his past weekend was spent being a good consumer. That is, I did a lot of shopping and spent a fair amount money.
It was leaving one place that this idea of being too nice popped into my head. Even though I used the ‘self service’ checkout, I did require assistance because of specific items in my basket.
Okay, I am just going to tell you it was at HomeDepot. And even though this is one of my favorite places to shop – for supplies and products and tools and even ideas – this whole notion of being a customer started building in my head.
So, here I am at checkout trying to maintain control of an eight foot piece of PVC pipe, a half dozen plants, a couple cans of spray paint, two ceramic lamps I found on clearance and an assortment of other general type products.
So up comes the spray paint and this requires the cashier to verify that I am over 18 to purchase. Now, keep in mind that the whole point of self serve is just that… to serve yourself. It keeps me from having to interact too much with the employees and I can keep on the single track of creating and getting all the other necessary tasks done so that I can just get back to the task of making beautiful things.
Now, the cashier was pleasant enough, but she was overseeing four of these checkout stations and wasn’t really “plugged in” to what I was doing. So the fact that once she cleared the transaction validating that I am, indeed, over the age of 18 and not heading out to tag the nearest wall or train car, she set about assisting others. Now, that eight foot section of pipe was going to also require her assistance, since they don’t have UPC codes and it is sold ‘by the foot’. So, I had to get her attention and get her back over there to assist. That accomplished, she flitted away again.
Well, those lovely ceramic lamps were a special deal that I negotiated with someone back in the clearance department. Actually quite a good deal as one was chipped (I knew I could camouflage it) and the other was the last of its kind. Originally 19.99 a piece, I got them both for $5.50. But it had to be rung up uniquely. Queue cashier girl. This time she was less than enthusiastic but got the job done.
Okay, everything is scanned in and I pay for the items. Because recently I have committed to reducing my plastic footprint (namely those GD plastic shopping bags), I had to figure out a way to carry these items without the use of a shopping back. (I do carry fabric bags in the car, but apparently haven’t gotten too used to bringing them in to the store with me to use – a story for another time.) So, in all of this, I still managed to look, catch and maintain eye contract long enough to say “thank you” to the young lady and head toward the parking lot.
I wasn’t more than a few feet away when it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be the one to say thank you, shouldn’t that be her role? And then it occurred to me that it wasn’t just this store, not even this particular chain of stores, but everywhere I seem to go.
A little background: When my son was a baby and in daycare, he got sick. Sick enough that the staff decided he should go to the emergency room. They called me and at the same time, we left our individual destinations and made our ways to the hospital. This was when I was working in Silicon Valley and regardless of the time or day, traffic was always a nightmare. And I had about 20 or so miles to cover, all the while I knew that my precious baby boy was puking and running a fever. I know I drove like a crazy person and wove in and out of lanes of traffic, inevitably cutting off people and generally pissing off those around me with my inattention and bad driving.
Long story short, I made it to the hospital and baby was eventually fine – a little gastrointestinal tract irritation that cleared up almost by day’s end. But in looking back, I decided that I would use the basis of this event to help justify others’ driving when it impedes a hopefully smooth commute for me. I don’t know what’s going on with that person, maybe they, too, have a sick/injured/scared/threatened baby/parent/child/significant other and aren’t just being a bad driver, it was a singular event that caused them to be the total assholes they are being. Like I was that day I was scared out of my mind that something terrible was happening to my baby and I couldn’t hold him or comfort him. It sort of grew from there, making allowances for others when the apparent situation didn’t call for the extreme reactions or lack of simple common courtesies.
So, back to the HomeDepot excursion and the fact that I had to say “thank you” even though I was the customer spending my hard earned money for their products and essentially handling the financial transaction, even forgoing having anyone bag my products and even the bag itself! As I continued to think about it, I realized that what you and I refer to as ‘common courtesy’ isn’t really common anymore at all. I tried to think of the last time I really had good customer service (forget ‘excellent’ customer service) and found that I think I’d be happy if someone just acknowledges my existence in their place of business!
Is the times? I suppose there are some that would say so, but I find that it occurs no matter the person’s age… younger or older than me, I still am unappreciated. When was the last time someone held the door for you? Allowed you to enter first? Offered you a seat before sitting first? Have you ever had anyone hold your chair for you to sit?
The Kid used to open the car door for me. He’d make a big show of it, but it was sweet. Once he held my chair for me in a popular chain restaurant and I swear the table next to us gasped! Hasn’t happened in a long time, but I did initially teach him manners. He still regularly holds the door for me, although on occasion I have been known to stand and look at the door, then look to him and then back to the door again. We generally chuckle at it, but I want the person he spends the rest of his life with to want to thank me for raising such a courteous man.
And ever since my HomeDepot excursion, I’ve been noticing too much the lack of “service” in customer service and the lack of manners and polite behavior. It seems especially lacking in written communications like email and texts where it can be especially troublesome. In a recent response from (the company where I work’s) technical support group, I received such a terse and clipped reply that it was almost shocking. Asking for their technical service (which they are highly paid to dispense) was accompanied with what I perceived to be a sigh of exasperation and a grumbling that would be quite uncalled for given the professional level of behavior expected at this company.
I has become more and more clear… manners and good behavior is a thing of a the past. When was the last time someone thanked you? Or wished you a great day. Or went out of their way to assist you?
I hope someone can prove me wrong.