Can we talk about the dying institute of customer service in the retail setting? I mean, it really shouldn't be an issue, but sadly it is. I hate to be one of those people, truly, I do. I remember the way I hated to hear a customer gripe and complain about trivial stuff. But I certainly never let them know how I was feeling about it. Having worked my way through high school and college while standing behind a cash register at a big box retail store, I was programmed to remember to treat the customer in front of me as though they were the only person within a 500 mile radius of where I stood. I was expected to greet each one with a smile, say hello, make some sort of small talk with them, and simultaneously and efficiently scan each item and place it, not toss it, into a bag for them. I lived my teenage years under the threat of immediate termination from that job if I was caught failing to meet those standards. Talking to my friend at the register next to me? No way! That was one of the cardinal sins of retail! And using four-lettered words while on the sales floor, especially in front of a customer? Are you kidding me? Out of the question. And honestly, I don't think that it is too much to ask from the person behind the register, who happens to be my last encounter with an establishment, to be decent and respectful. That last encounter leaves the most lasting impression, after all.
Somewhere along the line, between my teenage years and my oh-my-god-I'm-almost-fourty! years, the customer service standard has broken down. No, let me revise that, it has crashed and burned beyond recognition. Oh, sure, you can find it here and there, most likely in a small, independent type shop. Those aren't always available, and besides, that doesn't negate the expectation of the retail market, the big boxes, the grocery store in the middle of downtown to meet at least a minimal customer service standard.
I have heard cashiers discuss their drinking exploits from the night before. I have heard a cashier talk about which cashier at the other end of the store he had "tapped." I've heard one telling another to "check out the fat a** over there in the crippled line", while I bagged my own groceries because the two employees in front of me were too busy with thier sidebar conversation. The other day, my cashier stopped talking to their neighboring cashier about how much they hated another coworker just long enough to say, "Are you (f-word) kidding me?", when the receipt paper got jammed in the register. I mean, don't get me wrong, I use that exact same expression all the time. I said it in my head right after my cashier said it aloud. But that's the thing. I know when to think it versus when to say it. It doesn't offend me to hear those words. Beleive me, I am not that delicate. But in a setting where I am your customer and your business depends on whether or not I choose to shop at your store, I expect there to be a better standard of behavior.
Once, after that "crippled line" incidnet, I got so frustrated with the lack of customer service and outright rudeness coupled with a total lack of human decency that upon arriving home, I called the store and asked for the manager. After explaining my dissastifaction and disgust with the appaling behavior, the person who identified himself as the manager said to me, after a huge sigh, "Okay." That may be okay to you, but it is certainly not okay with me. So I called that store's home office, left a message, and received no resonse. About two weeks later, I called again, left another message, and still received no response. So I emailed that store's home office customer service department and cc'd their VP. Finally, a response, but only a simple apology and a "we are looking into the matter." I expected an emphatic apology and something along the lines of "We do not tolerate this kind of behavior." But no. The same cashier is still spewing off four lettered words while dealing with customers at the same store.
Maybe it is because I was held to a higher standard that this new atmosphere of anything goes when dealing with customers is so bothersome to me. Maybe it's because, at least in my opinion, it is a direct result of a failure to instill common decency, respect for others, and at least a median level of basic manners into today's youth.
How did we, as a society, come to accept this type of behavior? How did we become the kind of people or raise the kind of people who behave in that manner? And what can we do to revitalize that dying institution of customer service that I miss so much?