Sometimes exemplary customer service means being willing to step up to a challenge that other businesses just aren’t willing to take on. It was a Sunday morning during the early, “dark days” of our business. Our start-up fund was depleted, our customer base was still miniscule, and I was fretting about how we were going to make our next mortgage payment when the phone rang. It was a woman who identified herself as a concerned mother from out of town. Her daughter had broken up with her boyfriend, she explained. She endorsed the boyfriend as a wonderful guy who wanted to do something special to win her daughter back. And... it absolutely had to happen that day. “Please help him”, she urged. “We’ve been calling florists and chocolate shops all over the area, and no one will agree to help him do it all on such short notice.”
“What exactly does he want to do?”, I asked.
“He wants to send her a card, and chocolate and flowers and stuff”, she replied, “and nobody will take on the task. In fact, most florists aren’t even open!”
“Well, we’re not a florist”, I hedged, “but we still might be able to pull something together for you.”
I’d been sitting there waiting for the phone to ring, how could I turn away business? I’m not a professional floral designer, but I do know how to arrange a presentable bouquet of flowers. If that’s what we had to do to sell our next pound of bon bons, I was willing to do it.
“Great”, she replied! “I’ll have him call you right away!” Before I could say another word, she hung up. Minutes later, the phone rang. The ex-boyfriend turned out to be a Marine who had just returned from his deployment in Iraq. He explained that during his absence abroad, he and the girlfriend had gotten into a silly argument over the telephone. She had refused to talk to him since. Now that he was back from his military duty, he just had to win her back. And, it had to happen that very day. I’m a sucker for romance, and this made-for-the-movies drama definitely pulled at my heartstrings.
“Okay”, I answered, “how do you want us to help?”
“Well, I want to send her flowers—lots of flowers, and your bon bons of course, and a card, and balloons, and a stuffed animal. I want to just blow her away.”
“What’s your budget?”, I asked, expecting him to give me a number ranging between one and a few hundred dollars. I was off by a zero. This young love-struck Marine wanted to drop a couple of thousand dollars on a larger-than-life gesture of chocolate, flowers and balloons that would help him win his girl!
“Okay.” I stammered again, stunned at this wild card of an opportunity. “Let me put something together.”
I hung up, shouted out a victory whoop and started our own militaristic deployment. Within minutes we had mobilized our troops, family and friends who kindly dropped everything and rushed to our rescue. We had exactly five hours to pull this off! One team took on flower procurement, raiding every wholesale warehouse, grocery store and available florist in the area. Another team was put in charge of rentals of helium tanks and U-Haul since we didn’t have a suitably large delivery vehicle. Another individual was designated as our personal shopper for a romantic card, an adorable oversized stuffed animal and vases for all of those flowers. Our space became “Operation Love Marine”, where we blew up balloons, assembled balloon bouquets and flower bouquets, and packed bon bons. Less than five hours later, we pulled up in front of the unsuspecting girl’s apartment to deliver several pounds of chocolate, almost 200 helium-filled balloons in bouquets, and twelve dozen roses arranged in vases.
We asked the Marine to keep us posted on his progress in winning back his girl, but we never heard from him again. I hope that he found happiness like the Marine in this photo. Even if it wasn’t the girl who received his lavish display of love and affection, he deserves someone special. We know that he was responsible for at least one happy ending; thanks to this mysterious Marine, our mortgage got paid that month. And it was all because we were willing to say “yes” to a customer’s unusual request.