8 Above-And-Beyond Customer Service Stories From Consumerist Readers

Not so long ago, in a fit of pleasantness, we asked readers to write in with stories of companies and employees who had gone above and beyond in providing customer service. We’re happy to say we drastically underestimated how many of you would respond.

Within hours, we’d received dozens of responses, and by the time we sat down to read through them all, there was a virtual mountain of truly good happy-ending stories. Alas, in order to keep this post from being ridiculously long (the original draft was over 10,000 words), we selected 8 above-and-beyond anecdotes that we felt represented the full rainbow of quality customer service.

This means that some stories we really wanted to include — Costco accepting a return on a 3-year-old broken coffee maker, Coach sending a replacement baby-changing pad for one left behind in a public restroom by a new mom, Trader Joe’s employees throwing an impromptu dance party for a young boy with autism, and many, many others — may just have to wait for another another day.

1. ThinkGeek Helps Me Surprise My Wife
We’re starting with this one because several readers wrote in with great stories about ThinkGeek, so we figured they earned the right to go first.

James and his wife, both big Doctor Who fans on a limited budget, decided they would only give each other one gift this year for Christmas. Problem is, his wife was very specific about what she wanted so that took a lot of the fun out of the process for James, so he decided he was going to surprise her anyway with a gift from ThinkGeek.

Making matters more complicated, since his wife handles the finances, James couldn’t simply use his cards to charge a purchase and risk having his purchase spoiled when his wife sees “ThinkGeek” on the statement.

So James scrounged up and saved as much change as he could. He even found an old Sears gift card that had a few bucks left on it. When he had enough money, he took the cash and the card to Kmart and bought a $25 Mastercard gift card — exactly what he thought he’d need to buy the Doctor Who toy he wanted to surprise his wife with.

But when he went online at work to place his order, he suddenly realized that if he wanted to make sure he got it by Christmas, the purchase would actually cost him $26.34. So he goes onto ThinkGeek’s customer service chat and explains his minor predicament.

The rep asks him if he’s got a ThinkGeek account. He tells her yes, but he’s not expecting she’ll be able to make an exception for him.

“Two minutes later, she replies and tells me she’s putting through a $5.00 gift certificate for me,” he tells Consumerist. “Totally gratis. Totally unexpected. Did not have to do that at all. She literally could have just said, “Oh well, nothing we can do sir,” but instead makes this Christmas SUPER MERRY and full of win.”

The extra $5 actually allowed James to pay for even faster shipping, saving James’ Christmas and turning him into a customer who wants to tell everyone about ThinkGeek’s service.

2. Airline Employee Bends The Rules To Help Out Sick Ticket-Holder
Since we’re pretty sure this employee’s actions wouldn’t be sanctioned by the airline, we’re not naming the carrier here. Let’s just say it’s one of the three largest airlines in the country.

Last summer, Aja’s co-worker was hospitalized on the eve of his vacation.

“He called from the hospital and asked if I could get in touch with the airline and by some grace of God get his flight pushed back without too much extra cost,” she writes. “I called the airline and explained the situation to a very nice man who answered the phone at customer service. I basically said, ‘I know there’s not much you can do, I was wondering how much it would cost to get his flight pushed back until tomorrow.’”

She continues:

“The man kept exclaiming how sad that was that my colleague wouldn’t be able to make his flight and was stuck in the hospital. He eventually said, ‘Well, we have a policy where if our flight arrives 15 minutes late and causes you to miss your connecting flight, we’ll refund your ticket. So because I see here that we caused your friend to miss his flight, we’re going to go ahead and refund his ticket price.’

“I was confused because clearly my friend hadn’t even gotten on the flight yet and he kept saying, ‘Yes I understand, because it’s our fault that your friend missed his flight we’ll be refunding his ticket for him.’

“After a few minutes of this, I understood that he was basically pulling a once-in-a-lifetime favor because he felt bad about my colleague’s situation. I thanked him profusely and told my friend that he didn’t have to worry about it. From now on he only flies [that airline], and he came out of the hospital after a day perfectly healthy.”

3. Panera Manager Really Wants Me To Have My Holiday Bread
It being the holiday, Laura had a hankering for Panera’s Holiday Bread — full of all sorts of fruit and other goodies, and not always readily available at the store. So she contacted her local Panera to inquire if there was any Holiday Bread to be had.

“The employee that I spoke with told me that they were out of Holiday Bread, and offered to check on availability from a store a few miles away,” writes Laura. “I told him that I would just find a different bread from his location, and would come by later to get it, and that I didn’t have time to make it to the other location. He then said that he was actually planning to drive to the other location to pick up the bread, and have it back at his location for me to pick up. Sure enough, the other location had Holiday Bread, and Justin drove there to get one loaf of bread for me, and had it ready for me to pick up at his store within a half hour.”

4. TD Bank Employee Willing To Quite Literally Go The Extra Mile For Me
Here’s another tale of an employee willing to take their own time to help out a customer. What made this one so special to us was that this reader is not the kind of customer banks usually jump through hoops to assist.

While Cynthia was home from college for the summer, she applied for and was approved for a credit card at TD Bank. Granted, it was only a $500 credit limit, but you have to start somewhere, right?

“I awaited the arrival of my new card at home, however it passed the expected date of arrival,” recalls Cynthia. “I did not have a car at the time, and took the bus to work that summer, so I did not have a lot of time outside of work to inquire at the bank other than a few minutes before and after work. I spoke to the employee at TD and she was very understanding of my concern, especially since it was nearing my time to go back to school.

“She had cancelled my card and ordered a new one that would go directly to the bank location within a couple of days. Although the card was still late (by no fault of the bank employee) she did everything in her power to make sure that I would get the card on time. She even offered to drive it personally to my house in case it came and I was not able to pick it up by bus!”

It didn’t come to that, as the card arrived in time for Cynthia to pick it up on her own, but just that kind gesture by the TD Bank employee left an impression she won’t soon forget: “I was so impressed by the dedication of the staff there and how willing she was to help me in my situation even though I am certainly not a high-spending customer.”

5. Best Buy CSR Does Research To Actually Provide Me With Helpful Information
Regular readers of Consumerist know that we get an awful lot of complaints about Best Buy, but there are certainly people there who do want to help you out.

Knash runs a small-business that often involves people spread out at various places around large events. So it only makes sense that they should have walkie-talkies.

After a little bit of research he found some on BestBuy.com that looked like good possibilities. But being new to the world of walkie-talkies, he had seen some notes during his research about FCC licenses and such that he didn’t understand.

Figuring that Best Buy might know a bit more than he did, he called up the retailer’s customer service line. After some discussion about whether these were the best value for this money, Knash asked the rep about the FCC license issues.

“She said that she wasn’t sure but would look into it,” he tells Consumerist. “She pulled up their intranet and couldn’t find any information, so she started looking online and found the FCC’s website and found the information I was looking for. By the time I was done I had been on the phone with her for 30 minutes trying to figure out the FCC thingy and she was more than helpful. She had sold lots of walkie units and no one had ever asked her about the license apparently.

“I have never had such a great customer service experience where the rep didn’t know something and instead of saying she couldn’t help me she looked it up on the regular Internet.”

6. AT&T Rep Saves Me After I Unintentionally Buy Stolen Phone
Here’s another one about a company we don’t usually hear a load of good things about.

After receiving a Nexus 7 tablet as a gift, Todd decided to go all-Android for his wireless devices. So he found someone on Craigslist willing to trade their HTC One X for his iPhone 4S.

But things turned ugly when, after he made a few phone calls on his new phone, he suddenly got the notice that “This device has been blocked from network usage,” because he had apparently been given a stolen device.

He contacted AT&T where the rep explained that customers can sometimes get an early upgrade if they are near the end of their contract. But with his still around 3-4 months away, it looked like he was going to have to pay full price for a new phone.

But then the rep asked if she could put Todd on hold for a few seconds.

“When she returned, she said, ‘I felt bad for you and spoke to my manager who has authorized me to send you a new HTC One X free of charge.”

AT&T also threw in free overnight shipping. The rep told Todd because he had been a customer for over 10 years and has 5 lines on his plan, she and her manager wanted to try to help him out.

“It seems that being a loyal customer still pays off in some respects and she went above and beyond to make sure I was a happy customer,” writes Todd. “So even if AT&T can be one of the worst companies in America, in this case they were the best company.”

7. Restaurant Rewards Customers’ Kindness To Stranger
Sometimes going above and beyond isn’t about fixing a problem.

Last Mother’s Day, Consumerist reader Josh and his partner were waiting for their families outside Miller’s Smorgasbord, a restaurant in Lancaster, PA, they noticed that an elderly woman had fallen down in the parking lot and that she appeared to be alone.

“I ran out and was able to get the woman to her feet and hold her up for about five minutes until her husband came with her walker,” says Josh. “Of course the manager on duty and hostess were both out soon behind me. I didn’t think anything of it but the hostess (who was working that day with her daughter, also a server) couldn’t thank me enough.”

Once seated, the restaurant staff went out of their way to thank him for helping the fallen customer. They received discounted food, gracious words for him and his family, and a frequent visitor discount card to use for future visits.

“I never expected anything,” he tells Consumerist, “but thinking about how appreciated it was by this mother and daughter team still warms my heart… I wrote a lengthy email to the restaurant telling them what amazing employees they have. I know from working retail those are the letters you don’t get enough of.”

8. And Sometimes People Are Just Really Nice When They Don’t Have To Be
This last one may not technically be a customer service story, but it is a case of a reader left with a positive impression by an employee who did something they absolutely didn’t need to do.

A few months back, Jeremy was shopping at his local Macy’s in Sacramento when he saw a possibly homeless man with one shoeless foot sitting with him in the shoe department.

“The manager of the department walked over to him and they began talking,” he recalls. “I heard him say he was a Vietnam vet. He said he needed new shoes and she went into the back and brought out a brand new pair of Puma athletic shoes. He tried them on but said he couldn’t afford them.

“The employee said that she’d take care of it as a present from her to him. I thought that was nice and assumed the store had a budget for this, or maybe they were returns that they couldn’t sell? The man left and the manager got in line at the register, pulled out her credit card and bought the $60 shoes with her own money.

“Despite everything that’s happened and happening, it’s nice to know people still care about each other.”