Sunday, May 27, 2012

Customer Service and Other Myths……..

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me. Maybe I am getting a little cranky as the years fly by, but I am just not feeling the love from the world of commerce anymore. I don’t know what has happened to what used to be known as “customer service”, but it’s a premise that now could be listed on the side of a milk carton.  I mean, if you are at the grocery store and $47 worth of stuff fits into one bag, somebody there should say “thank you”.

 I am not asking for conversation, Lord knows, I am not one for idle chit chat, I guess I just want a simple acknowledgement that says “I know you can shop anywhere, thanks for shopping here”….and a simple one word expression of gratitude would do. Instead, recently, as I was caught between the cashier telling the bagger the horrid details of a date gone bad, I was so grateful to be done and on my way, that I was the one who said “thank you” as she handed me my receipt!

Two days ago, I stopped at a major national home improvement store for a small can of paint to finish a project. I selected what I needed and went to the checkout where two cashiers were engrossed in conversation. I was the only one there for the moment and stood quietly until they finished. Finally, one of them turned to me, “did you want to buy something?” Are you kidding me? “Oh no,” I answered, “I was just passing by and I thought I’d drop in to say hello”.

In New Jersey, it is illegal to get out of your car and pump gas. The men that are paid to do it, aren’t happy about that law either. It is an understanding between the driver and the station attendant. No customer service. No talking. (I'm actually kind of okay with that one.) Recently, I had to make an appointment with the cable company for a repair and was told that they would be here between 9:00 am and 7:30 pm. I asked what the chances were that it would be some time after twelve noon so I could go to work in the morning, and the CS rep responded “do you feel lucky?”

Now, I am going to interrupt this rant to exclude two major retail operations from offering poor customer service. The first one is the Apple Store.  We all know Apple doesn’t need to make one dollar more this year to still turn a profit, and yet, if you walk into that store, within seconds, a young person in a blue shirt will approach you to offer help. If you are having a problem of some sort, they will ask if you would like to speak with a “genius”. (It’s all free, so don’t ask how much it would be to talk to someone who is ‘just kind of smart’ like I did). Apple has nailed what it means to provide good customer service.

The other chain store is Publix Food Stores in Florida. Now, it may be the same in other states, but I have only been to the ones in Florida so that is what I will speak to. There are not any located in the state where I live, so you can imagine my surprise when I first shopped at a Publix and was greeted at the checkout with “Thank you for shopping here. Did you find everything you were looking for?” I replied with a few comments and she smiled, “I detect an accent. Where are you from?” (Yo, New Jersey has an accent?) When I answered, she responded, “Well, you have the best corn up there!” Bingo! She is also intelligent! And it didn’t stop there. When the bagger finished putting the groceries back into my cart, he asked, “Can I help you to your car?” Wow! Publix wins the prize on that one!

At Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retail store, there are only two people who talk to you (and often it’s the same person), the greeter on the way in, and the person who checks your receipt on the way out to make sure you are not stealing anything. Otherwise, you’re met with a compilation of grunts and pointing when seeking help from an "associate".

This morning, not familiar with the grocery isle set up in our local Wal-Mart, I asked a young man who was kneeling down stocking shelves where the Splenda was. He wildly threw his arm up waving over to the next isle. It was then that I realized he was texting someone while working. Yes, Wal-Mart, while you are watching me to make sure that I am not taking anything I didn’t pay for, your employees are texting from phones in their pockets – and it’s probably to each other.

However, I wouldn’t go on like this if I couldn’t offer a solution. Since very few people use cash anymore, I suggest that after swiping your card, and prior to you tapping out your pin number, a screen appears that asks you to check the appropriate box. “How would you rate our employees?  

o   Very Helpful
o   Somewhat Helpful
o   Just okay
o   Ignorant

I am telling you, retailers will find this one second survey a real eye-opener. Hey, maybe the responses could become an app that employees can download on their cell phones. That way, while they're  texting, they can see how well they are doing at their jobs. Or not.

Okay. I feel better. Got this whole lack of customer service thing off my chest. And before I get emails, I know that there are many, many people working out there providing excellent customer service and trying their best to deal with what I’m sure can be very difficult customers. But in the last few days, I just haven’t come across any. And I miss them. Is it just me?

PS. Thank you for stopping by to read this blog! (Whew! Glad I remembered that).

Cartoon provided by Image Google


  1. LOL! So true what you said about everything.

    I go to a gas station on Rte 38 and obediently give my credit card to the scary and silent gas attendant, get my gas and then peel outta there. If the gas wasn't so 'cheap' (relatively speaking) I'd go elsewhere :)

    PS. Publix rocks!

  2. I hear ya! I do the same thing at Sam's. Get my gas, no talking and leave!! Thanks for reading!

  3. You have to come to Minnesota where even clerks in the stores are known as "Minnesota Nice." Rubybeets Aka Crystal

  4. Maybe I do Crystal! Need to find out what "Minnesota Nice" means lol!

  5. Awesome article and straight to the point. I don’t know if this is really the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thank you.

  6. I do. Let me have some more information please!