After Hours My Foot

25 November 2006

After a week-long cooling off period, I’ve composed myself well enough to write clearly about After Hours Formalwear. This company is a classic example of a company that wants to appear good, but is unwilling to pay the price to be good. Companies that have grown almost exclusively by acquisition often show this trait.

The short story comes first. They botched the ordering and sizing of a tux for the father of the bride. Their attempt to recover was worse. They simply do not understand the importance of what they are doing. No matter how many people I talk to, I’ll spend the rest of my days discouraging anyone who will listen from using the services of After Hours Formalwear.

Now for the longer story. My oldest daughter got married last Saturday. The wedding was far removed from Memphis where I went for the tux fitting. I was instructed to pick up the tux the Thursday prior to the wedding in a city near the wedding site.

I put the tuxedo on that Thursday and discovered that the coat had been improperly measured and sized. For overnight delivery, I requested a replacement coat in the proper size. It was then that I discovered that “overnight” meant after 3pm on Friday.

Now for some conjecture and lessons. After Hours probably knows better than I ever will – they have the data – but, I suspect a majority of weddings occur on weekends. Just a guess. Further, most traditional and semi-traditional weddings have a rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner the evening before the wedding. The father of a bride must attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The last thing he has time to do is to go to some After Hours location after 3pm when a rehearsal is scheduled for 4pm.

The lesson here is that After Hours should design and implement a business process that accommodates the tight time table and the importance of the product they offer. This will be difficult to pull off when you employ teenage girls who think that fathers-of-brides are simply the downside of the job — sort of like cleaning the tables was the downside of flipping burgers at their last job.

Here are the things that After Hours got wrong:

  1. the shirt sleeves were not the right length
  2. the shirt was missing a button
  3. the shoes were caked with dried mud
  4. the coat was the wrong size
  5. the time for picking up the replacement coat was unacceptable
  6. the attitude toward a Dad trying to look good for his daughter’s wedding was awful
  7. the replacement coat was the wrong size
  8. there was no time to correct the second error made concerning the coat
  9. when inquiring about how to escalate my concerns, both locations were well-schooled to say, “we can’t do anything here; you’ll have to talk to a district manager.”
  10. neither location was able to provide information about how to reach a district manager

These are not the idle rantings of someone with too little to do. They are not the ravings of some persistently offended consumer. Rather, they are the complaints of a customer who attempted to use the services of After Hours Formalwear. They are the complaints of a customer who was further offended by the lack of concern and attention given to the original errors and complaints.

If you are planning a wedding or you have any influence over the planning for a wedding, advise this:

  • DO NOT RENT TUXEDOS FROM AFTER HOURS FORMALWEAR
  • Rent from someone more dependable or advise the wedding party to buy traditional tuxes for future needs
  • Make certain that any company you rent from appreciates the importance of their role in the wedding

As a long-time quality professional who has some insight into quality and customer service challenges, it’s obvious what is needed. After Hours should immediately undertake a detailed process and measurement review to fix their quality problem. They must begin by getting brutally honest about what an error or non conformance is in the eyes of their customer. They won’t, but it is precisely what they ought to do. They simply don’t have a clue.

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