As most women do, I spend an inordinate amount of time in retail venues of one sort or another. There is food, clothing, entertainment and edification to be procured, and as the household steward, it falls to me to provide them. My role has led to a startling observation regarding customer service, which is, quite simply…nobody cares, least of all the managers who are charged with the running of these establishments.
At the grocery store, I am met at the checkout by a sullen gaze and stony silence which is broken only to bark out a total. My eggs are packed beneath a pound of flour and a bottle of Juicy Juice. My bread is sandwiched (pun intended) between canned goods, and my chips are ground into greasy smithereens by a box of laundry detergent. And nothing, but nothing is quite so maddening as arriving home to find that a small much needed item is missing from the bags, but not the receipt. I have taken to packing and carrying my own groceries and will forcefully discourage baggers from approaching with a malevolent glare. Groceries are too expensive these days to risk such destruction and it galls me to have to tip someone who has blithely mangled my cantaloupe.
And what about clothing stores? I remember the days when salesladies would gladly fetch a hopefully smaller size, suggest a matching top or accessory, and offer honest, but kind opinions. Nowadays they simply lurk in the aisles, glancing around balefully; watching with eagle eyes as you enter the dressing room, but not venturing near enough that one might mistakenly assume they are there to offer assistance.
What is to blame for this decline in industry standards? I think it is the industry itself, which has become like the discount warehouse stores we frequent so gleefully. There is anything one would ever want in every size, shape and color one could possibly want it, but no window dressing, no amenities. The pride that once came from ownership is now swallowed up by the corporate bottom line. Customer service takes a backseat to profit margins and fiscal concerns.
I live in a large Metropolitan area. The phrase “urban sprawl” is woefully inadequate to describe the relentless development that occurs here. In such a place, mom and pop businesses are hard to find. When I find one, I patronize it with single minded loyalty as my own personal screw you to big business. I am under no illusion as to the impact this will have on Walma......er, um, Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart, but it makes me feel marginally better about the state of things.
I like being called by name. And I don’t mean in that I just read it off your credit card way. I like being thanked for my business. I like it when a store owner or clerk recommends an item because they remember me and they remember what I like, not because the computer gave them an itemized list of my last 47 purchases. Is that really so much to ask when I am handing over a disconcertingly large percentage of our hard earned money? I don’t think so, but apparently Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart does.
Still, I suppose Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart serves it’s purpose. I guess those who drop out of high school because they got the head cheerleader pregnant have to work somewhere. And I suppose that all those children in Columbia would just be out on the streets doing something shiftless like…playing if they weren’t working in sweat shops turning out more affordable crap for the American consumer. And who would clear all that irksome forestation that clutters the landscape with unsightly greenness if not for places like Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart? Yes sir, they are an important cog in the Capitalist wheel. And hey, who needs meaningless pleasantries when you can get your heart’s desire for $9.99 or less?