris who may be a plumbing guy but in reality is a customer solution guy. And that is a little something extra service. Thanks to subscriber Dr. John Vandree for this Lagniappe story.
This month’s contribution goes to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Legacy Medical Center Salmon Creek – Surgical Services Team
There is not much that is more frightening than the diagnosis of brain tumor. The MRI showed the tumor on a Tuesday. It was successfully removed and discovered to be benign on Friday, a very long 72 hours later. This month’s Lagniappe award does not begin to appropriately appreciate the Legacy Salmon Creek Surgical Services Team for the absolutely incredible caring, communication, handholding and support that they provided. Accolades and much love to Gwen Morgan, Chaplain – Marla McCune, RN – Rhonda Turner, Director of Surgical Services – Jim Wade, RN – Jamie Ingle, CST – Dr. Nick Schiller, Anethesiologist – Dr. George Shanno, Neurosurgeon.
The lagniappe contribution goes to Legacy Salmon Creek Foundation.
Tops Food & Drug – Dale Boedry
Dale Boedry is the produce man at my local grocery. I like to cook so I come in contact with him regularly. He runs a fine shop. Nice country public market-like displays, clean, fresh and an overall pleasant environment. With a full afternoon of cooking ahead I needed a particular item peeled, chopped and ready to add to a recipe. I had seen it in that form in the cooler on prior visits. I inquired – out of stock today. By the time I had put a few more items in the cart Dale had taken one, peeled it, chopped it, put it in a plastic container and placed it in my cart. And that’s a little something extra that makes a difference.
I asked Dale about his favorite charity and he mentioned his church so a $100 check will be sent.
Tom Sullivan, DVM
Tom Sullivan, DVM, the animal eye specialist and his support team at Animal Eye Clinic in Seattle have earned the October lagniappe award of a contribution to Seattle Humane Society. Our young male boxer woke up blind several Sunday’s ago. A 75 pound male Boxer crashing into things and getting lost in the yard goes from comedic to sad pretty quick. Animal Eye Clinic was booked two weeks out yet we were in the exam room with Dr. Tom Sullivan at 11am Monday morning, two hours after a phone call. Tom’s interaction with a dog is something extra from the outset. He and his team made a negative situation a positive experience and that takes some unique skills and team work.
Dell – Lenwood Davis
My expectations for service from telecom and computer companies are not high. I have been shocked recently by several circumstances that are changing my perspective. Recently I opened what appeared to be a CNN news bulletin. Dumb idea! It was a sophisticated piece of malware. Lenwood Davis a Dell Gold Customer service tech rep solved the problem and it was tough because the bugs were not well known at that point. Lenwood was patient, stayed with it until solved, called back when the phone connection was broken and followed up several times after the service to make sure that all was good.
I told him about the Lagniappe contribution and asked where he would like it to go. He requested Catholic Community Services of New Orleans as his family was helped by them after Hurricane Katrina.
Kennewick Best Western – David
I ride a motorcycle and I think that in most cases planning where I will stop for the night constricts the options of a trip. I left late on a recent ride to Hells Canyon. By 10:30pm and numerous calls I learned that a Sting/Police concert and a big horse show had taken virtually every room within a hundred mile radius of where I wanted to stop for the night. My last call was to David at the Kennewick Best Western. He conveyed the same message but then asked, “Where are you headed?” David asked me to hold while he made some calls and ultimately booked the only available room in Hermiston, Oregon an hour away but on my route.
David understands “lagniappe” and for providing a little something extra has earned a Route 2 contribution to the Alzheimers Association.
McDaniels Do-It Center – “T” & Sharon
I’m a hardware kind of guy. Every weekend I spend time and significant money at McDaniels Do-it Center, one of my favorite businesses. McDaniel’s is unique in that they have floor people who actually know hardware, tools and how to for any home project. McDaniel’s is even more unique in that several of their most knowledgeable hardware people are women. Thanks to T for going beyond simply finding what I need but also making sure what I think I need is really what I need. Thanks to Sharon for counsel and support in all things nursery and patience in the construction of the big multi-wine barrel garden.
In appreciation of T and Sharon and the little something extra they provide, a Route 2 contribution goes to the Southern Poverty Law Center.