Just when I thought we had “customered” ourselves right out of service, I was proven wrong. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Does the fact that I can use the word ‘customer’ as a verb tell us anything about the experience of retail consumption? This is what it has come to; we point ourselves like guns. If our comfort is compromised at all, we’ll blow the cashier’s head off or at least give them a good pistol whipping. After all (sing it if you know it),
“The customer is always right.”
Pardon my Shakespeare but, “What’ere.”
The consumer has taken this to mean “If I am loud enough for long enough, I will get things that I do not deserve, how exciting.” We all know somebody like this.
“Need to return an out-of-warranty item? Did that McDonald’s kid maliciously leave those pickles on your cheeseburger? You should take Jim with you next time. He’s undefeated. I heard that one time he didn’t get his mid-flight snack and by the time the plane landed, Southwest paid for his ticket and sent him home with three cases of peanuts.”
Look, if you absolutely have to be retail’s answer to the guardian angels, at least have the common courtesy to wear a red beret so we can see you coming and get in line ahead of you. You owe us that much.
Times like these make for some rotten customer service people. That’s what I thought, at least, until I went to Publix.
It was about 9:15 p.m. on a Friday. My wife called my cell and asked me to pick up some cinnamon rolls on my way home from work. I zipped into the first Publix I came to.
Now is it just me or is the Entenmann’s stand in a different place every time? I’m now inside and in the dairy section, standing alone and very obviously lost. I turned around, and there he was (I swear there was a white light around him).
“How can I help you, sir?”
This kid could not have been more than three years my junior and he called me “sir.” I was impressed. I told him I was looking for the Entenmann’s stand.
“What item on the stand were you looking for?”
I wasn’t ready for that. And I’m pretty sure that I stared at him for about five seconds trying to figure out if there was an aisle number hidden in that sentence. I finally managed a weak, “cinnamon rolls.”
“Wait right here.”
I now noticed, for the first time, that we were standing in front of the huge double doors that led to the back of the store. He dashed through them and was back before they stopped swinging.
“Which kind would you like, sir?”
Yep, two different boxes. He wasn’t just holding them though. He was displaying them. Naturally, I panicked and asked if I could phone my wife.
While she was deciding between “ultimate” and “original,” he stood there like Vanna White, still displaying the boxes for me.
Officially wowed, I chose “ultimate,” thanked him and went home.
I don’t know who came first, the bad customer or the bad customer service employee, but I know this kid didn’t care. Those are the moments you wait for. And maybe we wouldn’t have to wait so long for them if we customers were a little gentler with employees.
Charlie Trotter is a junior majoring in email@example.com