No Respect = No Customers = No Business

I have a theory that customer service is dead in America. I have dozens of personal examples as proof. Here is one of them.

Yesterday I did my Thanksgiving shopping at Trader Joe’s. I picked that store because it was the anniversary of my friend Lorrie’s death and TJ’s was one of her favorite stores. It reminds me of her. Call it a “tribute shopping spree” if you will.

Unfortunately, (I think because I was a little weepy), I forgot a few things, like a package of freeze-dried scalloped potatoes (horrendous nutrition, but not my call). This was ye ol’ hubby man’s request in addition to ham for our Turkey Day dinner.

[NOTE: I’m not a pork eater. It’s a personal thing. But if you are, you must see This American Life—The TV Show: Season 1 – the episode titled “Pandora’s Box.” Holy cow pig! Also, check out Food, Inc.]

“What?!” you’re asking yourself. “He didn’t want a cardboard-infused pizza?”

I know. I can’t figure that out either….

The missing food items required another trip to the market. I have three other choices besides TJ’s: Nob Hill, Whole Foods, and Safeway. Nob Hill won because it is the closest to my house—even though I HATE shopping at that store.

Why? Bad karma.

Can a grocery store have bad karma? That’s my theory about Nob Hill. I think it is because a lot (but not all) of the employees have the phone-it-in attitude: put out the least amount possible (without getting fired) of effort, enthusiasm, pride, friendliness, and customer service. I’ve had so many run-ins with bonehead Nob Hill employees I can’t count the number.

That’s another story, but let me just say, I now ALWAYS get the nickel per bag (per store policy) when I bring in my used grocery sacks.

Besides the packaged potatoes (you don’t think I cook from scratch, do you? I also needed one bottle of beer for a Beer Bread mix. The directions said all you have to do is add one twelve-ounce bottle of beer, stir, pour into pan, and bake. I can handle that.

Being the galloping gourmet that I am, I thought a flavored beer, like Apricot Ale, would add pizzazz to the bread. At Nob Hill the cost for a six-pack of Pyramid’s “Audacious Apricot Ale” was $8.99. I didn’t want to pay nine dollars when I needed only one bottle.

I checked with a checker guy to make sure it was OK to purchase one beer out of the six-pack. He said sure.

I gathered the other things I needed and headed to the checkout stand. For being the day before Thanksgiving, the store was not crowded at all. On the other hand, Trader Joe’s the day before was so packed you could barely maneuver through the aisles.

The checker lady unpacked my cart. No “How are you?” OR “Did you find everything you need?” (like they make the staff say at TJ’s). Not even a simple “Hi.” The CL scanned the items. She picked up the one bottle of beer and in a really snotty tone, said, “You can’t buy just one bottle of beer.”

Yes, I can,” I replied, in a chipper voice. “I asked another checker and he said I could.”

The CL glared at me. “Who said you could?”

I pointed to the much-friendlier checker guy, four checkstands down. “That guy in the red shirt.”

She looked behind her, looked back, and huffed. “That’s not our policy. You have to buy the six-pack,” she said, waving the bottle at me, like wagging her finger.

This is when the showdown started, a test of wills, a silent and motionless pissing match. She stood her ground. I stood mine. We stared at each other. The senior citizens in line behind me looked panicked.

I folded my arms across my chest and waited, stink eyes blasting in both directions. She wanted me to acquiesce and not buy the one bottle. But Checker Lady Honey, you’re barking up the wrong stubborn broad.

I didn’t blink. I waited.

Check mate. The CL blinked.

She set the bottle down and opened a drawer. She pulled out a small book, like a mini-address book. She flipped through the pages—rather aggressively, I thought. Then she entered an amount for the beer and my total popped up on the screen.

After I returned home and unloaded my groceries, I called Nob Hill and asked to speak to the manager—like I have done sooo many times before that I have the phone number memorized.

“This is Josie. Can I help you?”

“Can you buy one bottle of beer from a six-pack?” I asked.

“Yes,” Josie said.

“Well then, why did…..” and blah blah blah.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Josie said, like my anger and disgust was unjustified.

“Listen, Josie, I was treated rudely, lied to, disrespected, scolded in public, had my time wasted, and put in a really bad mood all because you have a frappin’ employee who has been there for years but doesn’t know the meaning of customer service and you think I’m having the wrong reaction?”

“Just a minute,” Josie replied.

A new voice popped on the phone. “Hi, this is Brian, the Store Director. Can I help you?”

I told Brian the sordid tale. He asked me who my checker was. I told him it was the short, overweight woman with brown hair. I told him that his employee had a problem either because she was short, fat, and not good looking and didn’t like me who is tall, thin, and not that bad looking OR she had a foul personality in general, and in either case, she did not belong in a position interacting with the public. I also told him (in more or less terms) that Josie was an idiot, too.

I was pretty much an A-hole.

Brian, on the other hand, was very nice. He was either smart or trained correctly—or both. He assured me that customer service was their top priority. He said his employees were under a lot of pressure because it was Thanksgiving (oh brother) and that he would talk to the two employees. He said he apologized for the checker lady. (That’s a good line.) I said thanks and hung up.

But wait, there’s more!

Because this is just the kind of nut that I am, I drove back to Nob Hill. I planned to buy ONE bottle of Apricot Ale and get back in the CL’s line again.

I was going to say, “Hi, remember me?” I thought that would be funny.

I also don’t accept people disrespecting me. The CL knew the beer policy — or how did she know the beer info was in a little book? She was too lazy to look in the book and preferred instead to give me a hard time. I wanted to confront her. How else can you stop that kind of behavior?

I cased the checkout stands. Darn. She wasn’t there. I guess Brian benched her.

But wait, there’s more!

When Hubby Man came home from work, I told him the sordid tale. He is sooo used to them. (He is also sooo used to my boycotts. Nob Hill is back on the list for about the twelfth time.)

HM had a great idea. He suggested we BOTH to go back to the store and get in the checker lady’s line separately, each with a different brand of bottle of beer—so she has to look up the price twice in her little book.

Too funny.

Looks like there are two nuts in our house.

Moral of the story: Sing it, Aretha!

Find out what it means to me.

Disrespect your customers = no more customers = you’re out of business.

Do you get that, Corporate America?

P.S. If HM and I carry out the two-bottles-of-beer escapade, I’ll let you know….

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