Thursday, October 22, 2009

A little common sense goes a long way in retail

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

I realize there's a labour shortage around here. Yes, believe it or not, it's difficult to find good staff. And when you find good staff, you'd better be good to them or they'll leave and go elsewhere. This is especially true of the retail sector.

Honestly, most of the service I get is perfectly fine. I don't expect to be wowed every time, but I at least hope that staff will try to manage to be mildly pleasant and somewhat competent. If you make a mistake, simply apologize and correct it. People are human. They make mistakes. We all do it.

What drives me crazy, however, are customers service workers who refuse to correct a mistake even when it's pointed out to them. For example, I was out buying groceries a few weeks ago when the cashier serving me entered a wrong code on her keypad, inadvertently adding a 60-cent 'deposit' charge to my bill. Since I could see what the charges were on her screen, I asked her what the deposit was for since I had not purchased any beverages bearing a refundable deposit.

"I don't know," she said, and kept right on scanning my items. "You don't know?" I asked, a bit taken aback that she wasn't even going to check.

"No, I don't," she replied. I waited for a minute, then got a bit curt.

"Could you please check?" She stopped scanning, looked around with her mouth half open like it was her first day in public after her new brain transplant and then managed to ask someone she worked with what the deposit was for. Of course, they didn't know, either, and suggested she call the supervisor. "Wow, what a brilliant idea," I thought.

Did she really need to be told by someone to check with the supervisor?

Clearly the deposit was not supposed to be there and neither of us knew how it got there. The supervisor came over and determined within seconds that it was simply an error and voided it, however I did not appreciate the fact that I had to insist that she ask for help when she couldn't figure out what the deposit was for. I mean, come on!

But wait, it gets better. The last item in my order was one of those pre-cooked deli chickens -- you know, the ones you normally pick up after work when you're starving and can't be bothered to cook a meal for yourself or your family. Actually, they're pretty good. I was starving by this time and was looking forward to heading home to steam some vegetables and chow down on chicken.

I'm sorry to say, but this cashier had no common sense. Zero! She took my hot chicken sitting in its plastic container, turned it on its side and plunked it into a bag, handing it proudly over to me likely thinking, "Phew, at least I did this right."

I stared at her in complete and utter awe of her ineptitude. By now, the bottom of the bag was full of hot grease. I was in a downright foul mood by now and practically ordered her to give me a paper bag so I could repackage it so it wouldn't leak all over the car. Sensing another error, she offered to get me a new chicken, however by now I just wanted to get the heck out of there before I flipped out. Besides, the poor little chicken who gave its life for my supper shouldn't end up in the compost bin.

Sometimes I just shake my head.

While attending an early-morning meeting last week, I parked my vehicle in the lot of the hotel where the meeting was being held. Being before 7 a.m., it was still dark. As I parked, I saw a strange man walking up to the vehicle. Having no clue who he was, I thought to myself that he was just walking by on the way to somewhere, despite the fact that it seemed he'd made a beeline to me.

When I opened my door, the man was standing right there, scaring the living daylights out of me. Thinking he was going to ask for money or simply take money from me, I braced myself for an incident. "Can I help you?" he asked. "Huh?? Can you help me? No, you can't help me!" I wasn't being very nice. I'm not in the habit of being friendly to strangers who sneak up to me in dark parking lots.

Not having a clue what this guy wanted, I made it quite clear in my tone of voice and demeanour that I was in no mood for whatever he wanted. "Are you a guest of the hotel?" he asked again. I walked away quickly and snapped, "I have a meeting here, why?" I then noticed his jacked marked "Security." He told me there were people parking in the hotel parking lot (where parking was free) and going to work in other offices nearby. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was at the hotel for business and admonished him for startling me and assuming that I was stealing a place.

Why he didn't just wait to see if I was going into the hotel before stalking me, I'll never know. This guy should definitely be wearing a cup and protective eyewear because if he keeps sneaking up on people in the parking lot, he's going to either get kicked in the groin or pepper sprayed by someone thinking that they're about to be mugged.

Sometimes, I just shake my head in amazement at how some people get through life. I'm all for being patient with people who are clearly in training, however being completely incompetent or lacking in common sense are quite different matters.

There was the guy I saw the other day who decided to relieve himself on the side of the highway... while facing oncoming traffic! I didn't see much, which leads me to question why he decided to face traffic in the first place. Didn't seem to have much to brag about!

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