"I doubt it but you could always try the one up the hill." With that, he moved on to serve another customer.
I thought I'd give it a shot and it was the only one of the three that I'd never been to before, so I set off back up the hill and ironically, along the route back home. At this point, I also need to mention another project I've been mulling over and that is to build raised planters around our quite deep pond, to stop our grandson, who has now found his walking legs, from deciding to explore the bottom of it. At the back of my mind, I was wondering where I could pick up some cheap pallets that would supply the needed planks and feet.
Anyway, back to the story. I drove up the long, dusty track to a large untraveled car park, which was quite empty. The other two centres had nicely paved roads, with marked out (but far too narrow) parking bays in white paint. This made me wonder how successful I would be, but I parked up anyway. Getting out of the car, I noticed three stacks of wooden pallets and made a mental note to ask if any were for sale. I walked to the small shop entrance, past the bags of compost and sand, decorative coloured pebbles, sand coloured stone herons, pixies and gnomes and walked through the entrance.
The counter and shop were small but beyond that was a huge yard, full of weird and wonderful garden delights, as well as the standard garden centre offerings. After wandering around, I was surprised and pleased to find a huge range of 'growing pots' of many different sizes. I selected what I needed and went to the counter to pay.
"Is this your first time here?" He asked. "I don't think I've seen you before."
I explained that it was and why I was there.
"What are you growing?" I told him they were willow and hazel whips, at which he gave me the benefit of his experience of those trees, the type of soil they preferred and of possible challenges I may face. A small queue was building up, but a lady appeared and started to deal with them. I paid for the pots and just as I was about to walk away, as an afterthought I asked him about the pallets.
"Take as many as you like," he replied, "just not the blue ones as they belong to the courier. What do you need them for?"
I told him I was building some raised planters. He then shared his experiences about building planters as well and explained how to best use the planks for exactly that purpose. As I had a baby seat in the back of the car, taking one wasn't an option at that point, but I said I'd call back for one.
When I walked back to the car park, I had another surprise as it was now nearly full.
That afternoon, I was back, rear seats folded down and ready for the challenge of manhandling a pallet into the back of my car. Out of courtesy, I popped into the shop to tell him I was taking one. This time, he wasn't there but the lady was serving a longish queue. I told her I was taking a pallet.
"Hang on," she said, ringing a bell. "My brother will give you a hand." With that, the old guy promptly appeared.
"Ah, the man for the pallet to build a planter." Now, I'm not that distinguished, and he had only seen me once, but it impressed me that he not only recognised me but knew what I wanted and why. We got the pallet into the back of the car and before I set off, he explained how best to get the pallet out when I arrived home.
A week later, I was back again, for another. I popped into the shop, this time quite crowded and before I could say anything, as the old guy finished serving one customer, he called out to me and asked how the planter was going.
"Fine," I said. "A few challenges getting the ridged nails out but all good in the end."
He rang the bell for his sister who quickly appeared.
"I'm just going to help this gentleman with another pallet if you could take over."
"Of course," came her happy reply and proceeded to serve while we put another pallet into the back of the car. He even took the time to explain about the different pallets, (who knew?) before selecting one that would yield the best planks.
"Hope to see you again soon," he said, waving as I drove off. They most certainly have and have now earned all my business.
What stood out and has made me stick with them were:
Their obvious desire to make each customer, even when they are busy, made to feel like they are their only customer.
That with only two staff, there was always somebody there to serve the customers, not just from behind a counter but standing by them, interested in them and both really cheerful and happy to serve.
Nothing was too much fuss or bother. They had experience to share, which they did without any airs and graces which sometimes accompanies advice.
I was made to feel welcome from the outset and they went the extra mile to help me get all the information I needed to make the best job of planting and building.
I've been back there many times now, recycling their pallets but more importantly, giving them a lot of business as my wife's been buying many different plants and products from them.
The loving feeling I've received from their customer service has translated to many sales, not only from us but from all the other people I've sent their way. Never underestimate how much that giving that loving feeling plays as a powerful way to earn continual repeat business.