Business is bad.
That’s what you hear, everywhere you turn.
The economy is in the crapper, people are out of work, customers don’t have disposable income, and so on and so forth. Woe, woe is us.
That light at the end of the tunnel? Not only is it an onrushing juggernaut, it’s an overloaded circus train driven by Curly, Moe, Larry, and their idiot cousin, Shemp.
It’s bad, business is. Bad and getting worse. I’ve written about business before, and specifically things that you shouldn’t have to tell business leaders, but do anyway apparently.
Today, lets focus on customer service.
Now, in this climate, you’d think business would be doing all it can to woo, attract, keep, satisfy, cosset, pamper, spoil, indulge, cater to, humor, dandle, mollycoddle, green stamp, suck up to, appease, mollify, placate, soothe, and otherwise kiss the big bulbous ass of each and every precious customer. In fact, if business wants to see me and my money on a regular basis, it really ought to be coming over to my house and washing my car, raking my leaves, calling me Mr. Selleck and asking if I’ve lost weight.
And, you know, it sure wouldn’t hurt if business swung by my favorite coffee stand and picked me up a large triple-shot latte on its way over.
Instead business seems hell bent on pissing off just as many customers as is humanly possible.
As a business model, that’s generally a bad idea.
Especially in this climate.
Oh, you think that would be obvious?
Well, you are so wrong.
You do have to tell business. You might even have to beat them about the head and shoulders with it.
Whoa, now hold on there, Jim, I hear you say in that contemptuous voice you use when you’re looking down from the 53rd Floor of the BOA Tower and the Occupy Wall Street Rally below finally makes you understand that what people really want is an additional monthly fee to use their own money. Just settle down there, don’t make us get out the pepper spray. This is America, we can do that, you know.
Yes, I know. But the joke’s on you, I’ve been pepper sprayed before.
And frankly, there are days where I’d rather be maced than spend my money in your damned store.
Here’s the thing, if your business is so good that you don’t need my money, well, you know that’s your choice. But if you want me as a customer here’s some advice:
Stop trying to be hip. Seriously. Just stop it. It’s embarrassing. It’s midlife crisis gets hair-plugs and a Camaro and cruises past the local High School embarrassing. You ever see the movie Better Off Dead? Remember that part where Lane’s dad reads the book How To Talk To Your Teenager? You’re really bringing me over, man. Like that. Exactly like that. That’s what you look like when you try to be groovy. Look out there. See those people? The hip ones with the black eye shadow and shitty attitudes who smell like a combination of burning rope and ass? Sure they’re hip, but they don’t have any money. They’re unemployed. That’s why they’re hanging out at the mall.
The Sound Track. I was in three different businesses yesterday:
- The phone store was playing speed metal at high volume, either that or somewhere behind the counter an angry baboon was humping an air raid siren in a rock crusher. We went in to talk about a billing error. This particular billing error has been going on for three months despite repeated requests for correction. It does not surprise me. Because it is utterly impossible for anybody to concentrate on business or perform any cognitive function more complex than imitating an aquatic plant with that noise grinding out from the speakers.
- In the bookstore they were playing Frank Sinatra at a level that made me want to punch Old Blue Eyes right in the throat and watch him choke to death on his crushed larynx. I came in to look at books not catch a show at the Copacabana. You know how I feel about modern bookstores anyway, Frank yodeling over my head was the final straw. I went home and in the peace and serenity of my own living room, downloaded the half dozen books I wanted in electronic format from the store’s online competitor.
- The restaurant was playing Air Supply. There’s a reason why people hated the goddamned 70’s, and no, it wasn’t Nixon or tie dyed jeans or the Ewok Christmas Special. It was Air Supply. It was Chicago. It was Journey. It was Abba. It was disco. Honest to God, man, it’s a restaurant, you’re playing music that causes intestinal cramps. I mentioned it to the waitress. Yeah, everybody hates this crap she said, everybody complains about it. Duh. Well, let’s just keep it on permanent loop then, why don’t we?
Don’t Let Morons Answer The Phone. Everybody hates those damned automated answering systems, but you know what’s worse? When you finally do get an actual live person on the phone – and that person is an idiot. I’m not talking about tech support. I’m not talking about billing or something complicated. I’m talking about calling a place to find out if they have what I’m looking for and and the toad who answers the phone knows less about your inventory than the aforementioned idiot cousin Shemp. Gas is five goddamned dollar a gallon, before I drive fifty miles I’d really like to know if you have what I’m looking for or I’m going to order from Amazon and wait a week. However, to be completely fair, I will come by your place later – for the going out of business sale.
Speaking of the phone, if the person waiting on me stops to answer the phone in the middle of our transaction, you’ve lost me as a customer. This is non-negotiable.
Of course, it doesn’t surprise me that your cashier doesn’t know how to focus on the customer. It doesn’t surprise me because about half the time the manager is standing next to her discussing something other than keeping me happy.
Free Samples. There is nothing I hate so much as those people who hand out free food samples in the grocery store. No, strike that, I don’t hate those people, I hate the herd of eager bovines clustered in front of the sample cart. It’s a tiny little cup of some crap that you’d never buy, but these people act like they’re handing out free Viagra. It could be liver flavored asbestos coated Brussels sprouts in Satan’s ass sauce and people will get into a shoving match for a free cup of it. Once they’ve got a sample, they wander slowly through the store, elbows resting on their shopping cart, ass sticking out, licking their little wooden sticks and making smacking noises like Homer Simpson, mmm, I love you free sample, nom nom nom. But here’s the thing, nobody ever buys that crap, all you’re doing is blocking the damned aisle. Between the free sample cart and the giant display boxes every three feet and the shelf stocker, it’s a wonder anybody can actually get through the store – and when did we start stocking shelves during business hours anyway?
The help. Ten percent of America is out of work. Ten percent. There are literally millions looking for employment, and these chowderheads are the only idiots you could find to hire? Look, I have serious doubts regarding the advice offered by your employee when he’s a forty year old guy with a fauxhawk, pieced tongue, and flip-flops. Ditto the gum chewing girl with the bare midriff and a whale tail. I’m not asking that your people be in tuxedos, but is it too much to ask that they keep their underwear on the inside of their clothing? Or that they wear underwear at all? Seriously, what’s with the recent outbreak of asscrack?
Ever go in a place and get the Stink Eye? You know, the place where they follow you around like you’re going to steal something? Boy, that makes me want to come back.
How about the Grumpy Greeter? I’m talking about the mean old guy who meets you at the door. Hi, welcome to Wal-Mart, Dickhead, don’t steal nothing. Here’s a sticker for your ugly kid. (Ok, I can sort of sympathize with this guy, and, yes, I’ll probably be him some day).
It’s bad enough when you can’t find an employee, but too much help is even worse. I spend a lot of time in hardware stores. I used to love the little hardware stores that you could find on any Main Street in America. There was always a helpful middle aged guy behind the counter, he knew everything there was to know about hardware and knew exactly what you needed before you could even ask. He also knew when to leave you the hell alone. Unfortunately, those places were all eaten by Big Box stores filled with clueless morons, and you know how I feel about that.
True story: I’m looking at bins full of nuts, bolts, and washers:
1st Guy: Hi! Can I help you?
Me: Thanks. I’ve found what I need.
1st Guy: Ok! Just ask if you need help!
Me: I think I can handle it.
I start counting out bolts. … nineteen, twenty, twenty-one…
2nd Guy: Hi! Finding everything you need?
Me: I’m good.
2nd Guy: Ok! Just ask if you need help!
Where the hell was I? Twenty? Damn it. One, two, thr…
3rd Guy: Hi! Let’s build something together!
Me: Fuck. Off.
3rd Guy: I think that’s in aisle three, this way!
Grrrr. One, two, three, four…
4th Guy: Hi! How can I help you!
Me: Stand right there.
4th Guy: What?
Me: Stand right there. Shut up. Don’t move. Every time another vest wearing idiot comes along, you wave ‘em off.
4th Guy: I, uh…
Me: You asked how you can help? That’s what I need. Defense. Stack up a couple of those display boxes and barricade the aisle.
Business is bad.
Frankly, I can’t imagine why.
What chaps your ass about customer service these days?