Monday, May 11, 2009


Too Much Customer Service

I walked into my Regions Bank the other day. Before I could stroll the twenty feet to get to the one teller at the one open window, three employees greeted me. The thing is, I was focused on my destination, of course, so I never saw who, exactly, was calling out Good Morning. Naturally, I glanced around quickly to see who was accosting me, but they'd all gone back to whatever they'd been doing before I walked in. Apparently it's a one-sided event. They never really expected me to return the greeting. In fact, I later found out that one of the greeters was in an alcove, sitting behind a desk. Was I really expected to spot him and greet him back?

Please say no.

It felt like entering a Blockbuster. Clerks there are trained to shout out greetings, but a contact is never actually made. They may as well have speakers spewing out random greetings, for as personal as the thing is.

At the bank, one of those three did, in fact, come up to me as I waited for the teller. "How are you today?" was his second greeting. Since we were actually eye-to-eye, I figured he did want a response. Of course I, um, shared my feelings with him. Being bombarded with greetings from people who aren't engaged with me just feels confusing and annoying. I'm left standing in the middle of the room, frantically looking around for the verbal snipers.

The guy said it's a security measure. It's a way of saying We see you, buster! to the valued customer ... er, to the potential crook, I mean.

On my way out, another of the original three male greeters reminded me to take a cookie and a carnation, it being Mother's Day soon. That gave me another opportunity to snarl at someone for making me search for the source(s) of disembodied greetings. When I said that his cohort had told me it was an anti-theft procedure, he said, "Yeah? Really? He told you that?" Well, dang. Have they added lying to their list of services?

And then at Publix today, Mrs. X asked a clerk where the Y was, but then Mrs. X saw it and said, "Oh! Never mind!" While the clerk was still in Customer Service Mode, I said, "Tuna?" The clerk started to say something and then shifted herself and put down her pricing machine and said, "Follow me!" and took off.

I called after her, "Just give me the aisle number!" but she pooh-poohed that idea, saying over her shoulder, "They want us to bring the customer to the spot."

Well, gee. I don't like feeling that I'm interrupting someone's job, especially since I hate to be interrupted. I also don't want to be zoomed along the aisles. There's nothing faster than a clerk leading me to the proper spot. And maybe I knew I needed Aisle Six for olives and Aisle Seven for mayonnaise, so if tuna is in Aisle Eight, I'd stop for those others first, so just give me a number, don't lead the expedition.

I wonder if "they," who want employees to escort customers to the toothpicks, have ever asked "us" what we want? Maybe they have. But we know for sure that they haven't asked me.

You hear about marketing research and focus groups and things, but I wonder if the results of those are ever actually used?

When I visit Leone at Condescension Acres, the piped-in music is, well, I think it might be classified as swing, but maybe not. I'm not sure. Leone says it's aimed at the ninety-year-olds. It makes her livid that it's in all the public spaces. And of course it's too loud because that's a law when you're dealing with Old Folks.

But what gets me is that (1) they act as if everyone is ninety-seven, and (2) as if everyone who's ninety-seven likes the same kind of music. What're the odds of that?

What really scares me, of course, is that when I'm enjoying my Golden Years down at The Home, I'll be subjected to Jimi Hendrix in the hallways, blasting the hearing aids right out of my head. But I won't want Peter, Paul and Mary, either.

I ordered Playing For Change's new CD/DVD the same day that Liz tucked a copy of it into my mailbox. When mine came, I offered it to Mike who, unbelievably, doesn't like love and peace and all that. Who can not like Keb Mo'? Who can not like Clarence Bekker? The point is -- big surprise -- very few people share musical tastes.

Maybe the motto is If you can't please everybody, don't please anybody.

The music above the coolers in a convenience store this morning was classical. I couldn't believe it. A dark man named Mo claimed responsibility for it. Way to go, Mo!

Well, if we've got Keb Mo' and Convenience Mo, let's have Mike's cat Mo. I woke up this morning to find that Mo had shed his blue collar. I eventually found it on the couch in the living room, which is Mittens's territory. That means either that Mittens beat Mo up and ripped off his clothes in an attempt to humiliate him further, or that Mittens watched with cold eyes while Mo wrestled himself out of the collar. One day last week, I found Mo with his head and one leg poking out of the collar. That can't have been comfortable. And the other night, I was sleepily adjusting the bedding with my legs when I realized that it wasn't the sheets I was shifting at all. It was Mo.


Barbara said...

Hey! What happened to the template here? The body type is all wrong! That Mister Google!

Psychmajor said...

As a former banker, I can imagine that there are multiple factors contributing to the disembodied greetings assaulting bank customers, with one being in line with an explanation you received: a security measure. This particular explanation seems to make sense in light of what seems to be an increase in burglaries and bank robberies as the economy continues to decline. If nothing else, bank employees may be looking closer for identifying marks in case a visitor is there to rob the bank.

Though it could also be that a customer complained about an impersonal atmosphere in the bank, so the marketing execs called a bank-wide meeting and pushed a new campaign that forces employees to greet each customer en masse. There! That'll teach anyone to complain about a lack of personal contact!

It is also possible that the bank has a greeting contest for employees, whereby each employee keeps a list of how many customers he/she has greeted each day. The winner gets a free toaster, perhaps.

Ha, and certainly, just as it's possible that a customer complained about too little contact in a bank, if you were to complain about too much contact, perhaps another meeting would be held and employees would be forced to pay attention, or call out, "Head's up!" so they avoid running into one another in their mad dash to greet a customer...much like baseball players work out a system to avoid crashing into one another while running with head's up to catch the one ball in the air that is in a zone covered by more than one player.

As for Publix...I agree that it is not pleasing to have an employee insist on showing a customer to the exact location of an item that was involved in an inquiry. What's more, I'd like to add my own discontent to the cart stuffing procedures!

So here's the thing...I cram my cart full of boxes of cat litter, bags of cat food, cases of canned cat food, and a few things for myself, such as milk, eggs, and bread. I have a strategy, naturally, of placing the cases of canned food on the bottom of the cart, and stacking other items on top of those. At the check-out line, I have to remove the top items in my cart, so they usually are fed along the conveyor belt before the heavier items. I point out to the cart-stuffer/bagger helper that the heavier items will need to be stacked in the top of the cart, with the bags of other, lighter stuff on top of those, so please leave room for those heavier items.

This seems to be akin to explaining brain surgery to the cart-stuffer/bagger folks. First they are inclined to believe that I want everything light stacked into the little area in the top of the cart - where small children are apt to sit and pee. They look at me as if I'm quite daft, and they start piling up bags in the kid's pee seat.

I explain that it's okay to put things in the larger cart area, but stack 'em, ya know, so the heavy stuff is underneath the lighter stuff. The main object is to avoid having anything placed on the bottom rack of the cart because it's too problematic for me to bend way way way down there to extract my goods. Oh, well, then the cart-stuffer/bagger helpers ask me if I'd like help out to my car. No. Thank you. I just don't want anything placed on the very bottom of the cart.

So, yesterday I was at Publix, explaining to the cart-stuffer/bagger helper that she would need to stack the cases and large boxes in the main cart area, and then place the bags of lighter goods on top of those. She simply put each lighter bag into the main cart area, while the cases and boxes loomed ominously on the conveyor belt.

She'd place a bag in the cart, I'd relocate it to the kid's pee seat, reiterate my instructions, point at the cases and boxes still to come. Okay, she'd say, while placing yet another bag in the main area of the cart. I considered that she may plan to lift all the bags in the cart to place the heavier cases/boxes underneath...?


When the cases/boxes arrived at the cart-stuffer/bagger helper area, she started stuffing them underneath the cart, on the bottom rack that I'd asked her to steer clear of. I explained again that I cannot bend down to extract things from that bottom rack. "Oh, would you like help out to your car?" NO! THANK YOU!

I explained again that by stacking the cases/boxes in the cart FIRST, the bags could sit atop those. Surely, spatial relations' skills are not tested in these helpers. Yet, I was offering free training, and jeepers, is it THAT confusing to grasp the concept of putting the heavier cases/boxes in the cart first?

I allowed the woman to arrange the goods herself, but I did snatch the bag with the bread out of the way before the bread was squashed by a 10 lb. box of cat litter. Similarly, I rescued the eggs. By the time the woman was almost done carting up my goods, she had bags stacked so high in the cart, they would've fallen out when I steered my cart down the incline that leads into/out of the store. And still there was a case of cat food and a box of cat litter still be be crammed into the cart.

Again she bent to place those remaining items underneath on the bottom rack. NO! PLEASE!

"Would you like help out to your car?" she asked, as if it were a new question that just occurred to her.


She looked at me as if to say, "Why do you buy so much stuff at one time if you don't like the way I pack your cart?"

Fair (unspoken/assumed) question.

I do this, you see, because it's more problematic for me to make multiple trips to the store, so while I'm there I stock up on whatever I feel capable of carrying from my car to my house when I get home...and whatever will fit in my cart with some brain-surgery-complexity-type of stacking.

So there.


I have considered that I'm the ONLY Publix customer who buys cat litter, cases of canned cat food, and bags of kitty krunchies. Yet the evidence of other such consumers is indicated by the depleted supplies I often see in the cat food aisle. Indeed, I've also chatted with numerous customers about their abundant cat product purchases, and one woman pulled out her wallet to show me pictures of her cats.

I have also considered that some of the employees who bag and cart the groceries are people who have learning disabilities and/or other disorders, and I'm glad for them to have the functionality and opportunity to work at a job. I am very kind and respectful. It is also true that the employees who have obvious intellectual deficits are the ones who are the most accomodating when I ask for the cases/boxes to be put into the cart first, with the other goods stacked on top of them.

So maybe it's a power play situation where the cart-stuffers/baggers without disabling conditions feel challenged by my instructions because they feel SURE of their cart-stuffing skills? And really, there IS a bottom rack on the carts, so why not use it?

I've explained why. Still, some of the employees ignore my request to avoid the bottom rack. Maybe they feel that I'll cave and accept help out to my car?

Ha, and that doesn't seem like such a big deal, and it's nice that they offer that kind of help. Yet I want to feel CAPABLE, damn it. And I AM capable of getting my cart to my car and unloading the goods into my trunk, but only if the goods are not placed on the bottom rack!

Perhaps I should look online to see if somebody delivers cat litter, cases of cat food, and bags of cat food? Of course if these items were left outside of my home they'd be sprayed by the unneutered male stray and feral cats outside. And any bags of cat food would be torn open and summarily consumed by said kitties.

It's a dilemma.