Updated: October 19, 2013 7:10PM
Sam Lagalo could see I was growing impatient, even angry, while waiting for his confounded staff to finish the paperwork for my new iPhone 5.
Lagalo is a manager at HH Gregg in Merrillville and I had to be up front with him about the disappointing situation. At least 30 minutes already had crawled by, and his staff had made zero progress locating my new phone in their computer system so I could pay for it. I had ordered it a week earlier with the promise that it would be “ready to go.” It wasn’t.
My time is something I highly value, especially the older I get, and my patience quickly dwindles for people who don’t value my time as much as they value theirs. I don’t care if it’s a sales clerk, a doctor or a public official. “Tick-tock” is often my new mantra.
“Listen, I have a business appointment to get to and now I’m running behind,” I told Lagalo in no uncertain terms. “Call me when you guys figure out what’s up with my new phone. I have to leave.”
Without a word, the look on Lagalo’s face said it all: He, too, was frustrated by the dragged-out exchange but he was on it.
Regardless, I was already out the door toward my next appointment and seriously considering canceling the order. It’s easier to buy a new cell phone anywhere else than buy back my lost time.
The only reason I popped into HH Gregg a week earlier was to buy a new stove with my fiancé. Keith in the appliance department took good care of us and the exchange hinted at similarly fine service in another department.
While there, I noticed that the store sold iPhones. A friendly (and efficient) sales associate, Matt, sold me on buying one there. It wasn’t a hard sell, but he didn’t try to schmooze me or dazzle me with unneeded acumen.
Before that day, I had never been to HH Gregg and, truth be told, I didn’t even know what the store sold. Its name sounded like a clothing store for big men.
Anyway, after I told Lagalo I had to leave his store, I received a phone call no longer than 10 minutes later. Another sales associate figured out the problem with my pending purchase and I could return to the store immediately.
But it was too late to return there immediately. My next appointment beckoned. Plus, I still considered going elsewhere to avoid another delay in ME paying THEM money. Yes, my money is almost as valuable as my time.
I told the sales associate I would return in a couple of hours, and I did. Lagalo was the first to greet me and the first to apologize.
I expected a half-hearted, overly-rehearsed, corporate-mandated explanation that goes like this: “Our company values your business and it’s our policy to… blah, blah, blah.”
That’s not what I got.
“It was all MY fault,” Lagalo told me flatly. “And I’m very sorry.”
It turns out that Lagalo grabbed the wrong iPhone from the wrong location in the store, thinking it was the one I previously ordered. This is why the numbers didn’t mesh in the store’s computer system, confusing their staff each time they tried to locate it.
“You didn’t have to tell me the truth,” I told Lagalo. “You easily could have thrown one of your staff members under the bus.”
Lagalo shrugged in agreement, but said he doesn’t do business that way.
While a staff member put the sale though and transferred my hundreds of phone contacts, Lagalo and I chatted about business tactics, his love for the great outdoors and everything in between.
He loves white-water rafting. He’s not into social media such as Facebook. And he would rather make a face-to-face sale with a handshake than an online sale with a mouse click.
Time breezed by and our business transaction turned into a candid conversation. We agreed that developing personal connections is still the best business strategy. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling.
He mentioned the word “connections” so many times I felt compelled to give him a copy of my book, “Connections: Everyone Happens for a Reason.” Like all successful salespeople, he understands that making connections usually turns into making sales.
However, what sold me on Lagalo was his honesty.
HH Gregg, like every corporate retailer, surely has a busload of policies it repeatedly boasts about and adheres to but, for my bottom dollar, honesty is still the best policy. And businesspeople such as Sam Lagalo are still the best form of advertisement.
Braca playing live!
Rich Krilich took a sip from his Jack and Coke and looked me square in the eyes, with heartfelt conviction from one Croatian to another.
“It’s the music that keeps our culture alive,” the 62-year-old Krilich said at Bronko’s Lounge in Crown Point.
Krilich has been playing tamburitza music — our culture’s soul music — for half a century and he’ll be playing with his band, Braca Tamburitza Orchestra, on this week’s Casual Fridays radio show.
Krilich and his bandmates will be in the Lakeshore Public Media studio from noon to 1 p.m. Friday.
He and Frank Mosca Jr. of Schererville (bass), Rudy Grasha Jr. of Valparaiso (accordion), 80-year-old John Gornick of Chicago (tambura c’elo) and violinist Wally Pravica, 79, of Des Plaines, Ill., will perform live. And they will chat about a larger issue at hand: the fading traditions, histories and music not only of our culture, but also of many cultures in America the Melting Pot.
Tune in at 89.1-FM, streaming at lakeshorepublicmedia.org. Call in with your question, comment or song request at 769-9577.
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.