Sunday, September 17, 2006

" Whose Character We Were Most Unhappily Deceived"

I had considered titling this post "How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days" but I like the Pride & Prejudice understatement here. What follows, dear reader, is a faithful narrative of my dealings with Ms. X------, my former daycare provider.

Transitions are a tricky thing. Management transitions, especially those in which contracts or explicit agreements are not used, are particularly tricky. This is where my blame in all of this lies. I didn't ask enough questions. I gave everybody the benefit of the doubt and decided not to be a bother during a transition period, hoping everything would settle out into the assumption of normal and routine that I had.

When the provider who cared for Andrew up until the end of August left, I was under the impression (from both the old management and the new management) that things would proceed in pretty much the same manner at my daycare. Sure, personalities and the basic tenor of the services provided would be different, but the basic setup was to remain the same. The situation changed upon the first day of new management, but without clear explanations as to what exactly the changes meant. I walked into the daycare to see a new face (we'll call her Y), and was informed that this new person would be "staying here all the time" instead of the person I had expected would be doing so (we'll call her X). I took this to mean that now Andrew would have two full-time daycare providers, one living at the house, the other living elsewhere. For the next four days, I saw the original person twice. Nothing was communicated to me on that person's absence. I learned later (from other sources) that there had been an emergency, and that's fine. I understand that those things happen, and if I had been informed of all changes and urgent circumstances (not the details of their lives, but the details of how that emergency would impact my son's care), I would've been fine. The situation deteriorated until last Friday, Mark and I arrived to pick up Andrew and found that both the original person AND the new person weren't there, instead it was Y's husband. Again, that sort of thing for a brief period of time in an emergency is OK, I just need to be informed. Oh, yeah, and Andrew wasn't eating or sleeping as he normally did. Granted, that could have been due to the stress of new people in his life, but it didn't do anything to make the situation better.

Mark and I struggled with what we should do about all of this last weekend. It was clear we needed to talk to them and find a way to get Drew back on his regular schedule for his well being and our sanity. We decided to call our previous provider who had moved and get some advice and suggestions on how to handle the situation--and to confirm that our assumptions had been accurate. Seemed like a good plan.

When I picked up Andrew on Monday, I was told that that Y (and her husband) would be going out of town for several days and that we had to bring Andrew to another daycare on one of those days and that "someone qualified" would be at their daycare for the other days. There was no mention of where X, the person who was supposed to be the primary care provider under this new management, would be during this time. As I took all of this in, they then shared with me that Drew hadn't eaten since noon and it was five o'clock. It was also clear to me by this time that their idea of day care was to keep all the kids in the TV room all day long.

I called my old provider as soon as I got home and learned that I was not the only one having problems with the new management. In sharing my concerns with my old provider, I managed to uncover a bigger contractual problem between the old and new management. I didn't realize it at the time, though, as I was not--nor should I have been--privy to the specifics of the how management changed hands. However, because of this issue, my old provider called X later and must've let her have it. But I knew nothing of that, either, until the next day.

On Tuesday, I went to drop off Andrew with a plan in hand. We were going to take notes on Drew's eating and sleeping habits each day and try to get him to his regular schedule, the daycare folks were to do the same. I was prepared to pull X aside and let her know my concerns and try to establish a better line of communication and explain my expectations. So when I showed up to find both X and Y (and even Y's husband) standing outside to greet me when I arrived, I started to get a bad feeling. Still, I soldiered on and laid out the plan to get Drew back to his regular schedule. Even though X agreed to the idea, she was immediately confrontational. I wasn't quite sure why until she mentioned that--and, yes, the quotes are damn near verbatim--"that's why you need to be calling us and not [the old management]."

Ah. Things were getting clearer and grimmer in my mind. Still, I tried to salvage the situation by explaining (very calmly and not at all attacking, I might add) why I had called the old provider. Things just went to hell in a handbasket after that. X remained belligerent and defensive, as if waiting for me to apologize for calling someone I had trusted with my son's care for nine months and, I surmised later, ratting them out. This, of course, assumes I had any idea that they weren't holding up their end of the agreement and that they were not wanting the old provider to know this.

When X started in on the attacks against the old provider (and somehow managed to mix in with them the statement, "We love Andrew"--yeah, sure, uh-huh), I stopped her by saying (again, very calmly), "Thank you very much for taking care of Andrew last week, but we're going to find another option." As I was turning to leave (I was still holding Drew; we had never managed to actually get inside the daycare), she said, "Well, honey, you do what you have to do."

Finally we had hit upon an agreement.

I think I started shaking once I got back home, but I still held everything at bay. After all, I had to get to work and figure out where to put Andrew for the rest of the time we're going to be here. My old provider had recommended someone, and she was able to take Drew right away. I was so discombobulated by the entire exchange that I gave her a diaper bag without diapers or food for her to use that day.

Everything's much better now. Drew adapted like a pro to the new situation in just two days (which makes me wonder just how unhappy he was last week), and I'm set up to work at home two days during the week. I had my first day of that today, and it was such a comfort to be with Drew all day. He was in such a good mood.

So that's why things got crazy on Tuesday. And the drama is still unfolding for those parents still trying to work with the new management. I think they've lost two more clients already. I'm not sure how many more they have to lose. After the way I was treated, I'm really not surprised. Such unprofessional behavior isn't exactly geared toward customer retention.

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