Always Real, Sometimes Tart

The Real Reason Behind On-Line Shopping

Every time I venture out into the world of retail, I always come away astonished that it is a service-based economy that keeps this great nation of ours spinning and churning.

The majority of the sales clerks I encounter make it clear they could not be more bored or put upon with having to help me. I am an unwelcome interruption to their busy schedule of yawning and looking at their cuticles. It has come to the point that I’m surprised by decent service because it’s an exception rather than the rule. And when I do run across someone who is kind and helpful, I want to put them in my shopping bag and take them home and fix up a room for them and feed them ice cream.

As you know, from a previous post, I recently purchased an iPod so that I could listen to it while I pretend to exercise. The thing is though, the iPod itself is like cocaine. Because soon after I got it, I started craving all the iPod accessories and well, today I found myself in Worst Buy at 9am trying to score an iTrip – a car adapter/charger/player. An iThingee if you will. And you know you’ve got a problem when instead of buying a nice pair of shoes, or at least something you can show your girlfriends, you’re buying something that plugs in. And no one would have predicted that.

After I made my purchase, I rushed out to my car and right there in the parking lot, I ripped the package open and plugged the iThingee in and started pushing buttons. And nothing happened. So in a fit of ingenuity, I tried reading the instructions. But I couldn’t. Not because they weren’t in English, but because the print – it is so small. And in order to read the instructions I would have had to set them up on the dashboard and then climb into the backseat. So I went back to randomly pushing buttons and jiggling cords and plugging and unplugging and still, nothing. Finally I gave up and went back into the store to see if I could lure some young thing to my car to help me. Want some candy little sales person? Come, get into my car. Heheheh….

If you’ve ever been to Worst Buy then you know Dwight from The Office oversees his vast empire from the podium at the front door. And if there is anything that indicates who is important and in charge, it’s someone standing behind a podium wearing a polo shirt with donut crumbs down the front and a pencil behind his ear.

So I approached Dwight and politely explained to him that I had just purchased an iThingee and I couldn’t seem to get it to work and I even admitted that I was sure that it was just me and that maybe he could have someone help me. Please. Pretty please. Sweet helpless little old lady smile.

“Well, feel free to go back and see if you can find someone,” he suggested. At this point I paused and stared at him until he pulled the pencil from behind his ear and started nervously drumming it on the podium.

“Um, well, since you’re in charge here, Dwight” I said slowly, “I thought maybe YOU could do that.” And then I gave him the bug eye. You know the bug eye, you’ve given it to your kids, your dog and maybe even your spouse. He sighed and in return gave me the “you idiot” look. He turned to his telephone and in an overstated manner designed to demonstrate what a huge effort he was making on my behalf, he pushed a few buttons with his pencil. “Uh, yeah, this is Dwight,” he breathed into the phone with smoldering self-importance. “I need to see you up front.” When he hung up, he made a move to put the pencil behind his ear with some flourish, but ended up nearly stabbing himself in the eye instead. And then it was my turn to give him the “you idiot” look.

Just then the same sweet young girl who helped me pick out my iThingee came up front and agreed to go with me to my car. In about two seconds, she had it working. And she didn’t even sigh or make me feel stupid. She smiled and said she was happy to help. I officially love her and want to kiss her or give her some candy or pay for her college. Because good service goes a long way with me.

47 thoughts on “The Real Reason Behind On-Line Shopping

  1. Worst Buy is the worst! With the exception of the Geek Squad guys, I have never gotten good service there! Glad you found at least one person who understands what customer service is about.

  2. Remember the old Texaco commercials of yesteryear? A guy drives his car into the station and half a dozen uniformed guys run out to clean the car/fill up the tank/check the wipers/offer you a cold lemonade…okay…maybe not that last one, but they’re singing the cheerful little song that goes: “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star. The big , bright Texaco star”.

    If that happened today I’d probably have a heart attack to see six guys running at me all at once, but something tells me that CUSTOMER SERVICE IS JUST ANOTHER URBAN MYTH and your post is a huge example of that.

  3. Oh my goodness the bug eye comment had me rolling! Yes, I know it well, and yes, I’ve done it. I’ve also been known to stop the teenager sacker at the grocery store and tell him that unless he’s planning on going home with me and carrying that 75 pound sack of cans into my kitchen and unloading it for me, he might want to spread them out a little. Customer Service is going the way of the dinosaur …

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more! I just had a bad experience yesterday with our phone service. Its gotten so bad that when you do encounter a good one, it makes me want to ask “Are you for real?”

  5. I pictured “The Office”‘s Dwight throughtout your whole exchange – perfect casting. I recently encountered a sullen little monster at TJ Maxx’s checkout who refused – REFUSED – to speak one word to me. All I can hope is that what goes around comes around. But those types won’t get the irony. Thank God for those in whom sweet and smart intersect!

  6. Good customer service is definitely a rarity! I travel a LOT and whenever I come across that ONE airport employee who is actually pleasant to encounter, I want to practically stand there fanning them with palm fronds and feeding them grapes!

  7. Before “retiring” to mommyhood, I spent my entire career in retail. It’s amazing how customer service has taken a backseat, isn’t it?!

    I just thought my standards were high because I knew how it was supposed to be done. Turns out, good help is just hard to find!

    Thanks for your post. I don’t know why, but I just enjoy a good “Dwight” story!

  8. I agree with the earlier commenter (is that a word?) that good customer service is truly an urban myth.

    Acutally, I’m glad to read others’ stories of less-than-stellar customer service because sometimes I begin to think it’s me. You know, like I’m demanding too much.

    Though I’ve managed to find a garage (!) where they don’t treat me like an idiot and don’t overcharge me. I actually don’t mind going there (as opposed to usually making my husband take the car in for servicing).

  9. My kids are normally well behaved in stores and we expect them to not act like little heathens. Much like you described in your previous post. The exception to the rule, an unspoken rule I have held since they were little, is that if I am not receiving good customer service I turn a blind eye to (almost)any antics. Nothing screams “I need assistance here” like two kids touching everything and asking millions of questions.

  10. I am right there with you on this one. I walk out of most stores (especially clothing stores) feeling like the scum of the earth. Wal-mart’s that way too here.

    The lady behind the Jewelry counter especially gets on my nerves. She’s got some serious attitude problems. To which I say, “Yeah, so the watch is too big. Does it not specifically say you’ll help me if I bought the stupid piece of cr–uh–junk at your store? Just take the links out and give it back please!” Of course this actually remains unsaid and I resort to all the meek helplessness I can muster, instead.

  11. Oh, you most definitely need one. The one I wanted is from the JC Penny Christmas catalog. It is like the “old” CD players that you can mount under your kitchen cabinets and “dock” your iPod to so you can listen to it in the house–it charges it too. So, maybe it’s an “under-cabinet” docking station…a definite need! There are also those that sit on the counter or are great for alarm clocks! Happy shopping!

  12. I agree with you. On both the customer service issue and the iThingee addiction. I got a other-brand iTrip thing and I love it. When I can get it to work. It seems to be tempermental and only works when it wants to or when you push, tune and plug in exactly the right order while standing on one foot and holding you breath.

  13. Ohhhh, this post hit home! Recently, I was dropping off a bundle of letters at the post office. I pulled up alongside the drive-by box, and saw that a postal worker was actually letter-diving in the open back of the box. So, rather than dump the pile in the front opening and risk injuring him, I politely got out of my car, walked around to the back of the box, and said “Excuse me, would you prefer I hand these letters to you?” He gruffly–and I mean big-bad-wolfish barked at me, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Put them in the slot!” Stunned, I answered “Okay, then, and you have a nice day, sir.” To which I received the not even disguised sarcastic “Yeah, have a nice day.” Well, I decided to walk inside and report this exchange to the supervisor, when–imagine–I was told, with a bitter laugh accompaniment, that there hadn’t been a supervisor on site in over 3 months. Now, this is the main location in my small town! I told the worker at the counter that I would like to make a complaint, though, so how should I go about doing so? She said to call the national 800 number. When I asked how I would identify the local offender to the national customer service, she said I should “describe what he looks like.” Now, this wasn’t April 1st, but I was beginning to wonder… So, I bravely went outside to where the rude man was just finishing up his task, and I asked for his name. He played all nice and innocent, asking why I would want to make a complaint about him? After all, he whined, “I said, ‘Have a nice day’ to you!” In a moment of pity and weakness, I said I’m sorry if you’re having a bad day. He responded that I reminded him of his ex-wife–who was dead now. It was at this moment that I decided to go home and plan to never, ever, send a letter again. I guess the motto “rain, sleet, or snow” doesn’t include “smile.”

  14. I just got my Ipod and ITrip and was frustrated by the small amount of instructions, not to mention the small type. I did get good help when in the store you mentioned when making my purchase, but that didn’t help me out so much at home trying to figure out how to work the darn thing. Anyway, I figured it out and can listen in my car now too. Yea. You should make a point to tell a manager about the good service you received from the young girl–maybe that will help them realize customer service done well makes a difference.

  15. One thing that helps with careless sales people is putting them on commission. I think the problem with young workers is that their parents have always given them everything without regard to merit — they expect praise and gratitude to fall from Heaven like manna. My “honey” would walk out, if he weren’t serviced properly. Not me! I just hang on and keep bugging them until I get help. I need to keep the “eye” thing in mind — it sounds like a winner.

  16. I work at an independent bookstore, and am amazed at some of the experiences our customers have had at the big box stores. It usually pays to shop at a store where the staff knows where their paychecks come from, and the person who signs those paychecks is in the building.

  17. I am pained by the amount of annoying, inconsiderate and selfish people you come into contact with each day. I come into contact with them, too; it’s just that I save all my running around/anguish for the weekends.

    I am disgusted by DWIGHT. I almost wrote really mean things, but instead, I deleted them. I’ll leave it at that.

    I’m glad your salesgirl was so sweet and helpful–the way EVERYONE used to be. How sad that that’s now the exception rather than the rule.

  18. Jan,
    That story about the postal worker also disgusts me. I don’t care if he’s having a bad day; that’s no excuse.

    You know, I have gone to work shortly after losing my mom, dad, sister, having my brother severely disabled in an accident, having another brother living at home with me while he was recovering from brain surgery, through a divorce, and single motherhood, and everything else. In other words, I’ve had my share of “bad days.” (Haven’t we all?) NEVER ONCE have I ever treated a coworker or colleague poorly. Never.

    I can’t stand that excuse.

    Gosh, I am sounding bitter in my comments, aren’t I!? I just get so tired of the selfishness in this world today.

  19. I love it! I know what you mean. I think a huge problem with customer service (and I did it for years) is that the nice ones have a breakdown eventually because we can’t believe just how darn mean people can be to someone who is just taking their money in exchange for a service/goods/experience. Whew…I said it.

  20. Maybe chicks are better at customer service?

    I hope your iTrip works better than mine did! I used it frustratingly for about a month before I gave up. I think it’s now just a crumb catcher in the bottom of my purse….

  21. You need a teenage techno-geek friend. I have 2 that live in my house and call me mom…I’m sure they are not mine because they know everything techno and I didnt teach it to them….honestly…..I’m really scared of what will happen when they go to college….I dont even put DVD’s in the player…..they do it…I have no idea how to do it………SIGHHHHHH

    On the flip side….I was at the mall last
    week with both of my teens…..there was an elderly man pushing a shopping cart through non-automatic doors….and he was struggling…my daughter held one door, my son the other door………the man proceeded through and never made eye contact with or said thank you to either of my kids…..they were tripping over themselves to rush to the door to help him when they saw him struggle and it was their own ideas individually…I didnt tell them to…they just jumped into action………the mans wife stood there with her mouth hanging open shaking her head at her husband and thanked my kids……it really irritates me to hold a door or let someone out in traffic and not even be acknowledged……I just don’t get it…what ever happened to “common courtesy???”

  22. This made me laugh out loud (I guess I’m supposed to type LOL then, huh?). I don’t know why I am so fond of women opening up a can of whoop ass on an unsuspecting and lazy salesperson, such as Dwight, but I LOVE IT!

    You go. Always keep a can of whoop ass in your purse for occasions like that. Good on ya.


  23. I’m with you. My husband and I lived in Washington D.C. when we were first married and service was amazingly bad there. I’m sure there are other places where it stinks but it’s as if store clerks, waiters and hair dressers take classes there in “How to Make A Customer Feels Like Dirt.” We constantly commented on how rude customer service people were there and it was funny that when my husband had business there last month–the first time either of us had been back there in fourteen years–the first place he stopped for dinner he said he had an encounter with the wait staff that made him remember exactly how it had been. Evidently things haven’t changed there much.

  24. I have been amazed since arriving in South Korea at how wonderful the service is everywhere. Even the greeter at the Wal-Mart-style department store seems to make it his personal mission to bow to every single customer with a smile, whether they are paying attention to him or not. Once we tried to ask him where something was, and since he couldn’t speak much English he had to rely on enthusiastically grunting, pointing and waving in the general direction of the item, and then apologized – no, more like begged for forgiveness – that he couldn’t help us better. Wow.
    If only salespeople in North America could take such pride and honor in doing their jobs well.

  25. What would I do without my daily dose of AM? You make me laugh, you make me cry, you’re better than “Cats”. (ok, i hardly EVER cry)
    You’re my modern day Erma. Thanks for writing in such a way that makes me go, “Yes! I know it! That’s it, exactly!”
    Girl, you got style!

  26. Jennifer, I agree. My friend’s husband just got back from Japan, and he said he will never forget the level of service there, or the general consideration everyone has for each other. (And he’s just as disgusted with our country now!)

    Apparently he & another serviceman found a wallet in the subway station that had been accidentally left on a bench; they picked it up and asked a local where they could turn it in. The local said, “Put it back. The person will return for it.” When they asked if it might get stolen in the meantime, the person responded, “No one will bother it. Just leave it there.” UNBELIEVABLE. Why can’t our country be that way?

    And, Mary, I too am astounded how often a grown adult won’t acknowledge someone going out of their way to hold a door open. My 11yo son has been holding doors for years now, and 9 times out of 10, no one says a word. In an exaggerated voice, I always (loudly) comment, “Oh, Chad, you are SUCH a gentleman.” HINT HINT, PEOPLE!!!

  27. No. No. NO. He did NOT dial with his pencil.

    GUH-REAT Heavenly days. I think I’da smacked him right then and there.

    Blessings on Sweet Helpful Girl’s head.

  28. I am lucky if I can figure out how to post a comment……I want an Ipod so bad but you just cement why I don’t have one. My kids live too far away to help and I would NEVER ask a salesperson unless I was really cranky….but you know what? Since I have gotton older I find it delightful to shoot that look you refer to and I have even almost gotton extreme pleasure out of telling off rude sales clerks and turning them in to the 20 year old managers. I HATE BAD SERVICE. I say we band together and start letting in be known.

  29. My motto……….”Silence is Acceptance”….tell a manager, send an email, write a letter…….better yet…..tell EVERYONE you know about your bad service experiences and also of your good. I try to patronize places where I get good service and avoid those with bad service….but sometimes..the choices are so limited you don’t have a choice.

  30. I too am amazed at the poor quality (or complete absence) of customer service today. I have tried the following tactic. Ask “Dwight” the name of his supervisor. Explain that you would like write a letter describing JUST how much help he provided to you regarding your Ipod Thingee purchase. Smile and remain cool. Dwight will have to think about his behavior, and that’s what is needed. I have actually done this, and the look of sheepishness on the salesperson’s face was worth it. The older I get, the more I am in favor of being direct. Not rude, nasty, or sugary sweet. Just direct.

    Love your blog, AM!

  31. Wow — what an excellent reflection on customer service! It amazes me too the level of apathy that can be seen at just about any store. It sometimes feels like you want to say, “Oh — I’m so sorry to disturb you and ask you to do your job.” Like when the cashier and the bagger (or even better — two cashiers at registers like three or four away from each other) just can’t quit gabbing while ringing you up. *Sigh*

    Oh — and I burst out laughing about the analogy to a drug addiction on the iPod. I got one for Christmas and it is SO true! LOL

  32. HAHAH LOL at Dwight! 😀 I really hate when people in a service industry don’t want to provide the service they are being paid for! At least the girl was great and helped you out with your iThingee.

  33. YOu just don’t know how happy I was when you wrote that he stabbed himself with his pencil. THAT was fantastic 🙂

    My personal pet peeve is when the salesperson or cashier takes a person phone call while “helping” me. It makes smoke come out of my ears. On the other hand, the guy at Radio Shack yesterday told me that next time I can just call him from the parking lot, and he’ll bring out whatever I need, so I don’t have to haul the kids inside. I wanted to make HIM ice cream!

  34. Man, blog hopping is VERY dangerous. I just went to one website and misread what she wrote…so I poured more coffee into my body to help wake up the ole brain. Then I went to another blog and watched an inspiring music video that is still giving me goosebumps and made me cry.

    Then I came here and wet myself laughing.

    Dang it!

  35. Yep, the bug eye look!!! The best way to say “Go on, DO it! YES, I mean YOU!” without even opening your mouth. And once again karma comes along to help you get revenge for his insolence. This reminds me of your egg adventure at Wal-Mart.

  36. Before I retired to MommyHood, I trained advanced techs in Customer Service. I am a one-woman walking letter writing campaign when it’s very, very good or very, very bad.

    Managers need to know either way 🙂

    And, frankly- I think you should take Chili up on her offer.


  37. Whenever I get good service, I make it a point to call the store and praise the good-doer. I sincerely hope the person I speak with passes it on and uses the person as an example of what TO do.

  38. Oh, I so totally want every i-Thingee ever made too! I didn’t even know about the car adaptor — I’m SO behind the times.


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