When You Hear Hoof Beats, Rather than Zebras Think of Horses

Mauree Miller

Winter is my least favorite season. I hate being cold and I dread snow and ice. I am driving the dirtiest car in my neighborhood, fearing that if I have my car washed, it will snow. My superstitious behavior has worked pretty well this year–dirty car, but no substantial snow. My friend also has her superstitions about keeping the snow away. Her idea was better than mine. She had her eye on a coat, and had trouble justifying the purchase, since she has more coats than she can wear. Brainstorm–if she buys this one, it could keep the snow away! This was an expensive way of making magic, but she did it anyway. Since it’s been a mild winter on the East Coast, she hasn’t worn the coat at all this season—and is quick to take credit for the good weather. My car, her coat—between the two of us, we did ok weather wise.

There is one problem in her coat story. She had mulled the purchase over for so long, that by the time she bought the coat, the manufacturer’s tag, with extra snaps attached, had somehow disappeared. This was the only coat left in her size, so she grabbed it. But, she really wanted the manufacturer’s tag. More important, she needed the extra snaps. 

Her first thought was that since someone obviously took her tag and snaps, maybe she can have one taken from another coat. My response was a resounding, “No”. Then there would be a chain of people without tags or snaps, and it’s not fair to penalize someone else for her loss. But, we now have the start of what is turning into a long and unrewarding search. 

As my friend searched for her tag and snaps, my husband lost a button from a coat he had bought a year ago made by the same manufacturer. I frantically searched through my button jar. (Yes, I have a button jar—full of extra buttons that come with new clothes and fun finds to make old clothes look unique. It’s a fond holdover from my childhood, when I got to play with the pile of buttons in my aunt’s button jar while she cooked and chatted with my mother. I highly recommend button jars). My downfall here is that my button jar isn’t organized, and I couldn’t find the extra button for his coat. I’ll work on my organizational skills some other time. For now, how do we locate a replacement button?

My husband had a good idea. He Googled the manufacturer, and located a Customer Service email address. He sent them an email with a picture of the coat and button, including a measurement. A few emails and about 2 weeks later, he received a replacement button. The company was so service oriented, that they even thanked him for thanking them.

My friend, on the other hand, decided to go through the salesperson who had sold her the coat, a person with whom she has an ongoing relationship. Her rationale was that because of that relationship, this would be an easy mission. Nice thought, but incorrect in this case. This salesperson started working with store staff—managers, merchandise managers, buyers. Her salesfriend got in touch with the store contacts that had access to the manufacturer. It’s been unclear who is doing what, but they seem to be falling over each other in an effort to locate the tag and snaps. But, here we are, 12 weeks out and into Spring, and no tag, no snaps.

What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. My friend is dealing through the store and a known contact, which can sometimes be productive.  But, it hasn’t been productive in this case. And, the more time passes, the less likely she is to have her tag and snaps, especially since we’re now into the next season.  If you’re moving along with no progress, try something different.
  2. She hasn’t located the person in the store or within the store national management who has the relationship with someone specific at the manufacturer.  Who’s in charge here; who has the clout?
  3. We also don’t know if anyone is taking responsibility for locating the tag and snaps on the manufacturer end.
  4. The quest for the tag is probably impeding the quest for the snaps.  It is more likely for a manufacturer to stock extra snaps than it is for them to stock extra tags.  I don’t understand why she wants the tag, but she won’t give it up—maybe she has a tag jar? Too weird—I don’t want to know.  There was a Grand Ole Opry personality, Minnie Pearl, who used to wear her tags on the outside of her hats.  I don’t think that my friend is channeling her inner Minnie Pearl, but…

What can be done differently?

  1. My friend can talk to her salesperson, politely but firmly, and get the name of the person in the store who is dealing with the manufacturer. She can then make contact with that person to understand exactly what is going on.
  2. From what my friend can gather, all communication between store and manufacturer is through email. When there is an extended time lag from the start of the issue, and email isn’t resolving the problem, it’s time to pick up the phone.
  3. She can drop the “Mission Impossible” on the tag, and focus on what is important—the snaps. Too many sidebars can distract from the real issue.

When you compare the two quests—my husband’s button quest and my friend’s snap and tag quest—look at the process and the outcome. My husband went the simple route, and has his replacement button. My friend is hoping that her relationship and focus on “special” contacts will get her what she wants. Her method isn’t working this time. She is still waiting. Hopefully, she won’t lose a snap while she waits, but the longer she waits, the less likely it is that she’ll get her extras—at this point; she’ll probably continue to have no luck unless she goes a different route.

If your method for resolution isn’t working, try a different method. And, sometimes it’s better to think horses rather than zebras when you hear hoof beats—there are times when the simplest course of action is the one that works.