Monday, November 15th, 2010
PHONY CUSTOMER SERVICE
Customer service in America has become identical to airport security; it’s all about the illusion. It’s as though Jedi’s are running our stores and airports; “This is not the security you’re looking for,” or “this is not the product you are looking for…”
At airports around the nation we go through an absurd song and dance that does nothing to actually enhance our safety or target the known threats, yet time and time again, idiot Americans utter the same asinine phrase to justify the totally unnecessary inconvenience, “well, as long as it’s keeping us safe.”
Which it isn’t, of course; the most recent example of this came weeks ago when the latest Al Qaeda plot to blow up airplanes using on-board explosives was uncovered. The plot works this way; Al Qaeda uses the mail and cargo system to hide explosives on board aircrafts and then detonates the bombs while the plane is in mid-air. In response to that, our brilliant security experts do not begin immediately taking pains to insure that cargo is better inspected, rather, they begin intrusive pat-down inspections of passengers. While there is no sense whatsoever to the train of thoughts, thousands of passengers who have seen their pre-flight timeline backtrack to 2002 waits of up to 90 minutes to get through security somehow justify the whole dog-and-pony show as actually making us safer, when it is provable that it is not. Ah, America; ya gotta love the ignorance.
The Jedi mind-set of style over substance, and looks over reality is creeping further and further into our culture and has made its’ way to our big box/warehouse stores.
Upon leaving Sam’s Club last weekend, a store I love and belong to (along with Costco) I took note of the conversation I had with the receipt checker.
Sam’s, Costco and other membership stores demand as a stipulation for membership that all customers present their receipt upon leaving the store so that it can be cross-checked with purchases. While such searches are unconstitutional and may be refused in retail outlets open to all of the public, they are part of your membership agreement with stores such at Costco and are, therefore, non-negotiable.http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thecheckout/2007/03/checking_your_receipt_or_check.html
As I arrived at the exit door, I noticed that the first thing the receipt checker said to me was “did you have trouble finding anything?”
Clearly, she had mixed up her words; this question is never asked in a pejorative sense; the common phrasing is “did you find everything okay?”
Out of a force of habit I said “yes,” thinking that she had asked the more common question “did you find everything you were looking for?”
But I said “yes,” in response to her actual question, which was “did you have trouble finding anything?”
Yes, yes I did have trouble was implied in my answer; yet she did not respond at all. She just went about her checking of my receipt. Fair enough; perhaps in her mind she thought she had asked the actual question she meant to and that I had indicated that I had in fact found everything I was looking for.
The exchange, however, pointed out to me how the illusion of customer service has crept further in America.
This policy of asking “did you find everything” has long bothered me.
Having worked, literally decades ago, in retail management it is not as though I am without a perspective as both a customer and a service provider and what pains me to no end is not only the asinine approach of asking this question at the times and places we do, but the glaringly obvious answer to solve the whole quandary and actually provide customer service, as opposed to the illusion of service.
It seems to me it was about a decade ago check-out clerks began asking people, as they were paying for their purchases with a line of other customers behind them, whether or not they had found everything they were looking for. This is just dumb; it places the customer in the awkward position of either lying to be polite to the customers waiting in line, or taking advantage of the stores’ idiocy and saying “yes, as a matter of fact I couldn’t find the kitty litter.” If the customer chooses to speak up about their inability to find the littler, a bag boy is summoned to run to the other end of the store, while everyone in line waits, just so that the customer can get her litter. While this may serve as a form of “service” to the person who needs litter, it serves as nothing more than a giant annoyance to the customers in line who wait mindlessly for their turn.
Now it seems the warehouse stores are asking at an even more inopportune time; at the exit. Imagine the scenario at Costco if you tell the receipt checker that you wanted a 5 gallon jug of soy sauce; the store will then send a forklift to retrieve it for you, and you will have to wait in line at the customer service desk to pay for your soy sauce, before then rejoining the receipt checking line. Inconvenient doesn’t begin to describe this stupidity.
All of this is easily avoidable and fixable with actual customer service. Back in the old days, circa 1989, retail stores had what were called “floor people.” Their job was, as one might deduce, to “walk the floor of the store,” and be available to customers in need. Imagine this; they would actually approach customers while they were shopping and ask if they were finding everything okay, rather than waiting until they had checked out; what a concept. When the floor person didn’t have any customers to assist, he or she would either clean, rearrange or work at a register. I know, because I was the most kick-ass floor person the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, California had ever seen. Stories are still told about me in the back hallways there. Few have ever come close to matching my level of competence and efficiency.
In other words, it’s not that hard to actually provide customer service. But companies aren’t really interested in that anymore, because we have shown as customers that we will tolerate merely the illusion of being helped.
“Isn’t that nice, that gentleman asked me if I had found everything I was looking for as I was leaving the store…how friendly…”
No, it’s moronic; but apparently so is the clientele.