isn’t this supposed to be normal?

Sunday was a curious day. It was National Customer Service Day. Odd. It has always been my understanding that every day was supposed to be Customer Service Day for people who have, well, customers, and are in the business of serving them. Apparently, I have been grossly misled. Take a recent case in point.

A couple weeks ago, I attempted to exchange a Christmas gift I had bought my daughter at a store which shall remain nameless here, except that its first word is a synonym for eternity and its second is a number somewhere between 20 and 22. Exchange, not return. With a receipt. For the same item in another size. Two managers refused, citing strict company policy that required original attached tags as well. Even with Christmas presents. I asked, “Why?” Reasonable enough questions, I thought.

“It’s strict company policy.”
“Does that make sense if it’s the same exact item I want in exchange?”
“It’s strict company policy.”
“Why are there no reasonable exceptions?”
“It’s strict company policy.”
Do you, as the manager of this store, care if that makes customers so mad they don’t want to come back?”
“It’s strict company policy.”
“What if I stand here, take off all my clothes, and start singing Happy Birthday on top of the clothesracks?”
“It’s strict company policy.”

Now, it seems a no-brainer to me that a business at which mothers everywhere drop lots of cash on an annual basis would attempt to keep those mothers happy. Particularly in a recession. But I majored in English, not business, so what do I know? I do know that “strict company policy” just lost them four customers for life. Believe me, with three teenage girls to keep in the top of fashion, that’s a lot of money.

Or try calling a store to determine if they actually have an item before you get in the car and spend the time and gas to get there. The phone rings, you finally get to a real person who presumably works there and has not just randomly walked in off the street and picked up the phone.
Me: “Hi. Do you carry squid in a can?”
Salesperson: “Uh, I don’t know.” Long pause.
After the pause drags on, you realize. He has absolutely no intention of finding out.

I honestly overheard this conversation from the side of the store clerk at another store which shall remain nameless except that it starts and ends with a “T” and has six letters. We use one when we go to the archery range.

Salesgirl to customer: “Do we carry electric teakettles? I don’t know.” Pause. “OK, I guess I can try to find out. . . . “
Salesgirl to two of her fellow salesclerks standing around next to her: “Do we carry electric teakettles?”
First clerk: “You mean like, kettles, or pots? Cause there’s a difference.”
Salesgirl: “I dunno. Whatever. Kettles.”
First clerk: “Oh. OK. I’ve never seen any? Have you?”
Second clerk: “No, I don’t think so. I haven’t seen any.”
First girl returning to phone: “No, I’m sorry. We don’t have any of those. Thank you for calling!”

Yes, Virginia, this is what really happens when you call customer service. If you don’t believe me, we’ll go check on it for you. I promise.

However, in the interest of championing good salesclerks (associates, team members, whatever!), waitpersons, office managers, etc. everywhere, this is how I intend to celebrate Customer Service Day. I will be as nice as possible to everyone in service I meet today, even the ones who make you wish you had personal access to their pay scale. It will encourage the good ones and at least puzzle the bad ones. I will be the first to point out that there are probably a lot more unpleasant customers out there than service people. I hope, however, that it is not just on this day I try to treat others as I would like to be treated. Perhaps if we all remembered the second greatest commandment (Love your neighbor as yourself, Mark 12:31), every day would be Customer Service Day. Or, we wouldn’t need one at all.

One thought on “isn’t this supposed to be normal?

  1. Anonymous

    My favorite is, “I don't know who I could ask.” Wow, maybe during employee meetings they could bring that up.

    Mary Witt (because it won't let me post as my name)


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