12 08/31/2012 life

On Crappy Customer Service and Other Dealings With Humans.

One of my pet peeves is bad service. Be it in restaurants or hotels or shops… I just don’t like it. I know I’m not alone here – no one does.

And let me assure you – in my lifetime, I’ve been on the other end. I’ve walked a mile in the other person’s shoes. I’ve been a waitress. I’ve worked in retail serving clients. It’s not always an easy job because, let’s face it – there are a lot of rude muthers out there… and such can be the worst part of doing jobs like these. I get it. I understand rush hour, and long waits associated. I understand my-hands-are-tied. I’m patient and kind to people. Because I’ve been there.

When I walk into a busy restaurant, I don’t expect to get water at my table and have my order taken in 2 minutes. Not even in 8 minutes. I can see the dude is busy. However, a quick nod in my direction, or eye contact that says, I see you, and I’ll be with you in just another minute is all I need. That guy could take 15 minutes after that. I just want some acknowledgement… and to know he’s coming to me soon. I am patient.
no service.jpg
Gotta love it…
And the same thing applies to stores. Too often, there’s some cloying teenager all over you, as you walk into the store. I understand these greeters are deemed necessary to the test panels of store upper management everywhere, so there’s a pimply boy called Kyle bleating, “Bonjour, hi!” when I walk into Banana Republic. It’s all good. I smile, and say hello back.
What I DON’T like is sales people sauntering over to you as if they’re doing you some kind of favour by letting you shop at their store. (I’m looking at YOU, Zara…) But the thing is, the merchandise is sometimes so delicious, I can’t help but shop there, even when I get eyeballed up and down from salesgirls before they decide how quickly they’re going to hustle on my request about other sizes in the back. They act as if they can’t be bothered. They act as if it’s just the WORST request they’ve had ALL DAY, to go check in the back for something you’d be happy to purchase if they had it on the premises. The very nerve of me, I know!!
And for some reason, I do not complain. And I go back, and buy more of their wares. Maybe I’m just too nice. Too polite, maybe. Too Canadian?

. . .
Yesterday I had some stuff to take care of at The Bay. As you probably know, it’s a huge department store with everything under the sun inside it. I went to the lingerie department on an errand for someone else.
It was about 12:30 PM which is lunchtime for lots of people in the world, and though I was expecting the store to be busier, it was fairly quiet on the floor. The section has monikers that read Wonderbra, and Esprit, and Calvin Klein. DKNY. Deisel. Spanx. I spied one sad looking middle aged man slumped on a bench, ready to sleep or possibly cry, just waiting for his wife… to just… choose something already. I had business in the Jockey section, and quickly found some items, but then found I needed help figuring out the sizing. (The things I saw said 5, 6, and 8 – what the hell?)
I saw a cashier serving someone, with four other ladies next in line. I held the stuff in one hand away from my body, and started just looking around the store for someone. For anyone. I tried to look as lost and dismayed as possible, shuffling around in small circles, hoping someone would see me and think, “Oh dear! That poor woman clearly needs some assistance!!” but I saw no other person who looked like he or she might be Bay staff.
Then a woman appeared out of nowhere, poking through bras in the Warner’s section, looking at sizes. She had a measuring tape draped around her neck, but she was also wearing a flat messenger-style bag slung across her body. Is that her purse? Does she work here? There was no way of telling. I tried to get into her line of vision, but she didn’t look up at me even once.
I spun around, trying to keep track of Ava Scarlett, who was having a great time playing “The Amazing Alice” which is her new-found magician alter-ego who loves to make herself disappear. The was twirling around amongst all the lacy things, and I was just trying not to lose her. When I looked up again, the lady with the measuring tape had vanished.
Another tall, middle-aged woman wearing a jacket and trousers appeared, walking in long strides, all hurried-like, and made her way behind the service counter. I thought she was going to open up a second cash register since the line of ladies-with-panties was getting longer. She turned her back to us and started flipping through a Bay circular. When she was done, she came out from behind the counter, and I all but pounced on her.
 “Um, excuse me? I need some help understanding how the sizes work for these, becau…”
She cut me off, and held her palms in the air.
“C’est pas, moi…” she said, shaking her head as she backed away a few steps, and then turned around, and walked away from me.
I just stood there and blinked, incredulously. Are you kidding me right now?

I thought the correct way of doing business was to say something like, “I’ll find someone to help you,” especially when someone is actually trying to buy something from your store. And especially when your company is as big as The Bay. And? In this entire section, every person working appeared to be over the age of, say, fifty. I’ve come to expect some sketchy service from the teenaged/college-aged sect, when they work in stores and restaurants… but these ladies should know better. Seriously.
Ava Scarlett was getting bored of dancing in the delicates. “Mummy… you SAID we’d GET some ICE. CREAM.” She lets her head roll from side to side on every word, and her eyelids are at half mast, fluttering. She does a face-plant into an upholstered chair.
“I know. I’m sorry it’s taking a long time… soon, I promise.”
The one with the measuring tape came and went two more times… she didn’t look up at me once. I assume she was helping someone in the fitting room, but WHAT THE HELL?! It didn’t feel right to jut in front of the lengthening line of bored-looking ladies who’d been waiting to make their purchases – besides, the cashier wouldn’t have been able to walk into the bowels of the bra-section to help me, as the line got longer. Plus, those bored-looking ladies looked pretty fierce – they’d been waiting a long time, too. It was all taking for-EVER.
Well, it didn’t actually take forever. It took twelve minutes – I know, because I had my eye on my watch the whole time. Twelve minutes outside of the time it took for me to find my original items. Twelve minutes outside of the 45 SECONDS it took for the woman (it turned out to be the cashier, in the end) to answer my sizing question, so I could make my selections and go about my day
. Holy crap.
And when I finally got to the front of the line to buy my things, the cashier rang up my sale, and s-l-o-w-l-y slipped all the times off their tiny plastic hangers. Ava Scarlett was practically weeping with boredom, and was dragging herself around on the floor, using only her arms, like a leg-wounded soldier searching in vain for water.
“Muh. Mee. PLEASE! Let’s GO!!”
“Stand up, Sweetpea… don’t lie on the floor. I know. We’re almost done.”
The cashier is folding the apparel in a way that says, I’ve got aaaaall day… She turns to pull some tissue paper out of a drawer. I come thisclose to snatching the pile off the counter and tossing everything into my purse, but I just say, “It’s okay, just throw it in the bag.”
She practically clutches her pearls. “No tissue?!”
“No thanks. I really have to go now. Really.” Can she not see my semi-comatose child on the ground? Oh my god.
But I smiled at her anyway, and thanked her for her help. If it hadn’t been for her, I might still be standing there.
I wish I had the balls to say something – I’m not sure why I didn’t. I don’t like conflict, much. I’m sure this is why online shopping has become the most excellent invention of all time, for me. Ack.
What do you do in situations like these? Do you complain? Do you boycott? I’m curious… 
  • Tracey

    Sticks are good. Bats are better.
    I think my inner curmudgeon likes to throw the word “mutherf*cker” around too much, and then gets asked to leave public places… she’s better when she’s sedated. 😉

  • Tracey

    Word, Colleen. You are exactly right about speaking up. When companies aren’t worried about losing clients, why would they change their attitudes or policies? Ack. ACK, I SAY!!

  • Tracey

    Indeed – we all want booger-free salads… I don’t usually complain about food in restaurants. At least, no in an offensive ways, if I plan to get my plate back. (Gross.)
    And yeah, sometimes I do say something, and sometimes I let things slide. Maybe I should figure out where I am in my cycle too. 😉

  • Tracey

    You are soooooo right, Aileen. You know, after writing this post, I realise part of the reason I didn’t say anything is because I didn’t want to rile anyone with my “pushy Anglo-self” given the political climate in the city these days… I felt uncomfortable. There’s no denying that in some places, the minute sales staff hear English being spoken, their dander starts to get up. I’m not always so passive, but yesterday I was. Hmmm…

  • Colleen

    I’m with Nikola, I’ve soooooo hit my limit with a lack of customer service and manners in general. In the last year I’ve run a cross crappy service with serval big names and thankfully have had a bit of time on my hands to fight with them. I think it’s horrible. I have actually had 1 call center rep tell me on the phone that I would most likely not hear back from anyone as the company was the top of their field and not worried aboout losing 1 or 2 clients to their competitors. I mean seriously? and guess what he was right!!! no one called to follow up! come on people! I mean really! So yes I’ve started speaking up, and I’ve started really revaulating my tips. I know most servers are expected to share their tip, but if I can’t get a glass of water after 3 requests, if 3 tables who came after me get their food first, if I have to basically beg for my bill so I can pay and leave. There will be no tip! I’ve work customer service one way or another for over 10 years now. I know some days are crappy but you put a smile on and you do your job!

  • Christine

    It really depends on where I am in my cycle. For real.
    Sometimes I say something, sometimes I let it slide.
    If I do say something at a restaurant it’s usually by way of a shitty tip, don’t want any boogers in my salad.
    If it’s a snotty retail clerk I have been known to tell them if they don’t like their job to perhaps find something else that suits their non-people-personality better.

  • Nikola

    Society frowns upon pointed sticks, but sometimes…

  • Aileen

    You say you were on an errand for someone else. That would be the only reason to stay so long. Otherwise I would have dropped the stuff on the counter and left. If I did stay I would comment when it was my turn that they needed more staff and the wait was unnecessarily long. I have also worked both retail and restaurant jobs and there is NO EXCUSE not to acknowledge patrons as they arrive even if you can’t help them at that exact moment. Worse perhaps are the sales people who stalk you around the story and practically yank items out of your very hands and cart them off to change rooms before you even have had a chance to look!

  • Tracey

    You’re good. I tend to let out a “Really?” when warranted, but the loogie hocker/litterbug never seems to hear me or concede.
    I need to get more pointed. Ack.

  • Tracey

    I know!! But realistically, I can’t avoid The Bay for the rest of my life… can I? Certainly, the lingerie department though. (And I really love Zara just too much.) Makes me soooo pissed, though. Grrrrr…

  • Nikola

    In recent years, I’ve embraced my inner curmudgeon and learned to speak up. Mind you this is mostly me just being lazy because I’ve spent most of my life trying to keep my curmudgeonly nature hidden. But now I’m too tired to fight myself. Whenever I find myself in some ridiculous and unnecessarily exasperating situation, I often hear myself saying, “REEEALLY,” before launching into a pointed-but-polite dressing down of whomever is culpable nearby.
    Hotelier wanting me to pay an arm and a leg for wireless that didn’t work, that they KNOW FULL WELL doesn’t work well for guests because everyone complains and then try to tell me the building is made of steel and guests can book the wireless at their own risk. “Really?”
    Waiter who hocks a loogie on the sidewalk outside the restaurant where he works as I’m walking in. “Really?”
    Person spreading out a whole Big Mac combo meal across two seats on a crowded streetcar and then tossing the half wadded paper bag onto the floor to have both sets of fingers free for licking. “Really?”
    I can’t keep it in. I tried.

  • Sonya

    Yikes! I just had this conversation the other day with someone. Our retailers (if not trained by a US or Int’l parent company with strict service protocol) have a lot to learn about service. I was just in Chicago and every store or service promptly acknowledged me and eager to assist. Every single one – whether it be a low or high end store. It was pretty impressive. If service SUCKS I will leave and NEVER go back. It’s rare these days that you want something so badly that you can’t get it elsewhere. Grrr.

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