Four years ago, I landed my dream job. I become Technical Consultant and Features Editor for the four largest martial arts magazines in Europe.
One of my columns was named Brutally Honest. Basically, it was a product review column. I would take one item and put it through its paces. This literally involved blood, sweat and tears – the latter when testing armour.
There were three rules I set myself. The first was that I would never accept payment. Having worked in law, I was conscious of the fact that I needed to avoid conflict of interest. I couldn’t accept payment for something that I might very well rip to pieces. If there something that was – and pardon my French – shit, I would offer them the chance to decline to be reviewed.
The second rule was that I would never give the kit back either. Mainly this was to stop dealers then trying to sell on something that was pretty much battered or sweat stained. The other because there was no way I was going to pay for shipping a 300lb piece of kit back.
The final rule I set myself was that I would never review something that I had bought myself. I wouldn’t spring a mystery shopper on someone who hadn’t stepped up to the mark and asked me to review their products.
Today, as I walk into working a glorious sunny day in my linen shirt and slacks (Sainsburys) and my Loake Chester Tan Brogues, I’m going to break rule three.
I recently got a promotion. Prior to the promotion, I had been looking for a new pair of shoes to go with a three-piece suit I had recently bought. At the time, I spotted a beautiful pair of shoes. The sort I would never have dreamt of buying but which called to me in an upper-class 1920’s BBC accent.
‘Matthyew. Over here old chap. No, dine a little. Dine! Yes. I really do think it is time that you bought us. Right now.’
‘Alas and alack!’ I cried, ‘I’m afraid that I’m rather short of the necessaries to afford you right now old bean.’
With a heavy heart I chose a different pair and left the shop. Lo and behold a couple of weeks later I had the promotion and a lot more of the necessaries.
So I dragged the wife and my two sometimes cute and endearing children back to the shop and introduced them to my friends, Mr. And Mrs. Loake Chester-Brogues.
Despite a certain widening of the eyes when she saw the price (a very reasonable £160), she realised that i would have them.
With a skip, jump and clumsy trip I made my purchase.
Now, this going to annoy you somewhat if you’ve managed to stick with me this far because I’m not going to review the shoes, I’m going to review Loake’s customer service.
There are many fathers out there who feel a large dollop of guilt when buying things for themselves and not their loved ones. One chap who works with me hid a pair of football boots in his car until they were sufficiently scruffy for him to be able to claim he’d had them for ages. Maybe that was fear.
Did I have any guilt? Certainly not! And now I’m going to break another rule. I wrote the email below thanking them for their marvellous product.
On Friday I was promoted. Finally, at 37 years of age, I was earning a decent salary and, on Father’s Day, I decided that I would treat myself.
I’d already seen a pair of Loakes’ Chester Brogues in Debenhams and took my family along to look at them again. This was the most expensive pair of shoes I had ever thought of purchasing, and it was the first time that I could ever actually afford to buy such works of art.
After a day’s wear at work, I can honestly say that they are the best purchase I have ever made. The smell of the calf-leather is amazing, the shoes fit like gloves and I haven’t had one moment of buyer’s remorse. They also look splendid with the new Ted Baker suit I bought to compliment them.
I look forward to my next purchase.
I then got a reply. A reply no less. Not an automated bot email, but an honest-to-God real person. I was impressed.
Dear Mr Sylvester
Thank you for your email and for your kind comments. I will pass these on to the relevant personnel.
We always appreciate feedback of any nature, but it is always good when it is so positive.
We hope that your shoes will give you long and enjoyable service.
Not expecting anything further, you can imagine how surprised I was when, a few days later another email appeared. The one below. From a Mr Andrew Loake. A member of the family that has owned the business since 1880 wrote to thank me for my comments. Can you imagine Bill Gates or Steve Jobs doing such a thing?
Thank you for your kind comments.
If you look on YouTube, we have just uploaded a short film (5 minutes) giving a “behind the scenes” look into how they are made. You may find it interesting.
But it didn’t stop there. I realised that I needed to get some polish and that I didn’t have a clue what sort would be best for my leather masterpieces.
Who better to ask than Loake? That’s when I got this email.
Thank you for your further email.
Any good quality wax polish should be okay for your shoes. In this instance, if you let me have your full postal address, I will send you a tin of our polish – please advise which colour.
Apply with a small brush or soft cloth, polish off with a polishing brush and then, if you want to, a soft cloth.
I duly did so and asked for Brown (not knowing any better).
Dear Mr Sylvester
As the Chester Brogues come in Tan burnished calf, I have taken the liberty of sending a tin of Tan polish as opposed to Brown, I hope this is okay. It will be in the post this afternoon.
This is amazing customer service. Not only have they sent me a free tin of Wax Polish, they’ve made sure that the colour I requested is correct, and then asked if it’s okay to send the correct colour! This is the new baseline for what customer service should be. For the price of a tin of polish and postage, Loake have a customer for life.
Because a family director of the business replied to my emails, they have a customer for life.
But, they have more than that. I won’t stop telling people about my experience, how much I love wearing my shoes and that they shouldn’t buy X brand, but consider a quality brand that acts like they’ve known you for years and treat you with a bit of common decency.
They now have a review that will float around the internet on God knows how many servers as it gets picked up by Facebook (SHARE THIS), Twitter (RETWEET), Google+ (PLUSONE THIS), and various search engines and what-have-you.
I heartily recommend that you save your pennies, buy a pair of Loake shoes, and know that you will never look back.