The Forum wants to hear your stories of exceptional customer service

The Bellamy family of "Upstairs, Downstairs" always insisted on the very best of service.

“It is my experience that most of the harm in this world is done by people trying, quite gratuitously, to do more good than they can possibly achieve.”

Those words were uttered by Sir Geoffrey Dillon — marvelously played by the late Raymond Huntley as written by Julian Bond — in “A Cry For Help,” the sixth episode in the first season of the worldwide television phenomenon “Upstairs, Downstairs,” which first aired in the United Kingdom in 1971.

Perhaps Sir Geoffrey, the unctuous Bellamy family solicitor, was right. But, when the good people do is genuine, not gratuitous, it can not only be a benefit, it can be darn good for business.

Witness this circuitous set of transactions: RLJ Entertainment recently released a souped-up, 30th anniversary Blu-ray edition of the 1988 film “Heathers.” Starring Winona Ryder and Chirstian Slater, the darkly comic indie was already a cult classic by the time I made it to high school, playing the midnight movie circuit. I have fond memories of seeing it for the first time, and I was blissful at the prospect of having a superior copy in my collection.

My bliss was shattered when, Blu-ray in hand, the picture was shakier than one of the over-caffeinated croquet players in the film. It turns out the new print suffers from what’s commonly known as “telecine wobble,” or “gate weave,” caused by the movement of the film as it passes through the gate of a telecine machine (which is the process required to transfer film into a video format playable on a T.V.).


I’m not the only one who noticed the flaw, as a tour of various message boards and customers’ comments revealed.

With nothing to lose but $39.98, I sent off a tastefully-worded email to RLJ, noting my concerns, and asking for a better copy, if possible. While I didn’t expect a resolution, at best I hoped my comments would be added to those already calling for a higher-quality fix.

Within three days I heard back from RLJ’s vice president of customer service. He not only promised to address the issue, but offered to send me a few complimentary titles from Acorn Media, an affiliate, as compensation.

Acorn, known for its fantastic transfers of British entertainment for the U.S. market, has hundreds of titles to choose from. And that’s where “Upstairs, Downstairs” enters the story.

Initial U.S. DVD sets of the five-season series, which aired on the U.S. Public Broadcasting System starting in 1974, were flawed in many ways, mostly due to transfer issues by the original distributors. Over the years, Acorn acquired the show and released far superior transfers, plus a spin-off series, collected together on 26 discs and sold as “The Ultimate Collection,” retailing for $199.99.

I simply asked if I could have the price of the “Heathers” Blu-ray applied toward the cost of the “Ultimate” set.

Within three days the complete set arrived on my doorstep, free-of-charge, and with the company’s best wishes. That is superior customer service, even more so than the Acorn transfers of “Upstairs, Downstairs,” which are exceptional in every way.

What’s the lesson in all of this? I’ll quote from “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” the 1744 edition: “Tart words make no friends: a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.”


Enough sharing. Now it’s your turn. Have you received exceptional customer service, at such a high level you feel compelled to share it with others? Email me at I’ll comb through the most interesting responses and bring them back to our readers at a future date.

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