I would so rather have the service spelled out on this microwave than most of what the so-called service establishments are dishing out these days. At least here I know what I’m getting. Even if the owner was serious about this policy, I can’t complain: eat here and you’ll get what’s on the menu, exactly the way it’s prepared. But to get down to it: I’m the customer, right? I’m always right, right? There are big board meetings, college courses, come-back-to-Jesus talks on how to snag me, keep me, make me recommend you to my friends, right? Then why are you not listening to me? Why are you, in fact, trying to force on me what you want and completely disregarding what I want? Hey, I know I’m a wallet to you, a designer handbag, a crumpled up five in my jeans pocket. But most of the time, your product sells itself. I’m not coming to you so you can ask me how my day is going, if I’ve ever been to your restaurant before, to discuss what outfit I’ll be wearing with the lipstick I want to purchase. I have a therapist for that. I have a date for that. I have a best friend for that. What I don’t have is a printing press in my living room. So how about you sell me those books and shut the hell up.
I know. I sound harsh. But I’m not talking retail pleasantries. I can handle that. You want to talk about something that matters to either me or you–hey, I’m down. But if you are so stuck on your script that you are oblivious to me as an individual customer, standing before you, and you’re wearing a nametag that trumpets for me to tell you how you can be of assistance to me, then shouldn’t you indeed be of assistance to me? Let’s examine:
Exhibit A: Have you activated a credit card recently? Talk about a thirty minute phone conversation. You can’t use the card until you call and activate it. You’d think the company would want to activate the card ASAP, right? You activate the card, you shop in their store, you probably won’t pay it off in full, they get two bites off your apple: one in purchases, the other in interest fees. You’d think they’d be just as eager as you to get the party started. Not so fast.
There’s this one particular ladies’ specialty store I frequent so much they upgraded my credit card with them to platinum status in less than a year. My new platinum card came adorned with a most spiteful sticker: please call this number to activate your card. If I want to shop, it’s inevitable. I have to call. So I did. The automated activator came on. She asked me to enter my card number, then press pound. Yep. Okay. She asks me for my zip code, then press pound. Done. Let’s go. Last four digits of my social, then pound. You got it. Let’s shop. She tells me to please wait while they access my account. Kenny G comes on. Then a woman picks up. She asks me for my account number. I give it to her. My name. Yep. My zip code. All right. The last four digits of my social. Okay. She asks me how my day is going. I tell her it will be a lot better once I can get shopping. She doesn’t react. She says, “Yes, Miss Remick, before I activate your card I’d like to tell you about our credit card insurance.” I tell her no thank you, please just activate my card. She says it will only take a few minutes, and it would be to my benefit to hear about this insurance. No, thank you, please just activate the card. She asks if she can check off that I have declined insurance. Yes, I say, check it off. Then she says, “Miss Remick, while I have you on the line I want to tell you about the autopay overdraft program we have, just in case you skip a payment. You’ll be enrolled for three months, free of charge, you can cancel at any time . . .” I interrupt her here. “I’d like to cancel it now.” She’s taken aback. She pauses a moment, then continues on with her script. “You can cancel at any time, but if you choose not to, a monthly fee of ten dollars will be added to your statement.” Again I cut in to say I don’t want to be enrolled in that. I’m so frustrated by now I completely lose it. I ask her if she wants my money. I ask her why she won’t let me shop in her store. I ask her why I just can’t activate my card and get shopping. I say, “If this call is being monitored for quality assurance, I just want to shop. Please let me shop.” She informs me I have not been enrolled in their overdraft program. She says, “Okay, Miss Remick, before I activate your card is there anything else I can do for you today?” No. Thank. You. “Okay, Miss Remick, you have a pleasant day. I’m going to transfer you now, if you would stay on the line and complete a quick survey to let us know how we’ve served you today.” Right. You do that.
Exhibit B: The make-up counter. How frustrating is the make-up counter? No wonder we’re all at Walgreen’s, combing the Maybelline. Forget that every time I go to the Yves St. Laurent counter I’m initially ignored. When they finally get to me and I tell them what I want, taken right off the label of my old bottle, they hand me something else, something new, something better. I’ve taken to walking up to the counter and asking, “Has this been discontinued?” Otherwise it takes them an hour and ten other products later to tell me that indeed, it has. So I go to Ulta now for all my skin care and make-up. Yves, Lancome, Estee: get with the program. You make it too hard for a forty-year-old to look twenty, to make an attractive face absolutely devastating.
Exhibit C: I love me a hoagie. But unlike most, I like half the meat and more veggies. Why is it so hard to get veggies on a sandwich? Try going to Subway and asking for more lettuce and tomato. “You can charge me,” I always say. But they can’t. They can charge for extra meat: that button’s on the register. But extra veggies? Nope. Sadly, the following encounter happened at a Wawa. Let’s get this straight: I worship at the altar of Wawa. What happened to me was a fluke, but indeed it happened.
Back in 2003 when I was living in Lansdale and working at the Granite Run Mall, there was a Wawa near the entrance to the Northeast Extension. I would go there and get a Healthy Choice chicken hoagie. Back then they had to slice and weigh the meat. I know they have a formula for making sandwiches. Quality control and shrinkage and uniformity and all that. But the chicken was just way too much meat for me. I would get to work and open the sandwich, pick out half the meat and throw it in the garbage. What a waste. So one day after I ordered my sandwich I asked the preparer to please only cut half the meat; it’s too much for me. Suddenly the deli manager flies out from nowhere and says, “No, we can’t do that, the sandwich has a set price and a standard way of being made and we have to make it that way.” Dude, who said anything about price? I’ll pay the same price. What I want is to pay for the sandwich I want. I tell him they can charge me the same, I don’t care. He says he can’t do that, and they make my sandwich and away I go, feeling lousy. At work, I dig out the meat and waste it. The next time I go to Wawa I’m in a really foul mood. I was in a bad place, hating my job, hating living in that decrepit rental house. That asshole manager is there. Still I ask for my sandwich the way I want it. Again I am told too bad, that’s the way it comes. I tell him I’ll only throw the meat out. He says, “Then that’s what you’ll have to do.” So when I get up to the register, I take his advice. After paying for the sandwich, I open the wrapper, remove half the meat and leave it on the counter. Have a nice day.
So please, service people, if you are listening: no, I don’t want fries with that, I don’t want the meal instead of the sandwich, I don’t want seven more lotions because you’re having a buy ten get one free promotion, I don’t need free calls to Alaska and Hawaii to fit in your bundle plan. Hey, I understand the concept of upselling. But I am your customer. I patronize your establishment once, sometimes twice a week. Don’t you know my face by now? Don’t you know my order by now? Why do you always hit me with the same stock question when I order a tall java chip, light on the whip: would you like to upgrade that to a venti for only fifty cents more? No. No I would not. Don’t you understand that when you ask me if I’d like to upgrade my tall to a venti for only fifty cents more you are questioning my judgment (I don’t really know what I want), my intelligence (surely I can’t read or understand simple math if I can’t see one size is fifty cents more than another), and my character (spring for the larger one, fatty. You know you want to. It’s only fifty cents, you cheap bitch). Shouldn’t you be trying to make me feel special? Shouldn’t you ask me if I want the usual? How about: the usual java chip today, or would you like to try a caramel frap? It’s delicious! Even bars know sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. If I develop a drinking problem, Starbucks, it’ll be all your fault.