Stew Leonard’s is a chain of four supermarkets in Connecticut and New York, which Ripley’s believe it or not! deemed “the world’s largest dairy”; with fortune magazine listing Stew Leonard’s as one of the “100 best companies to work for”.
The store’s fame comes from its innovative in-store marketing, which includes an area for kids to have fun while the parents shop. This new concept of selling has taken away the stress from long lines at the grocery store. The stores are not set up like traditional grocery stores; one must walk through the entire store (though there are short cuts). As customers walk through a path of aisles, they are greeted by different employees dressed up in costumes and by animatronic characters. The stores also feature petting zoos and outdoor cafes in the warmer months and sell a variety of prepared meals year round.
As well as their customer friendly stores, Stew Leonard’s are well known for their profound customer service policy and the story behind it, which greets shoppers at each store’s entrance engraved into a huge slab of granite.
The story behind the stone
Two weeks after Stew Leonard’s grand opening in 1969, Stew Leonard, Sr. was standing at the front door of the store greeting customers.
Suddenly a customer came up to Stew and said, “YOUR EGGNOG IS SOUR!” and thrust into his hands a half-gallon carton.
“My eggnog is sour, from my brand new dairy plant?
“Impossible!” exclaimed Stew. “You’re wrong! It can’t be sour. We’ve sold over 200 half-gallons of eggnog from this batch and you’re the only one who’s complained!”
The customer was so mad; veins were popping out in her neck. She said, “I don’t care how many cartons you sold, it’s sour and I want my money back!”
Eggnog was 95 cents per half-gallon so Stew reached into his pocket and gave the customer a dollar bill. She snatched it out of his hand and started out the store. The last words he heard her say were, “I’m never coming back to this store again!”
That night, Stew relayed the story to his wife, Marianne, and she, too became upset with him.
“I don’t blame her at all,” said Marianne.
“You didn’t listen to her. You contradicted her and practically called her a liar.
I hope you are not going to run your store like other store managers, who think all customers are trying to put something over on them.”
“They trust us — but we fix them — WE JUST NEVER GO BACK!”
After thinking about it for a while, Stew realised that he had everything in the world tied up into his dairy store. He could not afford to lose a single customer by telling them they were wrong.
He realised that most customers were honest and wouldn’t try to take advantage of him. However, if he tried to protect himself from the one percent who were dishonest, he’d end up penalising the other 99 percent who were really good and honest!
Stew decided Marianne was right and that no customer was ever going to be wrong in his store again.
On his way to work one morning, Stew drove by a monument yard, where they were unloading granite. Suddenly, Stew got an idea. He stopped and bought a huge slab of granite from Mr Bates. It weighed 6,000 pounds. Then Stew had him deliver the rock to the front door of his store, and had their stonemason chisel the store’s new policy into its face:
- Rule 1: The Customer Is Always Right!
- Rule 2: If The Customer Is Ever Wrong, Reread Rule 1.
To this day, 35 years later, the rock still stands firm at each of Stew Leonard’s store entrances.
Every single team member knows of the eggnog story, and how the rock came to be.
They know that they can do anything in their power to make the customer happy.
Happy customers not only come back, they bring their friends!