When Is Customer Service, Not?

By Ariel Kane

When Is Customer Service, Not?

Dental FlossWe ran out of dental floss. Okay, so we actually had some that came in the little give-away-packets from our dentist.

Every six months when we get our teeth cleaned, the hygienist gives us a choice of toothbrushes (lime green, magenta, or orange – soft bristled or firm) and a choice of sample flosses – either waxed or woven. Since we use an electric toothbrush and I have a favorite floss that isn’t the brand the dentist gives away, I dutifully drop them in our medicine/supply closet where they sit until I gather them up and supply them to the occasional overnight guest or cart them away to donate to a homeless shelter. I like my special floss. It stretches, it’s blue and it’s fun. Oddly enough, if I want to floss every day, I have found that it is far better to use the “fun” one. But I digress.

On this day, I had to run out to the health food store, so I thought I could also walk across the street to Rite Aid and pick up a couple of packs of my “special” floss on the same trip. I first went to Basil Bandwagon, our local Natural market, where I picked up a few items and then wandered up and down the aisles thinking perhaps it might jog an idea for something I was missing, something that wasn’t on my list. When I stopped to feel if the avocados were ripe, a voice piped up behind me.

“Are you finding everything you need?”

I turned around and saw the manager, a woman in her 50s, who was crouched in an aisle as she took items from a box and placed them onto one of the lower shelves.

“Yes,” I said, as I decided I would wait to buy avocados in another day or two. “But I am ready to check out now.”

“Go right ahead to the register on your left.”

The manager rang up my items and I appreciated that she immediately stopped what she had been doing so as to handle my order.

“What kind of bag would you like, paper of plastic?” She asked.

“Plastic is fine.” Darn, I had forgotten my reusable bags in my car. “I will just recycle it when I get home.”

“I just want to let you know that we are having a series of events and specials all month. If you come back this weekend, everything in the entire store will be 20% off!”

“Okay, thanks for the heads up.”

“Here is a surprise give away.” She said as she tucked an extra little paper bag into my plastic one. “Enjoy!”

Thanking her I took my bag and dropped in my car before jogging across the street to the Rite Aid for my floss.

Entering the drug store, I checked the headers hanging above the rows until I saw what I was looking for, “Dental supplies and Toothpaste” on aisle 15. Cruising along I found just what I needed, “Listerine Ultraclean” floss. Grabbing two packages, I headed to the check out counter where a young gal waited on me. I put my credit card, chip end up, in the card reader, waited until it was authorized and put my card back in my wallet. This is when the “customer service” began. As I looked up this young lady folded the receipt in half and held it out in an unnatural manner. I mean, who usually presents something to someone at nose level height? As I reached for it I was distracted when she blurted out, “You have nice eyes.” My gaze snapped to hers, “Thank you,” I said – partially a statement, almost as a question.

It was such a strange moment. I was immediately taken off guard by her remark. I looked closer at the sales gal. She was taller than me by several inches, in her early 20s, with light green eyes, a pixy nose, straight brown hair that settled around her shoulders, lean, cute – yet somehow something was off.

Hmmmm…What was it? It was a pleasant thing for her to say. And I do have nice eyes. I like how they can sparkle and dance. They show when I am thinking or engaged, amused, compassionate, or curious – all of these things I have seen when watching our videos or even when doing my makeup in the mirror. Yes, it is true, they are “nice” and on the surface I should be pleased by the apparent compliment.

But why, I wondered, do I feel so unseen? Why did her comment seem hurried and disingenuous? It was as if she wasn’t truly seeing me! Why does it feel…icky? These impressions and thoughts flashed by in a moment as, floss and receipt in hand, I headed out of the store.

As the automatic door wooshed opened, I looked down at the receipt in my hand. It was facing me the way the gal had artfully positioned it. Here is what it said:

TO WIN $1000!
Tell us about your service by entering the
code below for a chance to win $1000
Or one of ten to win $100

Ahh, I thought. All things become clear.

I am willing to bet that this gal gets a bonus or some other recognition when customers from her register go online and give a positive review. The receipt had a long series of numbers to enter when filling out the form that surely would point back to her. But I am also willing to bet that had she been honest, she would get far greater results:

Sales Gal: Can I help you with anything else?

Me: No Thanks.

Sales Gal: Would you like a bag?

Me: No, that’s fine.

Sales Gal: Here’s your receipt. You can enter for a chance to win $1000 by going up online and giving feedback about your experience today. If you have a moment to do it, I would appreciate it! (Said with a smile.)

I may or may not have taken the time to go up online had she been direct. I am not one who particularly enjoys spending time on surveys. But I have been known to go out of my way to do nice things for people – even strangers who have somehow touched my heart. And I sincerely don’t enjoy it when someone tries to manipulate me.

To bad, I thought as I crumpled the receipt, that they didn’t have this promotion across the street at my health food store.

Of course the manager at Basil Bandwagon was “just doing her job,” but I know true customer service when I see it or feel it, and even when I don’t.

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