March 27, 2008

Walmart – Save More. Live Better. Be Heartless.

Posted in Character, Customer Lack of Service at 1:25 pm by loolar

UPDATE: Walmart has apparently dropped its claim – and points to online blogs and petitions as helping them to, “step back and look at a situation in a different way.”

CNN reports on how Walmart has decided to exercise their right to reclaim damages awarded to Debbie Shank as a result of her successful suit, in order to repay their health care expenditures used to care for Debbie since her accident.

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to pay a cent or two more to make sure people like Debbie are cared for. Thing is, with 90 billion in quarterly revenue, we’d be paying more like a hundredth of a cent more. While Walmart is within their rights to claim this money, the question is, why would they? Can they truly be that heartless? Is this the health care system we want, when the businesses mandated to support the health care of employees must act as opportunist predators to “keep costs down”?

I find this contemptible – and I’m pretty sure the fault does not belong solely to Walmart. Our obsession with bringing down prices in our lives must yield a weakness somewhere. You can’t get something for nothing as our entitlement-hungry society seems eager to forget. Sooner or later, someone has to pay. This time, it was Debbie Shank.

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March 10, 2008

Waiting for Service – 10 Things I Want From Restaurant Waiters

Posted in Customer Lack of Service, Life in Los Angeles at 4:03 pm by loolar

My wife and I recently vacationed for a week in Seattle and the San Juan islands, and had the opportunity to eat at a number of restaurants, from greasy spoons to fancy high-end joints. I’m a serviceable cook, so when I go out to eat, I like to try things that are beyond my ability to make, and I like to enjoy good service. Unfortunately, the second thing is vanishing.

It seems that people in the service industry are more and more clueless about the experience they are creating, and nowhere has this become more apparent in the last decade than in the restaurant business. So my wife and I collected some of our biggest pet peeves so we could share them with you, my two readers. Somehow it makes me feel better.

Servers put up with terrible behavior out of misguided “brotherhood” loyalty, and so frequently forgive, and therefore, forget, some cardinal sins when it’s their turn to sling the plates. One of my dearest friends has worked in the restaurant and bar industry for over ten years, and so puts up with – and apologizes for – a pretty high level of unacceptable service out of a sense of forbearance for their suffering. Hey, servers, if they don’t like the service industry, don’t take it out on me – in the words of Quentin Tarantino as performed by Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink, “I got two words for that: learn to fuckin’ type.”

And so, presented in the order of the meal you’re likely to encounter them, the tips for professional waitstaff and servers:

****

1. For Bartenders – I don’t want a glass full of ice, and please learn to pour.
Whether it’s water or soda, most bartenders will scoop a glass through the ice bin, then fill it. It’s fast, it’s easy, and then they don’t have to sit there with the soda gun forever because the ice makes it fill up faster. Unfortunately, this is not customer focused, this is server focused, and the result is that I get three sips and then an iceberg slides out of the glass and punches me in the face.

Bartenders may say, “hey, fine, we’ll slow down the entire process to fill your soda, pansy-pants, but don’t come crying to us when your drink order takes 30 minutes.” This is the wrong attitude. This would be a problem, certainly, but this solution only takes care of half the issue. Drinks are timely, yes, but they’re not good drinks – which is really the most important part, isn’t it? If this is such a crippler, put a soda gun where servers and bus staff can get at them. Either way, stop doing it.

As for beer – stop pouring it before it spills all over the glass. I guess they figure I can’t complain that they didn’t fill it up all the way. Unfortunately, this leaves me with a wet, slimy, sticky mess. I don’t want to feel the beer; I want to drink it. Learn to pour, or at least wipe the glass off before you hand it to me.

2. At least pretend to write down my order.
I don’t care how clever you think you are; invariably, I get an order screwed up by a waiter who insisted on taking it verbally. I want enough things “my way” – whether on the side, extra crispy, extra tomatoes, whatever – that there are plenty of chances to screw it up.

Even if you do this all the time, without error, ever – the bottom line is this: when you don’t write down my order, you cause me to stress that it’s going to be wrong, and that directly detracts from the reason I’m there in the first place – to enjoy myself. I know some people think this makes the experience “more magical;” well, it never impresses me, but always causes me anxiety, thereby lessening my experience. And make no mistake – I’m only there for the experience. I can cook most of these dishes myself.

3. Don’t put the gigantic dollop of butter on my pancakes.
This is the fault of the kitchen, but a smart waiter would always tell them to keep the glob on the side. This was underscored when we visited a greasy spoon for brunch that didn’t do it – the butter was served separately in a small dish. Wonderful, and reminded us how much we hate this when they don’t. Admittedly esoteric list item, but with a baby, going out to breakfast has become one of our rare eating-out indulgences nowadays – and you’d be surprised how many “high end” places do this.

4. Remember “the customer is always right”?
In Montreal last fall, for Rob Sama’s bachelor party, at a $50-70 a cut steak house, I had my order screwed up – the waiter brought me a cut I did not order. The waiter reviewed his pad, confirmed he had written down the cut I did not order, and so concluded that it was I who was mistaken. Are you kidding me?

Never mind the fact that, when I ordered, he didn’t hear me the first time, so I not only repeated it, I pointed to it on the menu (this must be the source of the error, obviously). But I pointed to it on the menu. The other 8 guys at the table saw me do that. And yet he insisted I was mistaken because of his written “evidence.” I don’t care if I ordered a bowl of froot loops and then asked where my steak was when you brought it – the customer is always right. Make me feel good, make me feel happy, bring me what I ask for, even if it’s my fault. When it’s your fault, you sure as hell better not argue with me about it.

5. Let me actually taste it before you ask if it’s okay.
Eager to ignore customers until it’s time for the bill, the food is delivered along with a cheery, “how is everything?” I don’t know yet. I’m still picking up the fork. And considering stabbing you in the eye with it. You may want to ask, “do you need anything else?”

6. Stop overfilling the pepper.
More for management than waitstaff, except that I see the servers usually doing this job. What is it with pepper shakers? You shake and shake and nothing comes out; you unscrew the top only to be blasted with a volcanic eruption of ash from all the pepper jammed into the damn shaker. Leave some room in there, or it won’t come out.

7. Stop interrupting me.
Unless you’re Jack Nicholson in AS GOOD AS IT GETS, you go to a restaurant with someone. And unless you’re socially maladjusted, you talk while you eat. Unfortunately, it seems that most servers have begun to mistake good service for rude and inconsiderate interruptions. Excellent waiters have the instincts to know when you want something; more importantly, they never interrupt a conversation in progress to ask something as inane as, “everything okay?” And how is it they have the uncanny ability to interrupt the story right at the punchline / surprising twist / heartbreaking moment?

In an Italian restaurant in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island (one of the most expensive places in town, by the way), we were interrupted, mid-conversation, by three different servers. Our drinks were full, we were eating and talking – what the hell did you think we needed? Again, good service isn’t about pestering, it’s about being aware of the needs of your customer, and being available if they want you. Walk by, hover for a moment, let me see you – and when I don’t ask for anything, be on your way. If you’re worried that I’ll be too much of a wuss to “bother you,” then tell me you’ll do this up front, and let me know you won’t interrupt me, but when you are nearby, I can call you over. And don’t ask me anything when you can see my mouth is full.

8. Don’t make me wait for the easy stuff.
This is the most irritating thing; being constantly interrupted, and yet paying no attention to easily satisfied needs. You don’t need to interrupt me, you don’t need to ask – just keep my water glass full. Nothing brings a nice dining experience to a screeching halt like trying to survey the restaurant for your server as if you’re playing Where’s Waldo, and all you want is more water.

9. Don’t clear my plate while I’m still eating.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But I’ve literally had to slap the plate back down because my mouth was too full to say anything. If I’m still chewing, there’s a good chance I might want another bite.

10. Please box up my leftovers for me.
This one blows my mind when I’m at a nicer place, but it’s becoming more and more widespread. When they ask to clear the plate (excellent – see #9), and I ask to have my leftovers boxed, more and more often, they leave and bring back a box. Never mind that my table is cluttered with glasses, uncleared dishes, and other people’s elbows, or that you have much more space in the back – how is this service? It isn’t, and it leaves a real sour taste at the end of the meal.

BONUS #11 (Because this list goes to eleven)

11. Give the original receipt back with my credit card slip.
Too many servers mysteriously steal the original check when they return with your credit card and a bill slip. I don’t know about you, but I’m not great at math, and I typically use the tax to figure the tip (in most states, doubling the tax is about right). It’s not on the credit card slip. Also, by the time I put out my credit card, I’m ready to go soon; I want that decision to be mine, not the server’s – so I want to review the receipts after I get my card back. I can always have them run it again.

****

Well, there you have it… now I pray to the gods of viral internet sharing that this actually makes it to a waiter or waitress.

So why does any of this matter? Well, think of this… for two decades, as American industry moved offshore to preserve the illusion that we have no inflation (because prices are still low, right?), it has been touted that we are moving toward a “service economy,” although perhaps only to keep us from throwing crooks out of Congress. Well, if this is a service economy, then why is it that more and more businesses are derided for their lack of service? This is just one example; but in terms of America “staying competitive,” it’s not a long shot before we lose our service industry overseas as well, merely because it’s not hard to figure out how to be polite and customer-focused.

January 13, 2008

NFL season almost over – goodbye, UPS Wipeboard twit

Posted in Advertising, Customer Lack of Service, NFL and other lesser sports at 8:04 pm by loolar

A fun divisional playoff weekend – only the conference weekend remains, and then I will be free of glimpses of the UPS Wipeboard twit for another six months.

I say glimpses, thanks to the digital powers that be, who have provided the Digital Video Recorder. My stepfather John was in town last weekend for NFL wild card weekend, and we introduced him to the wonder of watching an NFL game without commercials. As a result, he enjoyed watching his Giants beat Tampa Bay with nary an annoyance last week, and then spent the AFC game on my computer researching which one to buy.

Anyone with a TiVo or DVR knows the drill – the program starts, you hit pause, do errands or chores for an appropriate interval (about 25% the length of the actual program – so, 15 minutes for an hour long, 45 minutes for a three hour game), and return to the program with a “buffer” that allows you to fast forward through all the commercials. For yesterday’s Patriots divisional game against the Jaguars, my buddy Kris and I went to Costco for pizzas. When we got back, we had 50 minutes of buffer, and so never watched a single commercial.

Every now and then, however, for whatever reason, I end up watching a program in real time. Patriots-Giants in week 17, for example – some events have to be watched in real time. As most guys know, you need to add your personal mojo to the contest to help edge it in your favor.

And when that happens, I am invariably subjected to the UPS Wipeboard twit.

You’ve probably seen him. Near as I can tell, he’s looks like Steve Carell in a mullet, doing “clever” wipeboard marker tricks like he’s Bob Ross offering arts and crafts tips on PBS (“Look, a small truck is a big truck if you just add two figure 8s and a squiggle!”).

I don’t mind the Steve Carrell part – I just wish he was actually funny, like Steve Carrell. I can even forgive the effete mullet (it’s more of a bob cut), since, hell, during the height of 90s grunge, I used to have a somewhat similar haircut.*

What drives me up the wall is his smug, pompous, pretentious, dismissive delivery. Hence the “twit.” I mean, I get the sense that this guy thinks his wipe board abilities are commensurate with kung fu skills, bow hunting skills, or computer hacking skills; that they’re profoundly fascinating, and we should be awed and reverent that he’s deigned to share them with us. It’s like he thinks he can pick up chicks with this shit. At least the guy doing amateur card tricks has the good taste to pretend he’s having fun, while acknowledging it as inherently silly.

Never mind the fact that I could never get UPS to make home delivery during hours that weren’t when the average person was at, y’know, their frickin job.

UPS, you and your pompous Wipeboard twit shall not be missed.

*But didn’t look like a dorkus malorcus.

December 29, 2007

Time Warner Cable Internet and Sneaky Price Increase

Posted in Customer Lack of Service, Life in Los Angeles, Movies, Music at 5:06 pm by loolar

Time Warner, without so much as an insert to the bill, raised my internet access monthly bill from $34.95 to $44.95.

Most of my bills are on autopay, and most of them are flat fees per month, meaning I only open the statements when I’ve got two or three; I quickly make sure they’re charging what they should, then file them.

So imagine my shock when I opened this month’s statement from Time Warner Cable and found the price increase. No new line item, no notation, not even an insert explaining the 30% increase – let alone a phone call. I quickly checked the last two months; nothing in there either. Were they just hoping I wouldn’t notice?

Naturally, I immediately called them. After an acceptable wait time (about 3-4 minutes), I got a human being. Male, heavily accented, didn’t offer his name. He called up my account and told me I have been “under a promotion” for the last year, and now that the year is up, the promotion has expired, and my service is reverting to the original price.

Understandably, I told him to put the “promotion” back. He said the only promotions they have are for more services, like digital phone (of course!). So I asked to speak to a supervisor.

At this point, it got surreal. He put me on hold, then came back to say, “No supervisors are available. Besides, they won’t change the pricing, what I’ve told you is how it works.” I insisted he let me speak to a supervisor, at which point he added that they were, “busy doing other things.” He could not elaborate. The best he could offer was that I should, “call back later.” When they’re finished doing other things? “Why should I call back later,” I asked, “if I don’t know what they’re doing, and therefore, if they’ll be finished?”

Never mind the gigantic, crushingly obvious question of just what in the Grinch’s goiter is more important than talking to your customers?

I insisted he try again; I was on hold for less than 20 seconds before he came back with the same scripted line, that, “no supervisors are available.” And continued to insist that they couldn’t help me anyway, he’d already given me the answer they would.

So it seems that companies, in a continuing effort to anally abuse their customers while taking our money without any responsibility for actually servicing them, have escalated the fight. They now have realized that most of us understand the poor minimum wage lackey front line customer service phone drone – assuming, of course, that they’re not some fungible galley slave from a sweatshop in another country – is useless.

They know that we the customers are no longer satisfied with scripted platitudes – horror of horrors, we actually want results! I want to be treated with common sense and character. Not companies that suddenly change the deal because it’s not in their favor anymore.

The most frustrating thing, however is this – what can I do about it? Cable companies are still monopolies; I can’t decide to leave this company in favor of another. So assuming I still like high speed internet, all I can do is shut up and keep paying. Hell, they could double the price, and it would still be cheaper than me putting in a land line to get DSL, the only viable alternative.

Oh for when satellite internet comes around. Time Warner, I am now counting the days until I can tell you where to shove your promotion. In the mean time, at least I can hurl stones at Goliath thanks to my David – the blog.

Oh, and I can also resolve to stop paying for Time Warner products. In fact, with the extra $120 a year they’re getting from me, I’m sure they’ll completely understand if I obtain a commensurate amount of TV, movie and musical entertainment “free of charge,” courtesy of this expensive internet connection.

I’ll just tell them that me paying for that stuff was a “promotion” which has now expired.

December 10, 2007

TOYS R US invades my privacy

Posted in Customer Lack of Service, Fatherhood, Life in Los Angeles, Toys at 8:54 pm by loolar

Toys R Us attempted to invade our privacy this last weekend.

So on Saturday, Catherine and Logan and I attended a birthday party for the son of our friends, who is about Logan’s age (i.e., just turned one).

A pleasant surprise was that one of the attendees remembered that Logan had just celebrated his birthday, and so presented us with a gift – a $25 gift card to Toys R Us.

Another thing we encountered was that most of the other kids, all a month older or younger than Logan, were already walking, while our son is still a crawler. The mother of the birthday boy showed us his “shoes,” little leather slipper type things with an elastic band. They stay on easily, and provide good feedback through the soles as the little feet are still figuring out how to stay up. We thought they looked like a great solution, especially since our day care center has just told us shoes are required at his new age bracket.

So on the way home, we decided to stop in at Toys R Us and see if we couldn’t find those shoes. Success! Two pairs, at $12.99 each (turns out they were on sale, $3.90 off, for $9.09). We grabbed two pairs and a pack of socks and got into line.

The guy ahead of us used his credit card to pay, and the cashier asked him for his phone number. Interesting, I thought – didn’t they used to ask for the zip code? Well, either way, I knew I would decline to participate. For one thing, I don’t appreciate sharing personal information in front of strangers (the others in line behind us), and for another, a zip code is bad enough – but a phone number? Why would they need that? I shrugged it off as perhaps something to do with his credit card.

Our items scanned in at $25.08 – just 8 cents more than the gift card. Oh well, I break out a buck and hand it to him. Politely, he takes it. The rest of the exchange needs to be given verbatim:

TRU Employee (TRUE?): Thanks. And I need your phone number.

Me: Oh. Well, I decline, thanks.

TRUE: No, I need it.

Me: I’m sorry?

TRUE: I need your phone number to finish the transaction.

Me: Well, I don’t want to give it to you.

TRUE: It’s not me; it’s the computer – it won’t let me finish without a phone number.

Me: For eight cents? Fine… five five five…

(you saw that one coming, right?)

TRUE (interrupting): Yeah, it won’t accept that.

(so this policy has pissed off enough people that so many customers have already tried giving the information number, to the point where this poor minimum wage sap has a reflex reaction to it?)

Man behind me: They want your phone number?

Me: Yeah, he says the computer won’t do the transaction without it.

Man: Unreal.

Man’s wife: Just give them my work number.

Man: Yeah, it’s 661-(I don’t remember the rest, but it was a suitably neutral sounding switchboard number, e.g., ending in a bunch of the same number).

And so we got out of there. I was honestly considering if we were going to walk out when they intervened.

Toys R Us is getting more and more obnoxious.

Our last nightmare experience was how they refused to take certain returns if the items had been bought online (we encountered this trying to return items from our registry on Babies R Us – extras, duplicates, etc.). Not only would they not take “web only” items, we were informed we would have to pay to ship them back, and that the merchandise credit would go to the person who had bought the gift – not us!

What moronic, sub-human, worm-brained, feces-chewing, sniveling twit thought this was remotely customer friendly – and what boob manager approved the idea?

We were faced with returning a $200 crib that would have cost us $75 to ship, and the credit would have gone to the person who gave it to us, not only giving us nothing in return, but embarrassing us to the generous party who had bought it. Yes, we had the baby registry, yes, the item had been bought through our registry, yes, we could prove who we were – and yet still, in an attempt at “fraud protection,” we were treated like so much dirt.

As for this latest twist of imbecilic idiocy, what possible reason can there be for demanding my phone number? Further identity verification in the case of an attempted return? If I have a valid receipt, why isn’t that enough? And for the guy with the credit card, why isn’t his credit card and the receipt enough (or his zip code matching his billing address?)

My zip code, I can see (though still can’t abide), as they try to see where their customers are coming from. But my phone number?

Simply unacceptable. I’d love to hear some comments on this – but my feeling is that we’re done shopping with Toys R Us.

October 8, 2007

Touching my info (part II) – Microsoft responds (after a fashion)

Posted in Customer Lack of Service at 3:09 pm by loolar

Mike Torres, a Microsoft employee (and, in the interest of disclosure, my brother-in-law), commented on my last post.  From Mike’s comment (emphasis mine):
“there aren’t a bunch of evil people running around the halls wondering how we can get people to give us information so we can lock it in a vault. It’s actually quite the opposite. Windows Live Spaces is actually a leader when it comes to freedom of information sharing…”

I wouldn’t be against them “locking my personal information in a vault” – my problem is with the “freedom of information sharing;” specifically, freely selling my valid email address.

Admittedly, I’m being a bit snarky with your comment.

However, on a more serious note:  While I doubt Microsoft is doing this (mostly because they would not get away with it for long), here’s the trouble:

As Microsoft creates this “barrier for entry” (even if for understandable reasons), and the public culture accepts it, it opens up the floodgates, by way of example, for other less scrupulous companies to use this method – as I suspect many of them do – to harvest information for their own annoying purposes (junk mail, “special offers,” etc.), or, more dastardly, to sell it to third parties.  Anyone who’s ever looked into spamming knows that it starts with a service selling, “verified addresses – guaranteed!”

Basically, if we come to expect that we must enter our name and email to use something, sooner or later, less-savvy net users (the same people who must be told over and over again not to open .exe files from strangers) are going to blithely and blindly continue to do so even if the website isn’t something as, er, ahem, “reputable” as say, Microsoft.  It’s a bad example to set.

And while spam is annoying, I am never in favor of trading my privacy for security (to mangle the famous quote usually, and apparently, incorrectly attributed to Ben Franklin: “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.”).

Again, I think a set of (user-selected) rules that puts the onus on the blogger to moderate things that violate those rules is the best solution.  Lazy people can always check off all the rules.  Anything else is just suspicious, invasive, and annoying.

Don’t touch me there! (my personal data & Microsoft & Kodak)

Posted in Customer Lack of Service at 12:26 pm by loolar

There is a deeply annoying trend in online services. I hadn’t really bothered with commenting on it until it finally annoyed me on a very personal level, but now it’s war (more on the personal later).

The trend is this: companies forcing you to “register” with them before you may use their services. Most recently, the trend has rudely invaded me with Kodak’s online photo sharing site, and with Windows Live Spaces (formerly MSN Spaces, I think – the “re-branding” has been nothing but confusing).

Now, granted, some of this may be a privacy setting – you only want people you know viewing your photos or commenting on your blog. Fair enough. But the messages don’t remotely indicate that you’re facing a privacy setting, put into place by your friend/loved one. No, they simply bluntly inform you that you have to, “create an account/ID/way for us to sell your data to a third party like a big dirtbag.”

For example:
“You must sign in using a Windows Live ID™ to add a comment to this space. Sign in
Don’t have a Windows Live ID? Sign up now”

Nothing turns me off faster. Luckily, I’ve been able to get around the Kodak deal with the fact that my mother visited and logged in, and now I have her ID in my passkeys (yay, Mac). Which, by the way, tells me it’s not about a privacy setting put into place by the originating album creator – why else would my mother’s ID work for photo albums created by people whom she has never met?

The truth is, this is just another contemptible butt zit method for these companies to “harvest” user data, either to come knocking at your virtual door, or to sell your valid email address to those nadir of the net world pustules – spammers.

And I refuse.

There are two far more elegant ways for companies to handle this:

  1. Tell me that this is a privacy level enabled by the blogger/creator. Of course, this is bogus anyway – blogs can be put on a moderator status if you’re worried about invasive comments from strangers – just choose to delete comments you don’t want. So why do I need to create a frickin Microsoft radio tag so they can track me in the wild? Oh yeah, underhanded sneakiness to get my valid email… and study my migratory mating habits, I guess.
  2. Just come out and say, “You want to use this free service? Then you’re going to have to give us a little something-something in return, you internet slut.”

At least then I could appreciate the honesty.

Now, I could be totally wrong about this – but there isn’t enough transparency as to WHY they want my data.  Given that, I have to use Occam’s razor (to paraphrase, the easiest explanation is usually right), which yields the explanation that they’re holding the content of my friends and family hostage, for the ransom of my data.

March 28, 2007

The woeful state of health care

Posted in Customer Lack of Service at 12:42 pm by loolar

So my new job as a teacher for the LA Unified School District gives me wonderful benefits – supposedly.  We’re with Blue Cross now, and when I was buying my own health care, I was also with Blue Cross, and they’re pretty decent.  Of course, then I was with a PPO, and now I’m with an HMO.  And therein lies the dilemma.

My doctor of six years, Joe Pachorek of Pasadena, will no longer see me because of the switch.  They’re “full up” of HMO customers, you see.  So, have a nice day, you’re someone else’s problem now.  His office manager basically shrugged and didn’t even offer me a good luck.  Six year relationship?  Whatever – you’re just unwanted paperwork.

This is the state of our semi-socialized medicine system.  Broken.  When human relationships mean nothing, and the quality of your care is based on which club you join.  Many people stay with deplorable jobs for the sole reason of staying with existing health care, due to a pre-existing condition or a doctor who actually understands their needs.  What kind of solution is this?

I predict a not-too-distant future where doctors will actually be eliminated from the equation.  In true HMO bureaucratic style, you will call an automated line, and you’ll be overnighted a pill.  “For allergies, press one now.  For chronic pain, press two now.  If you are in danger of bleeding out and dying, please stand by; an operator will be with you shortly.  We are experiencing high call volumes.  Your estimated wait time is three hours.  Please call back another time.  Thank you for choosing Don’tCare.”

Seriously, why have a doctor at all?  People don’t matter anymore in the medical profession.  Just overnight my pill and move on to customer #438612.

March 21, 2007

Door checking receipts (WalMart, Costco, Best Buy, Target)

Posted in Customer Lack of Service at 6:23 am by loolar

Since I’m up at this obscene hour with what seems to be my first onset of “hay fever” allergies, I may as well assault you, gentle reader, with another dose of vitriol.

For those who belong to Costco, the following scenario is commonplace and recognizable.  Unfortunately, it seems to have made it to WalMart, Best Buy, and Target.

You go to the checkout with your cart full of consumerist booty.  Items are scanned, bagged, and ultimately, purchased.  You thank the cashier, load the bags back into your cart, and head for the door – but wait!  Here to block your progress is some prepubescent teen or kindly septuagenarian brandishing a highlighter like Obi-Wan has just introduced them to the Force.  And they don’t want to know how long you’ve owned these droids.  Nope, they’re here to…

Mark your receipt.  They will make a cursory examination of your cart, check your receipt, and then expertly apply a colored slash.  As if a five second inspection is actually going to correlate the contents of my cart to my receipt?

This is a ridiculous circus of a policy.  Oh, of course you’ll hear technical sounding terms like “loss prevention” and “shrinkage oversight,” but honestly, this is a feeble show that provides no actual enforcement against theft – but immeasurable big-ass boatloads of aggravation to the 99% of customers who actually paid for their purchases.

To use the same metaphor as my earlier post on customer service, this is like gun control – it mostly punishes those who obey the rules.

Now I can see posting someone at the entrance to stop would-be pilferers from leaving “out through the in door.”  I can even see posting someone at the registers just to observe customers who might “accidentally” slip the latest issue of the Weekly World News into one of their shopping bags.

However, subjecting customers to TSA inspired inspections of pointlessness is an indignity and annoyance.  It’s plainly obvious to both the customer and the poor sap assigned to the duty that they aren’t remotely able to actually match my receipt to what’s in my cart.  And when even the Emperor notices he’s naked, it’s time to dump the policy.

March 20, 2007

Change your change

Posted in Customer Lack of Service at 2:34 pm by loolar

Customer service isn’t just the big things – responding to needs and clearly communicating – it’s made up of a ton of small things, like gestures, body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and those little things that can make a transaction smooth – or irritating.

This may be my pet peeve, but here’s one of the little things. When paying cash (I know, how quaint!), we typically must get change back. Most of us put our coins in a different place than our bills. And since the chaos factor for coins is much higher than bills (coins are given to sliding and rolling around), it stands to reason that coins ought to be placed in the most stable location for handling – e.g., the palm of your hand.

However, over and over again, I see cashiers putting the bills on a customer’s open hand, and then dumping the change onto that obligingly flat, smooth, BMX racing-style ramp surface, where the coins roll all over the counter and the floor. Thanks!

Put the coins in the palm first – then they’re going nowhere. Then the bills can be handled with a thumb and forefinger. Instead, most folks now need two hands to deal with their change, thus holding up the line.

Now I have no illusions that your average cashier is reading my blog. At present, actually no one is reading my blog. But I am hopeful, that somehow, perhaps like a flesh-eating virus, my ideas will spread out to the world of people who receive change (ahem, you), and you will speak up and gently urge those cashiers to adopt the more efficient and customer-focused practice.

On the other hand, it might be akin to hoping all the schmendricks who drive 45 mph in the left lane will hear the comedians that ridicule them. Those who need to know about their behavior are usually the least likely to hear it.

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