A client was planning to advertise in a publication produced by a printing company with which I had worked in the past. Wanting to verify that the company was still producing that publication, I emailed the customer service contact I had dealt with, and asked her a simple question: is your company still printing this publication?

Her reply didn’t answer my question. “I’m now working in a different department and Jane Doe is now handling projects like that.” Clearly, she didn’t want to be bothered by my request.

If she worked in a 5,000-employee multinational company, I might be able to understand that response, but her employer has only about a dozen people on its payroll, all toiling in one small building. Suppose instead she had replied, “yes, we’re still printing it, but your new contact will be Jane Doe.” That way, she would have answered my question and made sure I knew not to send future questions her way — and done it all in a friendly, helpful way that made me think she valued my client’s business.

But she did no more than she had to do. And now my impression of this printing company is that they really don’t care about my client or its business. So the next time my client needs to have a pricey project printed, do you think I’m going to call them or someone else?

Compare that to the folks at the Trader Joe’s supermarket chain. If you discover that you’ve forgotten something while you’re at the checkout counter, another employee will race back to the aisle to find it for you. Rather than stare at the scanner and make an occasional grunt, the cashier will engage you in friendly, genuine conversation. “Have you tried stir-frying that vegetable mix with chicken and a little garlic? I’ll do that some nights and serve it on rice. Takes about five minutes, and it’s a healthy meal. Next time you’re here, we have another mix you’d probably like …” And that’s why I drive past at least two dozen other supermarkets to shop there.