COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Remembering the Dayton's

Updated: 11/12/2012 11:41 AM By: Phil Malat

Dayton’s was a department store once located in the frozen wilds of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Dayton’s entire business philosophy was based upon the age old axioms of; “the customer is always right” and “our word is our bond.” 

With regards customer service, their directives were clear - all customers were to be treated respectfully and all issues were to be resolved immediately and to the customer’s complete satisfaction. No one was to leave their store unhappy.

This method of doing business served the Dayton family well. They are among the most successful and wealthiest families in Minnesota.  
Now we “fast forward” to 2012 where endless aggravations and deceitful measures (“we are sorry” or “I apologize…”) appear to be implemented to frustrate and thus deter customers from receiving fair treatment or compensation for defective merchandise, false statements or broken promises. 

These “new and improved?” customer services programs employ unreliable, irrelevant automated systems, long waits on hold, being transferred to multiple individuals – each time being placed on hold again, and each time being forced to repeat the reason for your call. We are eventually asked to leave a voice mail for a call back that never comes. This naturally results in a second call back resulting in going through the nightmare all over again. These procedures are way too common to be coincidental.

Ah, but this subterfuge can be short-circuited.

Before making a customer service request of any large corporation secure the name and contact information for the president or CEO. At the first hint of stalling or inconvenience contact the executive assistant to the president or CEO by telephone or letter. Letter is still held in high regard.   

Explain that you have tried to work with their customer service department but do not have the time they demand to resolve your issue. Should they be unwilling to move forward, insist upon the name and telephone number of a specific customer service representative you can work with.

If granted, be certain you inform the customer service rep how you secured their name when you speak with them.  If that specific rep’s name is denied, explain that you are disappointed that you have been left with no alternative but to seek assistance from an outside agency. 

If you can compel the president or CEO’s office to act on your behalf you should be able to achieve a level of service close to what Dayton’s once provided.

Unfortunately, all that remains of Dayton’s and their marvelous customer service is the memory of an elation that could once be understandably expressed by tossing ones hat into the air in front of the old venerable department store – an elation that can only be recaptured today by viewing the opening credits for the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Phil Malat is a columnist for