• Lydia Chu

How I pull the rabbit out of a hat

I've been a business owner for over 20 years and had to deal with a lot of difficult situations but what happened on Friday, April 12, really topped the cake.

It was early Thursday afternoon when I got a call from a lady asking about a suit rental. She informed me that her son had an important interview the next day and urgently needed to rent a suit. I instructed her to have her son come in as soon as possible so we can place the order right away. The cut-off time to order a suit or tuxedo for the weekend was 5 pm Thursday.

I own a business where we rent out tuxedos and suits as well as providing alteration and image consultation services. The way the tuxedo rental works is that when a customer wants to rent a tuxedo or a suit, we have to take the customer's measurements and call in to Jim's Formal Wear (company that provides us the tuxedos and suits) to have that particular size and style ship to us. It's always a good idea to place the order at least two weeks in advance so there's an ample time make any necessary fitting adjustments or to deal with any delivery issues.

The rentals are generally for a weekend and they usually need to be returned the next business day to avoid any extra fees. The cost for a full package can range anywhere from $120 to $220 depending on the style that is selected and whether the shoes are included. Typically, packages include a suit/tuxedo jacket, matching pants, a shirt, a tie, a vest, and any accessories such as studs and cuff links.

This particular client came in around 4pm. I was told that he had a job interview at 7 pm the following day and placed a full package order for a grey suit including shoes (Total cost was $220.95). Since the cut off time to place an order was typically 5pm, I called in right away to get the order in. I was reassured by JFW representative that we were going to receive the order via UPS the following day by early afternoon.

I've been in suit/tux business for about 10 years and had encountered problems with the UPS delivery service only once or twice so I didn't expect any problems until something totally unexpected happened the following day, two hours before this young man's important job interview.

This is what I felt like at the time

Next day, I went about my business of taking care of the shop. It was a typical day and

even though it wasn't a super busy day, I had totally forgotten about the rush suit order. I didn't realize that we had never received the suit until I got a call from my client asking about his suit, two hours before my client's job interview. I had totally dropped the ball! Panic-stricken, I called JFW to track the package. I was told that UPS had tried to deliver the package around 9:30 am that morning and realizing that we didn't open until 10 pm, they had returned the package to the UPS facility and will not be delivered until the following Monday. This can't be!

This young man had two hours before his interview, and I didn't have his suit. My stress level at that time must have shot through the roof. There is one thing I hate most especially as a business owner is not following through with my promises and letting my customers down. My mind was on overdrive. I was thinking about every possibility that I could think of. It was too late to order another suit since we only had two hours until my client had to be at his job interview. I even thought about purchasing a suit but didn't have enough time. I tried to think of anybody I knew who might have a suit that might be my client's size. I needed a suit that was 38L with a waist size of 32".

The thought of my client missing his job interview was devastating to me. This could possibly change this young man's life, and I felt like I was holding his future in my hands. I couldn't forgive myself for dropping the ball. I had totally forgotten about this rush order and had I realized it earlier in the day, I could've had a chance to run up to UPS location and gotten the package. Even though, it was UPS who had failed to deliver as promised, it was ultimately my responsibility to deliver the suit to my client and I felt 100% responsible.

Trying to figure out if there was anything I could do , I came up with an idea. I had a grey suit I ordered a year ago to use it as a display. It was size 40R meaning it wasn't exactly my client's size of 38L. Not having any other options, I called my client to deliver the bad news that I was not going to be able to retrieve the package. Lucky for me this young man, probably in his early twenties, was not yelling at me over the phone. Despite the bind he was in, he was calm and didn't have any angry tone in his voice. When I apologized profusely, all he said was "it's ok", and never let out any expression of anger or stress.

Then, I got a call from his mother. Not knowing what to expect, I started apologizing and reassured her that I was doing everything I can to find a solution to the problem (honestly, I really had no hope by this time and didn't have the guts to tell her the truth that her son wasn't going to have a suit to wear to this interview). To my surprise, the mother was as calm as her son. She just wanted to know whether they were going to be able to get their money back. Absolutely, I said! That was least I could do I told her and hung up the phone.

It's funny when you're in a situation like that, you feel worse when people are nice about it. If my client or his mother had been mean or angry (which they had the right to be in that situation), it would have just elevated my stress level and definitely would have made the situation a lot worse.

Finally around 6 pm only an hour before the interview, I called my client and asked him if he can come in and try on the only suit I had at my store. Even though it wasn't the right size or the right color, I was praying that it might somehow work out and besides, it was our last option and the time was ticking. Finally, my client came in around 6:15 pm. He tried the suit on and by miracle, it actually fit him pretty well! Since my client didn't even have a dress shirt, I had to lend him one of the try-on dress shirts we had at the store, but there was one more problem.

We didn't have any dress shoes to go with the suit and my client didn't own any. He wore size 11 1/2, and I didn't have anything he could wear. Where m I going to find a black dress shoes in 10 minutes? I called my step son who lives and works close by. My step son is about the same age as my client but couple of inches shorter in height with smaller feet. I had to take a chance. I called him up and asked him if he had any dress shoes and he said "yes" but they were size 10 1/2 ". It was 6:30 pm, half an hour before the interview.

I asked my step son to bring the shoes, just in case. He kindly rushed over and I had my client try on the shoes crossing my fingers. When I heard my client say "I think this is going to work", I couldn't believe it. Lastly, I had to hem the suit pants because they were too long. I finished the hemming job in less than 5 minutes, and my client left my shop at 6:40 pm for his interview thanking me for helping him.

l couldn't believe I had pulled that one off. Looking back, I don't know if I could've ever been that calm and courteous as my client had been. It had been one of the most stressful situations I had ever experienced but I had learned a great deal from this young man. This young man had defused the situation by remaining calm without anger or blame. I have no doubt that his calm demeanor had a great influence in helping me problem-solve the situation. This young man who was probably half my age had more patience and understanding than I could ever have and had taught me a valuable lesson.

He promptly brought everything back the very next morning as soon as we opened and let me know that everything went well.

On top of giving him a full refund for his order, I also offered him a store credit of $100 that can be applied to any of our future services. Why did I do this? If this young man or his mother had been angry or mean, I would've not been inclined to offer him more than his money back, but because he treated me with respect and empathy, I felt compelled to give him more than what he was asking for, and I was more than glad.



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