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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Want to destroy a good business? Fire a 90 year-old legend.

The lady on the left is called Elena Salvoni. She is London’s most famous Maitre – or rather Maitresse - d’Hote. On the walls are hundreds of photographs of her with her customers.

For 40 years I have followed her from one restaurant to another - Bianchi’s, L’Escargot, L’Etoile. So have people like Robert De Niro, Peter O’Toole - everyone from Princess Diana to Sean Connery. We didn’t go for the food, which was good, but not outstanding. Just her. She is charm itself.

She has been in the trade for 70 years, and recently celebrated her 90th birthday, which got a big feature in the Evening Standard. So they’ve just fired her. There is now absolutely no reason whatsoever to go there. They should shut up shop now and save themselves some money.

For years I bought clothes at Reiss. Then a suit got rumpled in a shower and stayed wrinkled when dry cleaned. It was clearly a bad lining. They refused to give me a refund – and lost thousands of pounds’ worth of future business. I still like their clothes – but I’m damned if I’ll spend a penny with them.

Three days ago I bought some fish at Tesco in Soho which was off. When an hour later I took it with the receipt to my local branch in Chelsea for a refund they refused. I wrote an email about my “shopping experience” as they suggested on the receipt. They never replied. Why ask if you don't care?

Screw them. We've been buying snacks at lunch and stuff for the office from them for 5 years now. I’ll go elsewhere, probably to Sainsbury, because one of my staff had a similar problem with them – but they paid up.

They say organisations have no soul. They certainly have no commonsense. The people who run them sit in their fancy offices, have pointless meetings and don’t meet the customers – or try being a customer. Nor do they understand that one sale is not what it’s about.

I relish a quote from Jeff Bezos of Amazon who replied to a questioner: “Are my customers loyal? Absolutely. 100%. Right till the moment someone comes along with a better service.”

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