Pauline Harte

Bad customer service blackens a nice, sunny day

Pauline Harte · August 5, 1997

I had spent the better part of a Monday driving around doing errands. Tired and hungry, I entered the last store on my list. It was mid-afternoon and my grumbling stomach had long since forgotten that slice of toast at 8 a.m.

As I walked into the newly remodeled store, my empty innards pulled my eyes over to the roomy new snack area. The soft patter of friendly lunchtime conversations mingled invitingly with the subtle restaurant aromas and beckoned me.

I perked up and followed my nose.

As I walked away from the shopping carts, my frayed edges began to smooth when I saw the sumptuous hot dogs roasting on the revolving grill. This was great! A pleasant, sunny afternoon; a juicy, grilled dog; and a little stolen time to slow down and relax before loading up a cart with a hundred pounds of kitty litter. What more could a harried housewife ask for on a mundane Monday?

I took my place in line.

As I was about to give my order, the cashier moved aside to another register and a new cashier took her place in front of me. Just as I opened my mouth again to give my order, the new cashier was told that this register was out of tape. Then the original cashier called the man BEHIND me to her new register and took his order.

Now, obviously I had been next in line and should have been taken before the guy behind me, but I didn't say anything because I figured the register tape would be in place momentarily. Wrong! Now the customer behind the man who had been behind me gave her order and received her pick-up number. And since it looked like the register tape wasn't going to be in place before the turn of the century, I decided to get the attention of the original cashier.

"Excuse me," I said quietly, "but I was next in line before you took the store employee's order and now you just took the order of a person who was third in line behind me. What's going on?"

"Well, I can take you now, if you want," the cashier shrugged. (Emphasis on SHRUGGED.)

NOW? She could take me NOW? Why hadn't I been taken when I was next in line, BEFORE the store employee BEHIND me, BEFORE the customer BEHIND him?!? She'll take me NOW? If I WANT? I had been ignored by TWO store employees!

The new cashier was still fumbling with the register tape. I looked over at the customer at the head of the newly formed line. She didn't look like she would step back without a little arm wrestling. I wasn't about to lose an ear for a hot dog, so I said I would wait. Black clouds were obliterating my otherwise pleasant, sunny day.

Now, if the store employee behind me in the "tell-tale" shirt had told me that he was running a little late, I would have gladly allowed him to place his order before me. I know I'm small in stature, but I am NOT INVISIBLE!

I waited, and then I waited some more. Then I decided to leave. I wanted lunch, not dinner. I found a floor manager and informed her of my unpleasant experience. She was very nice and told me that next time I could get something from the snack area free. Next time? I had simply succumbed to the spontaneity of the moment. I probably wouldn't "succumb" again for another decade.

Nah, I won't be back. Wal-Mart's a lot closer to me, anyway. I just don't like to shop in the unincorporated areas of this valley because I want my tax dollars used in the Santa Clarita Valley, not L.A.

But I don't want to be reminded of "Black Monday" every time I walk into that store and smell a hot dog, so I'll be shopping elsewhere.

Remember, merchants! It doesn't matter how new and shiny your stores are if the numb-skulls behind the registers are driving your customers crazy!

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