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The Customer Is Always…

My first job was at Chick Fil-A when I turned 16.  From there, I worked retail at Belk and Shoe Carnival, and had a stint at an Outlet Mall.  I have waited tables and bartended at Chili’s, Applebee’s, Shoney’s, IHOP and more, and worked sales at a wholesale and retail warehouse.  I’ve managed customers for a landscaping company and handled patients at a chiropractic practice.  At this moment, I work for a massive drug development company in a position that requires absolutely no customer service work, and I love it more than words can express.

I’m grateful to currently be in a position where I don’t have to worry about the whole “customer is always right” philosophy.  If someone screws up, I tell them to fix it.  If someone is rude to me, I don’t have to put up with it.  When I’m put in front of a client, I’m not the one who has to answer to them, so it’s not a stressful environment with me feeling like I have to pop my customer service voice on and play nice.  There’s a mutual respect rather than one or both of us feeling an obligation to fake it.

Just because I’m out of the field doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have to slap on a smile only to have some customer tell me it’s not good enough.  Or yelled at because of a store policy I have no control over, a long cook time on a Friday night, the temperature being too hot/cold, the credit card declining, or one of countless other complaints.  Or touched without invitation or permission.  Or told I should be fired over something that has nothing to do with me.  The customer is “always right” and they know it.

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I don’t understand why customers feel that they have ownership over those in the service field.  Yes, they are here to help you.  No, they are not your slaves.  It’s unbelievable to see people take the “I’m always right because I’m a paying customer” idea to the extreme, at the expense of whatever poor hourly employee happens to be standing in front of them.  On the tame end, you have people who refuse to say please, snapping their fingers to get an employee’s attention and refusing to make eye contact or speak to them like they would an equal.  On the other side of the spectrum, it’s terrifying.

I’ve had people try to hand me dirty diapers and sanitary products (excuse being that the receptacle in the women’s room was full. Gross).  I had a kid piss everywhere inside a store and the mother look at me, say “she can clean it up,” and walk away.  I’ve had things thrown at me.  I’ve been called all sorts of names.  I dealt with a customer who would tip his server $100 in order to get extra “services” later.  I’ve been cussed at because I didn’t give a customer my phone number.  I’ve had customers demand I be fired on the spot for following store policy.  I’ve been stiffed on tips after running my ass off for people.  I’ve been called racial slurs, a slut, and an idiot.  I once had someone try to follow me home.  And my experiences aren’t even the worst of what happens.

Your cashier at Target is a person, not a punching bag.  But once someone becomes the customer, the employee turns into a being that is less than human, one made to absorb a verbal beating (and sometimes a physical one) and smile as they take it.  It is the most illogical thing, but people do it consistently and do it with confidence.  The customer brain directs a person to think they have a right and an obligation to treat service workers as rodents.  Less than rodents.  Like rodent shit.

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I don’t give a damn if the lady at the drive-thru doesn’t smile so widely at you, you can see every one of her teeth.  Leave her be.  I don’t care if you disagree with store policy, it’s not the doing of your cashier so shut up about it.  Quit trying to scam your way into free meals or store credit with your whining and bullshit.  Stop making the life of retail and food service so incredibly difficult for the people busting tail to make your experience a good one.  Just because someone’s job is to serve you doesn’t mean that your job becomes being a right twat, hell bent on making their life miserable.  Retail and food service isn’t as easy as most people think; dealing with assholes all day takes its toll.  Be the one person who decides to keep their trashy attitude to themselves and don’t follow the entitled herd.  Retail people are people too.  Don’t forget that.

 

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Spirited

Yesterday at work, while I was braving our godawful restrooms, I overheard two women talking about the holidays.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but acoustics carry in that place and they were hardly making an effort to keep their voices to a dull roar.  As I squeezed past one of the women to get to the sink, she said to her friend “I just can’t get into the Christmas spirit this year.  I’m so lost on what to get my daughter.  I’m just going to give her $200 on Christmas morning and she can do whatever she wants with it.”  To my surprise, her friend thought this was a fantastic idea, and the pair left me in peace to finish scrubbing my hands clean.

imagesI already went on a short rant about gift giving last week, so I’ll spare you a recap.  I will say that simply handing over some cash to a relative, especially a close relative like your child, is hardly the way to get into the holiday spirit if you’re not feeling it this time around.  Instead of giving up and relying on the bare minimum to get you by, why not try…..

Saying Merry Christmas to more people, strangers or friends.  It’s simple, easy, and doing it with a smile almost forces you to get in good spirits about the upcoming holiday.  Not enough people say “Merry Christmas” anymore; I guarantee you’ll thrill the anti-Happy Holidays crowd, and in turn make yourself happier.

Don’t overspend/stress about gifts.  This is advice I need to take myself, as I’m almost always stressing about getting enough gifts for everyone.  Putting too much emphasis on how much you spend and/or how many things you get for each person in your life is a surefire way to murder your spirit.  If a friend or family member is going to be offended because you didn’t spend enough or get them enough, they aren’t worth any gifts at all.

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Stay away from the crowds!  Do your grocery shopping during odd hours, DO NOT GO TO THE MALL, avoid rush hour as much as you possibly can, and try out smaller shops instead of braving the pit of hell that is Walmart.  Nothing can get you angrier than being stuck behind the gaggle of old ladies while you’re just trying to pick up some eggs and a gift card.  Avoidance will make you happier, regardless of the time of year.

Scatter decorations so you’re always around something Christmas related.  Put a candy cane in your car, get a small wreath or bows for your office, and go to town at home.  Do whatever is comfortable for you and fits your personal style.  I can’t help but be in a good mood when I’m home and we flip the lights on, illuminating our tree.  It always serves as a personal reminder of how magical this season can be.

Nog it up.  Egg nog tends to magically appear around Thanksgiving and then vanish into the new year as mysteriously as it arrived.  Even when it’s only my husband drinking it, just seeing it on the table and glimpsing the bottle in the fridge makes me feel spirited and excited about Christmas.  There are endless choices for brand, flavor, plenty that come with alcohol already mixed in, and countless recipes online.

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Go to church.  This one doesn’t work for me anymore, but I can recall many times in my past where a few hours with youth group, doing secret angel gift exchanges and spending time together was one of my favorite pastimes during the month of December.  Going to mass is also a great reminder about why we celebrate Christmas (for you religious folk).

Volunteer.  When I was living in Connecticut, I did a lot of volunteer work at a home for disabled men, the elderly, at a soup kitchen/homeless shelter, and a few other places around my city.  Doing so not only makes you more appreciative, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that you were able to help someone and brighten their day, even if it was only for a few moments.

Turn on some music.  Holiday music that you enjoy, that is, as the music pumped through speakers in stores can have the exact opposite effect on your mood.  The rock version of Mr. Grinch always puts a smile on my face.  And then there is this.  I dare you to not smile.

Make some cookies!  If you have kids, make sure they are heavily involved.  If not, bake some up for yourself and your favorite people.  Decorate with icing, get fun cookie cutters, and have fun with it.  If you’re more skilled than I, go for a cake, a pie, or whatever other dessert you associate with the holiday season.

Do an early gift exchange.  My husband and I exchange one gift on Christmas Eve, which is a pretty common tradition.  But why not exchange a gift now?  Giving and receiving early will hype you up for Christmas morning by giving you a little sneak peek of what is coming.  It’s always fun for me to try to choose a great gift for my husband to open early as well (although sometimes challenging when it’s wrapped and I can’t quite remember what it is).

Don’t be a loner!  If you’re lucky enough to have family close by, spend time with them.  If not, get together with friends.  If that isn’t an option, volunteer work as referenced earlier will put you in close contact with others.  Or go shopping and make it a point to smile at a stranger.  Being alone is the worst way to get into the spirit, so surround yourself with people, spread some joy, and have a Merry Christmas!

Running On Dunkin

My husband made the executive decision to stop off at the Dunkin Donuts near our home for breakfast on our way to work this morning.  I’ve been shying away from this place because of my experience the last time we went; my order was not properly prepared and was a major let down.  The menu featured some new turkey sausage breakfast items, so my husband got a turkey sausage, egg and cheese English muffin and I got the same but prepared in a wake-up wrap (a toasted tortilla folded like a taco around the ingredients).  The food was fantastic this time around, but the service left something to be desired.

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I used to adore this particular location.  There was a sweet girl working the drive-thru who never stopped smiling and got your order in your hands as quickly as possible.  The staff inside was great as well; I took my son there quite a few times when I had a job that gave me every Friday off and it was always a great experience.  We even had one employee who would bring the entire staff of my former office donuts and coffee in exchange for a quick chiropractic adjustment with the doctor.  But sadly the staff has completely changed, freebies are gone, and my favorite drive-thru girl is no more.

The first change was pretty painful; my sweet drive-thru guru was replaced by a slow, overweight, sloppy looking woman who acted like a first day trainee every time we dealt with her.  The staff inside was replaced by clueless teenagers and lazy adults.  Eventually the drive-thru woman was replaced by a portly woman who worked at lightning speed while still maintaining a friendly attitude.  I was excited to see her, but I only got to see her twice as she was either moved to work in the back or moved on in her career.  Since then, there’s been nothing but disappointment in the Dunkin staff.

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While I am glad that this morning’s breakfast was delicious enough to somewhat justify the nearly ten minute wait for it, I don’t understand why we had to park our car in the front of the building and wait for something I’ve seen the staff prepare in approximately two minutes.  My favorite drive-thru girl, along with other employees at various other locations I’ve been in, work the toasters with magic and put together breakfast sandwiches with ease.  Their toaster doesn’t take very long to add a nice golden crunch to bagels and English muffins, and the eggs and meats are heated quickly as well.  Dunkin used to pride itself on fast service, and other locations probably still do, but ours now moves at a snail’s pace.  When I worked a drive-thru myself, I always dreaded having to tell a car to pull forward.  Lately, it seems like pulling forward is the go-to request for confused and busy employees.

The kicker this morning was the manager who brought our order out to the car.  My husband requested our teas from the drive-thru employee prior to pulling forward, so she just had the easy task of bringing the small brown bag out to the car.  Her long curly hair was unkempt and flying wild; I always had to tie my hair back while working with food so this worried me a bit.  Her light denim shirt was stained with bleach spots and brown dirty smudges; it didn’t look like the normal DD uniform and there was no name tag.  Her tennis shoes were unremarkable and I’m surprised I noticed them at all due to her mid-thigh length jean shorts.  Jean shorts.  Is there a new uniform that I’m not aware of, or is this a little strange?

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Before you accuse me of being picky, let me say that I’ve worked these jobs.  I’ve done fast food, sit-down dining, retail, call center, and other customer service based jobs where the customer must be number one.  Often I’ve been the first person people come in contact with when coming into or being initially introduced to a business.  I have undergone countless hours of customer service training and I believe that image and service should matter to a business.  I don’t care if you slip burgers or manage a large office; the customer is number one and should feel secure, comfortable, assisted and happy.  A certain dress code (including hair styles and jewelry) must be adhered to, the customer must not be talked down to, and smoke breaks need to wait until after everyone has been helped and the downtime for the break exists.

I don’t believe that the quality of people has changed since I began working in customer service up until now.  Everyone out there is fully capable of providing great service after showing up to work dressed properly and smelling halfway decent.  People should WANT to be great, regardless of how important their job is to the rest of the world.  Managers and owners should demand excellence from their staff rather than taking customers for granted and becoming far too relaxed, letting the environment and service suffer as a result.  Hell, even worthless Wal-Mart used to have standards for their cashiers.  Yesterday, my cashier couldn’t even be bothered mumbling a “hello” or “thank you” to me.

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This morning, my husband stated that this visit to our local Dunkin would be our last.  Even though the food was on point this time around, and even though we love their unsweet tea, we have no reason to think that jean-short manager is putting the proper care into food preparation and handling when she can’t even dress herself properly and allows her employees to also be sloppy while putting little to no care into running the business the way it should be run.  She could be the greatest manager in the world, but she failed to give us that impression and that’s the only thing that matters to a customer.  We know what we see.  We don’t concern ourselves with the behind-the-scenes action.  We judge you by what you give us and what you put in front of our face.

If my standards are unreasonably high in your opinion, I wonder if it’s simply because your standards are too low?  Was I wrong in leaving Hardee’s one day because the girl in the drive-thru thought it would be hilarious to speak in a piss-poor British accent while her coworkers giggled?  Am I wrong for leaving behind a gourmet burger joint because the service has suffered as their business has increased?  Or does the fault lie with employees and customers who choose to shrug and said “eh, it’s good enough,” choosing to give/receive poor services instead of pulling for something better?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d rather allow my incorrect view to push me towards better things than have my opinion make me constantly settle for sub-par services.

Eye Don’t Like It

My eyes suck.  I’m nearsighted; I can’t see anything further than 6 inches from my nose without my contacts or glasses.  I have year round allergies and almost always deal with itchy and red eyes from the various crap floating around in the air.  My eyes enjoy drying out during random times of the day.  I want to get Lasik, but my eyes are so sensitive that I’m pretty sure I’d run away as soon as they started messing around with my head.  I hate my eyes.

Saturday evening I began to notice a bit of redness in my left eye, which is normal.  I wrote it off as allergy related.  My son was also having the same issue in one of his eyes, so I was certain that was the cause.  On Sunday, it was much worse.  Monday morning I woke up nauseous and dizzy with a slight headache, but the redness wasn’t any worse, so I took a personal day off of work to get a bit of rest.  Tuesday morning, I woke up to this:

Sexy, right?  I send a picture in an email to my boss and let him know that I couldn’t make it to work.  I headed to Walgreens to get some drops to reduce redness and soothe irritation and they seemed to help a bit.  Jimmy Johns for dinner also helped.  I went to bed Tuesday night fairly confident that the problem was taken care of.  I’m also wrong a lot.  I woke up this morning in extreme pain and feeling very nauseous.  At this point, I suspected I had a scratch on my eye.

I called Walmart to get in to see the doctor; I hate Walmart but the eye doctor there is wonderful and she helped me out three years ago when I scratched my eye, coming from home during her off time to see me.  Here’s the conversation I had:

Me:  Hello, I was wondering if I could get in to see Dr. Price today.  I’m pretty sure I scratched my eye.  It’s very red and painful and it’s been like this for a few days now.

Vision Center Guy:  Well, Dr. Price is off today.  How do you know you scratched it?

Me:  I’m not sure that is what I did, but something is definitely wrong.  (described symptoms)

Vision Center Guy:  Hold on one minute (shuffles papers)  Okay, let me see here…. (he proceeds to read through a list of emergency situations that warrant calling Dr. Price on her day off)  I see nothing about a scratch here.  Oh yes, here we go, scratched cornea, redness, moderate to severe irritation.  That sounds like what you have.  But I don’t think she’d want to be bothered because this really doesn’t sound like that bad of an emergency.

Me:  …….. Well it feels like an emergency to me.  She’s seen me before during her off hours for an emergency, can you at least call and see what she says?

Vision Center Idiot:  No, I’m not going to bother her.  You should go to the ER or the Eye Surgeon of Indiana.  I don’t know their address though.  Or phone number.  But you should just do that.

I did take the useless moron’s advice and went to the Eye Surgeon’s office, where the doctor worked through her lunch break to see me.  Turns out I have iritis, an inflammation of the eye that causes eye pain and redness, headaches, motion sickness, and can permanently damage the eye.  She said it was good that I came in today but should have come sooner, as the risk of permanent damage is high.

I know I shouldn’t expect too much from Walmart, but I’m completely outraged at their level of incompetence and lack of care for their customers.  All the idiot had to do was call Dr. Price and get her opinion, since she is the doctor AND because my symptoms were on the checklist of reasons she should be called.  Instead, he decided to be a rude little prick and brush me off.  This is the second problem I’ve had with Walmart recently; their pharmacy screwed up my prescription and the woman told me it was just too bad, nothing she could do to fix it or help me.  I’ve since transferred to Walgreens.  I get that working at Wally World isn’t the most glamorous job on the planet, but when you’re working in the vision center for a doctor, you’re required to at least pretend to care about the people who need assistance.  It wasn’t as if I was calling to get an emergency eye exam because I wanted new contacts or I got an eyelash in my eye and wanted the doctor to help me remove it.  I had a serious problem requiring immediate attention and all I got was a conversation with a lazy prick that refused to do as he is directed and call the damn doctor to get her opinion on a medical emergency.  If anyone is going to tell me that the health of my eye isn’t important enough, let it be the doctor.

The problem with Walmart is that they are in zero danger of going out of business or losing money.  There’s one everywhere you look and they are always packed.  Not having to work for customers results in a decrease in the quality of customer service.  They can be rude to you because chances are, you’ll be back anyway.  If they lose one or two customers, it doesn’t matter because there’s hundred of thousands more out there to throw their hand earned money in their registers.  Leaving their pharmacy didn’t hurt them in the least, they lost a few dollars a month from me but are still gaining insane amounts from people content with dealing with their sometimes bad attitudes and occasional incompetence.  It’s a shit way to treat the people who keep you in business, but Walmart can afford to do it.  This is one of those unfortunate cases where one person can’t make a difference; nothing I do or say will change anything about how they operate.  Maybe one day things will change and their policies will demand that employees at least pretend to give a damn and take pride in their jobs.  I won’t be holding my breath for that one.

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