The other day, I visited a small electronics store. It’s part of a national chain that one major newspaper recently described as “struggling to remain relevant.” I’m shopping for a portable DVD player.

The store had four models on display behind the cash register. When I described my need to the clerk sitting on a stool, playing with his Blackberry, he casually pointed over his shoulder.

“We’re out of the Sony so you’ll have to buy that one, the floor model,” he said, his eyes firmly affixed on his Blackberry.

Suddenly he looked up and added, “No matter which model you get, you need an extended warranty.” And he proceeded to lecture me on the notorious unreliability of portable DVD players. Their batteries fail. Their screens quit working.

“And if you lose the power cord, forget it,” he said. “Good luck replacing that.”

Now, I know that (a) most extended warranties are a complete waste of money and (b) they represent pure profit, which is why retailers are so eager to sell them. But to try to make a sale by describing how bad the actual product is before I’ve bought the product? That’s nutty.

Good service means understanding your customer’s needs and doing your best to meet them. In this situation, the clerk made no effort to find the best portable DVD player for my family. It’s why I walked out the door without buying anything.

Companies that don’t grasp the concept of good service will find themselves –like this retailer – “struggling to remain relevant.”