Saturday, October 15, 2011

Things That Chap My Ass About Customer Service

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.

Several times.

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?


  1. Phone companies don't have customer service, it's not part of their business model. Down here in NC, a guy found out his phone company had overcharged him for about 6 months. He had to take them to COURT to get a refund. But it didn't end there! Nope, he had to have the SHERIFF show up to make them pay. Heck yeah, sign me up for a 2 year contract with THOSE people!

    My job (until I publish my best selling novel), is customer service. My favorite question this week? What color is the gold foil engraving? Umm...purple?

  2. I don't know... I think that pretty much covers it, especially the incessant help gnomes! But, I also try to support the local businesses as much as possible with online shopping as a backup and can't remember the last time I went to a Mall... So I haven't been exposed to the boom box filled shopping emporiums in a while!

    And I appreciate BoA askingme to pay a fee for a card that I can use to use my money... for a fee!

  3. Oh sweet baby Jeebus! One word: fucking goddamned lying sacks of shit who will tell you whatever they think you want to hear just to get you to shut the hell up. (And no, you're the one who's so good at counting - you count how many words I actually used). I've had at least two phone customer service reps LIE like four-year-olds, outright lies, rather than deal with my problem. One told me that I didn't need to have a refund issued for my mobile phone service because the contract had expired so the renewal hadn't been charged to my credit card. Three days later there it was - after I had gone with another service. Then I had the original company tell me "Good luck getting your credit card company to remove the charges because we have a non-refund policy in the 2,500 page fine-print contract you were supposed to read." Okay, that might not be an exact quote but it's really close. God I hate liars.

    Right after liars, which I somehow attract like flies, are the incompetents who tell you they will remove your auto-pay and get you back on paper statements (or whatever) and 8 phone calls later and missed payments and double charges and whatnot you finally, FINALLY get the problem taken care of.

    Christ, I've worked up a lather just reliving all my nightmares. But aside from that, nothing chaps my ass. I'm very calm and serene.

  4. My late maiden aunt used to spoil me with great clothes bought at a store where a Mrs. Plummer worked. Mrs. Plummer knew the kinds of things my aunt liked to buy me, knew my size, and would call her when a shipment came in, or when there was a sale. And she just worked at an ordinary main-street department store, not a fancy boutique. When she retired, my aunt started writing me checks instead.

  5. I've never gotten this. Customers are the life blood of a company.
    Customer: "Hello, can I stick some cash in your pocket?"
    Employee: "Piss off!"
    I worked in a place with a very rude person. OK, all offices have somebody like this. They were nearly as rude to the customers. Not only did no one call them on it, the customers would just roll their eyes and politely keep on dealing with the person.

  6. Well, I like Chicago. At least early Chicago. And Journey. And Brussels sprouts, although not when they're liver flavored asbestos coated.

    There's a business in town with 5 employees. Five. That's all. And they have an automated voice system that tells you to listen carefully as the options have recently changed. It's said this for THREE FUCKING YEARS NOW!

    Oh, and I've been contacted more than once by people trying to sell me such a system so that it looks to the world like I'm a big business. What it would make me look like to my customers is a pretentious asshole who no longer wants them to do business with them.

    It also pisses me off when I have to pay extra to get tech support from people I can understand. Not for people who are better at their job of tech support, mind you. Just people without an accent so thick I can't understand what they're saying, and for that matter who can't understand what I'm saying, for that matter.

    As for how much hovering of employees is too much, the problem is that no matter what they do, they're gonna piss off people. I, for example, only want someone available I can ask if I have a question. I don't want anyone ever to ask me if I need help, no matter how lost or confused I look.I look. But I know people who think if they frown slightly some employee should immediately be at their side to ask if they need help, even if they don't, just to show concern and how awesome the business is that someone would care that much.

  7. When my mouth is full and my nose is in a newspaper, please smile as you fill my cup. I in turn will smile and nod. End of interaction.

  8. What chaps my ass?

    Customer service that makes you wait on hold for 27 minutes, repeating the same assurance that all operators are currently busy but don't blink or breathe or move a single muscle because all customers will be answered in the order that you called. In between, you are forced to listen to a scratchy recording of The Worst of Muzak, played at three thousand decibels.

    Then, just as it starts to ring a regular bell tone, indicating that your call is about to be picked up by a real live person, the line disconnects and the next thing you hear is a dial tone.

    The fourth time through, when you FINALLY reach a human being without being tossed unceremoniously into dial tone hell, the person who answers is from a continent on the other side of the planet and has an accent so thick that their favorite aunt has trouble understanding them.

  9. Oh, yeah, the automated help line.

    When my car broke down in a Sonic parking lot 2 years ago, I called AAA for help. Got some Mexican fella whose English wasn't broken so much as a pile of word-rubble.

    Took me 5 minutes to explain the concept of a Sonic restaurant at the corner of these two streets, all while on a cell phone running out of juice.

    I was assured that a tow truck would be there in under an hour--but once he showed up 90 minutes later, the driver explained that he'd been told to look for a MOTEL at that intersection.

    Hey, AAA...since you're outsourcing your Customer Service to Mexico, how 'bout you outsource my business to your competitor!

  10. There is nothing I can add to this blog or the comments. Perfectly stated. I HATE CUSTOMER SERVICE PEOPLE!

    I am pretty sure there is a reserved section in Hell for CS Reps. Except for my friend, David. But he is an exception.

  11. I have lived in my small town eleven years. So far I have asked for bids on fencing, yard cleanup, trim painting, bathroom remodeling and porch repair. ONE person showed up for the fencing estimate, and ONE person showed up for the bathroom remodeling estimate. I'm still waiting on the others

    The funny thing? They are all blaming Walmart (or Obama) for their business failures. No, dumbass, your business is failing because you stink at running a business.

    1. Funny, I've run into this myself. We needed gutters for the house, and we ended up going with the one company that actually showed up to give us an estimate. We called a few of the others TWICE and were told "Somebody will get back to you." or words to that effect. Two weeks after the job was FINISHED, one other company finally called to set up an appointment and got all snarky with me because we went with someone else and didn't wait on them. HELLO!

  12. What a coincidence that they were serving "liver flavored asbestos coated Brussels sprouts in Satan’s ass sauce" at Target this morning! Seriously, one guy was serving spinach steamed the microwave and folks were going for it. pGawd I'm not the only one that considers this yet another example of ugly American pastimes.

    K, now for Verizon. I had entered into a plan early this summer whereby they delivered me two Droid phones that simply wouldn't work in my house. After coming to my senses after losing my job, I got out of the contract and they even agreed to refund my $325 for the phone, which I promptly mailed back as instructed. Well that was Tanya; five people since her STEADFASTLY REFUSED to refund my money. So I call again last week and say, okay if you're not going to refund my money, can you kindly return my phone which I PAID FOR? Well son-ofa-gun if they aren't going to be refunding my money after all.

  13. I imagine there's only one actual human being answering all of those customer service calls. And he/she sits looking out a window somewhere while tweeting their unhappiness with their miserable job, and occasionally picking up the phone.
    That's why you're on an endless loop of 'your call is important to us. All operators are currently busy with another customer.....'
    Which translates into 'we're sorry but the only person in the world that answers these calls is busy piddling around at the moment and will 1. either never be able to answer your call or 2. If she answers your call won't be any help at all. Thank you have a nice day.

  14. Judi! I hear you there! I am trying to get a garage replaced. I did my own demo, and I'll do my own framing. But I can't get a concrete contractor to return my calls. Even a guy I used before took 3 calls to the cell and one to his house before he could tell me he's busy into November. Really, if the building trades are slow, where are all the hungry companies?

  15. well I can also speak of tales of woe from the other side of the phone after doing phone support for well nigh twenty years or so. There is another side of the coin.... as in yes, I've solved more than my fair share of computer issues by determining that the printer was not, in fact, plugged in. There is a reason that many of these support scripts exist, because, shocking though it may be, a fair portion of our fellow humans can indeed suffer from bouts of idiocy.

    Granted, I believe that good customer service actually involves LISTENING to what is being said and the documenting what was said and done and actually not being afraid to go off script and treat your fellow human being as a fellow human being.

    There are many companies that do understand that actually having people on the other end of the phone who know and understand their products is essential to giving good service, but they are increasingly becoming a minority because so many people simply accept bad customer service as part of the cost of doing business and don't actually make folks that give them bad service pay.

    There are a few tips for folks that can help, first, treat the issue, if you don't like the music, or the appearance, complain. Otherwise, the idiots running the show don't think it matters. If they look at you like a rabbit in the road, then most definitely take your business elsewhere. Second, be polite. Honest, this helps, a good many of these folks are just trying to do their jobs (albeit badly) and calmly explaining what you're doing and what your looking for can make a difference. Especially when on the phone, note the product, name of the person you're talking to and the time. If you have to call back, chances are this will alleviate you having to jump through the same hoops (granted there may be new hoops, but hey...) as before. If somebody ends up getting their ass chewed for not doing a good job, perhaps that will motivate them to do a better job the next time. It's been known to happen. Just sayin'.

  16. My unwritten version of your essay has lots of cuss words. Otherwise, we are in complete agreement.

  17. My wife and I were going to get hardwood flooring laid yesterday. The installers came, checked the moisture content of the cement slab, told me it was too high, and we would need to get the cement sealed or the hardwood planks wouldn't stick. "Can you guys do that?" I asked. "Oh no, you'll have to get someone in to do that.

    So there we are, the project failed because the floor treatment people don't "do" floor sealing. So I called EmpireToday and cancelled the $4500 job, last night the rep called me because I cancelled the job and he wanted to know why. I "suggested" that they should be able to prep my floor before laying their products, instead of telling me I need some other contractor to do this.

  18. On hiring competent employees from the large pool of available workers .. That large pool isn't as large as you think. I'm not saying there aren't a lot of people out of work. There are. The 10% understates the actual numbers by a significant margin.

    Rather, to get hired for _any_ job no matter how menial, you have to get past Human Resources first. Because of the large number of people applying for and looking for work, HR will use filters to reduce the number of applicants the need to actually review. One of these criteria is credit rating. How many long term unemployed have a good credit rating?

    Poof! Reduction of available workers by significant amounts. There is already evident {actual measurements} that already unemployed people are much more likely to remain unemployed than an employed person finding a new job.

    'Available for hire' means whatever HR says, not whatever the person looking for a job says.

    @Stuart - if you have a spare bedroom and can put me up, I'll travel as much as 1,000 miles to work by the week. I can do most framing, most electric, most plumbing, fencing, cabinetry, roofing, painting, ... You just cover all materials, specialist tools {if needed}, basic expenses and $500/week.

  19. You forgot one other major thing big biz and you, the customer:

    Customer service, but only when I, the big important business, wants it done.

    Think about it...you need to talk to someone re: a problem, but they have CS hours only during business hours of their choosing.

    What about folks who have a complaint or concern about something they bought? Nope, can't call at 6:30pm, after you get home from work...only from 9am - 5pm!

    Take the post office - they leave those little slips to pick up mail requiring a signature or, lordy forbid, COD payment. Can't make it in, not even on Saturday during their hours.

    Or the newspaper delivery is, well, there wasn't one - leave for work before it arrives, you get home, no paper, can't talk to anyone about the non-delivery!

    Having a problem now with a lousy box of doggie biscuits, but can't talk to anyone unless I take time off from work to call them during their time, because they don't care about the customer! Unless I call between 8:30am & 5PM ET, nope, can't talk to anyone!

    Also - you are in time zone X and company is in time zone Z. Again, it's either take time off from work, or forget asking your question & getting an answer.

    Now wait a minute, did I just say get an "answer"? Not in today's world, at least not on the phone! Popular response: "you need to use our online help/customer service".

    But, but, but, it's danged problem WITH my online service that's the problem - I CAN'T GET ONLINE!!!!



  20. Everything you said is pretty much my feelings exactly. But if you look hard enough, there still is that hardware store you talked about. Maybe not in Palmer. You know the one I'm talking about? It's the one where if they don't have it, you don't need it! The same one where everyone knows what you're asking for, and where to find it. Everyone working there has been working there for 20 plus years. Ah yes.

  21. Ewoks debuted in the 1983 film Return Of The Jedi. You're probably conflating the 1978 Holiday Special with the mid-'80s live-action TV movies.


  22. I have wondered why the people I'm willing to hand over money to hate me so much.

    Last spring, I got on the phone to line up Comcast for the summer, as usual. It took 5 freaking phone calls to get someone who could deal with my account in Massachusetts. Hey, dummies, I got money over here!

    As a side note, have you every noticed how many corporate/business websites do not display a phone number or email address? They all have that freaking "shopping cart" though.

  23. As has already been mentioned, there is a marked difference between early Chicago (listen to the first track on their debut album) and the commercial shlock they eventually came to endlessly spew (I think they just released Chicago 137, if I’m not mistaken).

    As to customer service, I think we’ve all been subjected to such poor service for so long, that we begrudgingly accept it. When was the last time you actually got good service-be it at a restaurant, hardware store, bookstore, or anywhere at all?

    And when we don’t accept poor service, and have the audacity to speak with the manager, he/she turns out to be some imbecilic twenty-something more interested in texting his/her bffs than addressing our concerns.

    Really, though, all of this is moot, cause once the geezers (like me) who actually remember what it was like to be treated with respect and courtesy vanish from the earth like the proverbial dinosaurs that we are, business can dispense with the entire concept of customer service and focus on the bottom line.

  24. We've been having a marvelous time with Waste Management both here and in Washington. We put the place in WA on autopay (three month cycle) when we bought the house in July. We just now get a call saying our account will be sent to collection if we don't pay. My husband calls them and finds out the number I gave them does not match a credit card (guess which one of us screwed up? It 't'weren't me, I don't give out other people's card numbers). He gave them a new card number, they said they'd process it. Two days later, another call, "We need your payment or we'll cancel your trash pickup". Another call to them, another giving of the card number. Two days later, their billing department wants to know if they should refund the "duplicate payment" we gave them, or just credit our account.

    Don't even get me started on dealing with them in Anchorage. Needless to say, I got a little loud at work (but they're used to that).

    When I was looking for my first job, my mom suggested I skip anything in customer service, she didn't think I had "the personality". I've improved, I don't even HAVE a personality any more.

  25. Bad customer service seems to be the flavor of the week. Have heard no less than 3 other people make similar complaints.

    Judi, oh how I feel your pain. Don't forget the "Not born and bred here margin" they add on for not going to high school with them. And then they get upset when I buy my services outside the town. Hell, 1) it's cheaper, even with the extra travel charge (when there is one), and 2) the work is done correctly and in a timely manner.

    Yeah, I just don't understand people these days. Dudes, really, if you think I'm limited as to what I can purchase in this town, you have forgotten that the borders are open.

  26. So let me get this right. You are in a big box store, and four - Yes Four- people are trying to help you without you having to walk 3/4 of a mile of aisles to find them?

    Drop the nuts. Start looking for pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. You clearly had been teleported (at least temporarily) to an alternate universe. Maybe its the terminator universe, but then again, maybe it is a leprechaun pot of cold universe.

    On a different note: Do you get maced-pepper sprayed by customer service? Boy, you are a grumpy customer.

  27. Funny as hell, as usual. (You meant for it to be funny, right?) What isn't amusing, though, is that you're about as far across the country as you can get from here in Inbred, SC and yet you just described every shopping experience I've ever had.

  28. I request...nay, I demand the comprehensive list of things which chap Jim's ass. The list seems to be ever growing and those of us who frequent Stonekettle Kitchen (yeah, I know you say it's a Station but you know I'm right), find ourselves constantly doing a Mambo here through a minefield, never knowing what might set him off. Or merely abrade his nether regions.

    It's high time we were given fair notice of which subjects are verboten and which are merely distasteful in his eyes.

    Lacking that information, I'm left to wonder what might ameliorate the situation when we step afoul of Jim's sensibilities. Does he require a large pot of Vaseline?

    Or might a small Chapstick rectify the situation? (See what I did there? Huh? Huh?)

  29. Unless their smiling and generally kissing my ass right up till I go through the exit door there is NOTHING I like about customer service.

  30. Scenario: Start a service with a 90 day billing cycle. Ahem! (coughWastecoughManagementcough!). Set it up for auto-pay so you won't be late. Cavort off into the sunset thinking your obligations have been met. Receive the very first correspondence from them 91 days later telling you that they're sending your account to COLLECTION because they're too fucking stupid to DRAW THE FUNDS from the specified account. So - you go online and pay, and they STILL send it to collection, thereby fucking up your very damn excellent credit score. One time, some wayward neighbor or passerby emptied a dozen or so beer bottles in my recycling bin. (I don't drink). The guys came by to get the bin and promptly dumped all the bottles in my yard. Now all my neighbors think I'm a drunk and I had to go pick all the bottles and glass out of my lawn. How did they get to be such a large corporation? It boggles the mind.

  31. Now all my neighbors think I'm a drunk and I had to go pick all the bottles and glass out of my lawn

    and I spit perfectly good beer through my nose.

  32. HEALTH insurers! Goddam, I hope there's a special place in hell for those evil, heartless bastards! I got your "pre-existing condition" RIGHT HERE!!!

  33. It's so funny you posted this rant. It mirrors what I said to my wife last week after a visit to Nordstrom's Rack.

    Fuck that place.

    It's not that it was crowded as hell. It was; but I expected that.

    No, the problem is that the crowd wasn't shrinking from, you know, processing the sales transactions and converting retail goods into revenue.

    They have this brilliant idea where you serve yourself when you want to buy shoes. Only, there's only one shoe on the rack. You have to wait in a line with your shoe, hand it to one (or sometimes two) sales people, who then disappear for an indefinite period into the back of the store, looking for its mate. I waited in like like a nice sheep should, but when my "mate" came back, it had differently colored shoelaces. Which I pointed out to the sales person.

    She didn't seem to grasp the issue at first, but when we finally communicated, she shrugged and said, "last pair". I politely handed the shoes back and said, "not interested".

    At that point I was tired and pissed-off. I put back the two pairs of pants I had previously chosen (in the proper places). I decided to just buy my son his polo shirt.

    I then turned and witnessed a line of people waiting to pay for their purchases that ran nearly half the length of the store. There must have been 50 people in line ahead of me.

    Fuck it. One polo shirt wasn't worth it. I threw the shirt on the nearest rack and headed for the door.

    That was about $150 they missed out on.

    The funny thing is, when I told the story to my wife, she looked at me with pity.

    "That's part of the outlet experience," she said. Apparently, people expect to get crappy service when they are (allegedly) saving money on clothes.

    Really? Not me. You want my money, hire some more staff and process the transactions with reasonable efficiency. Ill wait in a TSA line, because I have no choice. But I'm not waiting in a Nordstrom's Rack line of that magnitude. I'll take my business elsewhere.

  34. "and I spit perfectly good beer through my nose."

    Well, at least it wasn't elderly single malt. Then you could be accused of alcohol abuse.

  35. Anonymous @ 8:41 pm-
    Holy crap in a bucket! This is EXACTLY what happened to us (except my husband DOES drink)-they dumped out all the bottles on our yard. My husband just about went ballistic. This was item #1 on our "Why We Hate Waste Management".

    Item #2-If your can(s) are too close together, it's perfectly acceptable for an asshat in the truck to get out, WIRE A CARD TO YOUR CAN'S HANDLE as to WHY they can't take your trash/recyclables (note: it is not tied with string or a rubber band-WIRED), get back IN the truck and drive off. Notice the said asshat CANNOT be bothered to move the can the 1/3" it would take to be the specified 3' apart, but he can WIRE A CARD TO YOUR FUCKING CAN!!

    Ahem. I did not have a good conversation with the manager, and I seriously doubt he'll be sending me a Christmas card.

  36. @Nathan: "I request...nay, I demand the comprehensive list of things which chap Jim's ass. The list seems to be ever growing...."
    Does that imply that Jim's ass is also growing?

    ::ducks down with Eric, especially since I had exactly the same thought about ewoks::

  37. The only way to have good customer service is to pay for it. America as a whole decided not to pay for it, people care more about low low prices than about whether you can actually get help with that brand new Frobulator 500 that you brought home from Wally World. So we're getting what we paid for, good and hard.

    Look, customer service is *expensive*. My employer prides itself on good customer service. We sell millions of dollars worth of equipment each month. Do you know how much of a $50,000 box of equipment is customer service? How about 20%? Because we have SE's in the field to come in and debug why your installation isn't there, we have an answering service in India with scripts to handle the most common questions, we have full time *expert* people who've been with the company for years who answer the phone and can either answer your question or walk across the building and grab the engineer who can, and it all adds up. Meanwhile, one of our competitors just puts out beige boxes, doesn't answer their phones, but is 20% cheaper because they basically don't offer any customer service. Guess who's growing their volume at the low end and guess who's losing volume at the low end? We're constantly having to move up in the food chain to outrun the bottom feeders who sell on price only and provide no (zero) customer service.

    So anyhow, that's what chaps *my* ass about customer service -- that customers aren't loyal to those of us who *do* provide customer service, and instead whine that they don't get the customer service they aren't paying for because they went out and got the cheapest POS rather than a supported product from a company that stands behind their product. TANSTAFL, folks. If you ain't payin' for customer service, if you instead go for the cheapest, you sure the bleep ain't gonna get what you ain't paying for.

  38. @BadTux
    But then, there are the companies who you go ahead and pay the extra to because you have been led to believe that they WILL stand behind their product or service, and you don't mind because you know why it's important. And then they simply pocket the extra 20% instead of providing customer service. It just makes a hippie want to go hang out on Wall Street with bongo drums and have an incoherent message!

  39. Cashier, at the grocery store closest to where I live: "Did you find everything you were looking for today?"

    Me: "Not really, you're out of diet Coke and orange Gatorade. But you're always out of orange Gatorade. The diet Coke is a new developement, though."

    Clerk: "That's the Manager-on- Duty over there, you could ask him to order some more."

    Me: "Excuse me, the cashier said you're the one to talk to. Could you order more orange Gatorade? You never have any; there's always plenty of the other flavors that no one ever buys. Maybe you could order more next time?"

    Manager-on-Duty-who-clearly-wants-me-to-shut-up-and-leave: "We try ordering it, but the warehouse is out. Maybe we'll have some next week."

    Me: "No, your store near my office always has it, the Kroger on the freeway always has it, but you never do."

    MODWCWMTSUAL: "I think Gatorade had a production problem."

  40. Honest to God Hardware Stores... Sigh...

    Back in, I think it was 1982, I was driving cross country on my way to start my first grown-up job, and I stopped in a town, in a wide and beautiful valley, somewhere in the foothills of the Appalachians, and I needed some bits and pieces to get my old car another few hundred miles down the road, and there was this big old wood and brick building, leaning just slightly at one end, with a window on the main street and inside MILES of bins of nuts bolts nails hinges washers wire rope pipe fittngs screws chisels tools of all kinds, you name it, and the ceilings were 25 feet high, and the bins went almost all the way up, and there were ladders, and wooden floors tromped by working men's boots since some time at the end of the last century, and the good clean raw steel and seasoned wood smell of it, and behind the counter: a beautiful young woman, her dark hair pulled back in a pony tail, a smile that could light up any gloom imaginable, and flashing blue eyes to match, no makeup and none needed, no wedding ring, and it was HER store. Her grandaddy had left it to her, there was no one else in the family who could look after it. Business wasn't great, but... they were still making money.

    Sometimes I wish I had just ditched the grown-up job, rented a room with a porch on a tree-lined street, made do with whatever work was going and become her best customer. You get to my age you think about stuff like that. And about those lody forever local hardware stores, too.

  41. Our local GM dealership was a source of angst and loathing for years. The layers of sadness in that business relationship included the time I tried to order a part and knew exactly what I wanted, but ended up getting into a yelling match with the parts manager (who was taking his bad day out on me). Another time they got finished with my car but reinstalled something wrong, and I refused to take delivery until it was fixed.

    Then there was the time I took my car in for service in mid-morning and could see two hours later that my car was finished, but I was another hour getting out...because the service writer went to lunch. That tore it. And yet when I hadn't been back to that dealership in several months, I got this direct-mail postcard from them asking "what did we do wrong?" Bruddah, you ain't got the time to listen to everything you did wrong. (I also think one of my sins was not being one of the local good ol' boy set...had I been an upper-middle-class guy in a new Silverado instead of a lower-middle-class woman in a several-years-old Cavalier, I have a feeling they'd have taken really good care of me.)

    Then there was the time I went up to the checkout counter at Wal-Mart. I was in the throes of a Death Cold, but I couldn't stay home from work, so I was provisioning before I went to the office. On the counter I put a large box of Kleenex, a bottle of Tylenol, a bottle of water and a Diet Coke. The cashier asks, "And how are you today?" (I think I actually had to count to three before I responded.)

    Re: hardware stores, please don't start with those or I'll cry all morning. I grew up with several of those great old-time hardware stores in close proximity. If we want to start understanding where we went off the rails as a country, the question of "what happened to the hardware stores?" deserves more than a few minutes' consideration.

  42. @Randy,

    My fear is that the opposite is true. Poor Jim's ass is being abraded and eroded completely out of existence. Now honestly, this won't have any detrimental effects on me personally, but I've grown quite fond of Becky over the years. What will she be left with after his back meets his front and ceases to be?

  43. When MEN come into my store (auto parts, privately owned, in a very small town) and assume that because I am a WOMAN I have no clue what they need or want and ask "is there a man here who could help me"...no shithead, there isn't and I didn't become the manager of this store cause I got nice tits!!

    Also, I kind of take offense at your statement about "the older guy at the hardware store" from days gone by who knew everything and blah blah blah...to bad you don't feel the same about older women who own or run their own hardware/auto parts/grocery/etc. stores!

  44. Anonymous, This post, and the others under the label of "things that chap my ass," was intended as a humorous jab at irritations I see in daily life. About half the time when I write these posts, I'm guilty of the offenses I'm poking fun at.

    Most readers understand that and laugh along with the joke.

    However, there's always somebody like you. It never fails. I strongly suspect that there's no way I could have phrased the post that wouldn't have offended you in some manner.

    You didn't by any chance come here from John Scalzi's site did you?

  45. . If we want to start understanding where we went off the rails as a country, the question of "what happened to the hardware stores?" deserves more than a few minutes' consideration.

    There's still some of them out there. But as I see it, two things happened to hardware stores: 1) their owners died and there was nobody to carry on the store and it was more profitable to sell off the inventory and sell the land to Mickey D's for another fast food restaurant than to sell it as a going business due to the low turnover of inventory of the traditional hardware stores -- big box stores don't have this problem because they're owned by corporations, which are immortal, not by humans, 2) a big box store came to town and they lost most of their customers to the lower prices because, hey, price is everything, right?, or 3) they provided shitty customer service in the first place, never being open the hours that customers *needed* them open, stocking the inventory that *they* wanted to stock rather than what the customers needed, and good riddance. #1 is a slow erosion that is almost complete now -- it's almost impossible to start out as a small businessman with a large inventory today in a land of giant corporations with big boxes full of cheap goods, so as the old-timers die out their stores close. #2 is far too common, hardware stores run on a narrow margin due to their huge inventory requirements -- a typical old-time hardware store had an inventory the size of a modern big-box store, just in lots of bins as small bits and pieces rather than big stuff spread out over the size of a football field, but this inventory did not turn over rapidly and its care and feeding (from a money perspective) is *not* cheap -- and combine an economic downturn with a big box store coming to town and it can be the final cut that causes it to bleed to death. and #3 alas was also far too common, many of the small town hardware stores had the attitude "we're the only game in town so you're going to take whatever abuse we dish out and figure out some way to get here during the few hours we feel like being open and you'll *like* it" -- and of course the moment a big box came to town, that was the end. Good riddance there.

    But anyhow, the final result is that we have one (1) last remaining "real" hardware store in the Silicon Valley and it's in FREMONT. (Said in hushed tones of someone saying, "but it's in SIBERIA"). This is probably the most geeky hands-on place in the country (see: Maker Faire, Make Magine, etc.), but we can't support more than one real hardware store, apparently. Luckily there's enough industrial surplus and industrial supply places still willing to sell to the public that you can get what you need (like some #$%@# nutserts, and if you wonder why I was cursing, you haven't dealt with nutserts, a.k.a. rivnuts, a.k.a. Satan's unholy mating of a rivet and a nut with a smell of brimstone to go with them :).

    So it goes. Just another symptom of what happens with corporate rule, since corporations are immortal while local people who own local businesses are not, well. WASF.

  46. @BadTux, you're in Silicon Valley? Speaking of hardware stores (heh heh), is Weird Stuff still in business? There was no better place for a geek than that place.

  47. Yes, I'm in the Silly Cone Valley :). And yes, Weird Stuff is still in business, as is Halted, but they've suffered from being overpublicized -- their prices have gone way out of line with what their inventory is worth. There is a surplus place owned by an old Chinese man who mostly sells to industrial outfits trying to keep their old technology going that opens to the public for like four hours on one Saturday per month that you can get *good* stuff in his vast warehouse for really really cheap (like, last time I was there I got a buncha chokes for building RF filters for like $3), but I'm keeping that one secret :).

  48. Well, my ass is too chapped from an all day foray to the cable/internet store to sit at the computer for too long, but I just wanted to say "I AGREE, JIM!"


  49. No, SKS, I came here months and months ago, because I believe in what you say and more!

    But I felt this morning I needed to take a stand for the Women out there that take CRAP everyday just because they are WOMEN! And while I agree with pretty much everything you say, the "old guy" at the hardware store chapped my ass...why can't it be an old gal?

    I am 48 years old and run our family farm and work 60 hours a week off the farm, meh, so what I am not a man??


  50. Great post. Now we could all write nasty things about restaurants!

    This may be one of the last best hardware stores in the US. When we lived in Corvallis the shop still had a dirt floor.

    The owner once loaned us his truck over night so we could haul some pipe home.

    If they didn't have the part we needed, someone would go out in the shop and make it if possible.

    I don't often wish for the good old days--I lived through them once. But I often wish for stores like this one.

  51. Thank you!
    I was just wondering how businesses are staying in business with the worst customer service I've ever seen.
    I don't go out to eat often, but once in awhile I do, and I go to local restaurants. Usually the food is better, and I want to support local businesses.
    But Oh My God -- the lousiest service I've ever gotten. Dirty tables, talking to me like I'm stupid, texting, gossiping with workmates while I'm standing there waiting to order, trying to give me the check before I've even begun eating, shrugging off complaints and more -- and this is just from two restaurants. Will I go back? Possibly to apply for a job.

  52. Anonymous/Margie,

    You are attempting to pin bigotry and chauvinism on me based on one innocuous word, specifically "guy," in a post intended to be humorous? Is that about right?

    Really, why stop there?

    I used the term "helpful middle aged guy behind the counter" because I was visualizing the helpful middle aged guy behind the counter of the Ace Hardware in the little Mid Western farm town where I grew up. And the helpful middle aged guy who worked behind the counter of the hardware store in the dinky little Maine town I lived in after my wife and I first got married. And the helpful middle aged guy who ran the hardware store here in the little Alaskan town I live in now. And, in fact, the helpful middle aged guy behind the counter of every small town hardware store I've ever been in. I write from my experience, and my experience has been in hardware stores with middle aged men behind the counter.

    So, if you're going to accuse me of sexism, you might as well go all the way and accuse me of being a racist too since all the people I visualized while writing the post were white.

    And while you're at it, you might as well accuse me of ageism, since I only thought of middle aged people. Not a young person or an old person in the lot.

    And you can throw in jingoism too, and some nationalism, since none of the people I was visualizing had accents or turbans or anything indicating that they might have been born outside the USA - or even outside the little small town where their store was located (though, come to think of it, the small town hardware store in southern Spain, where I lived for several years, did have a middle aged Spanish guy behind the counter, but I digress. Why let that ruin a perfectly good stereotype?).

    All the people I visualized? They all had beards too or other facial hair, so you can probably accuse me of being prejudiced against the clean shaven - both male and female.

    If you really worked at it, I guess you could accuse me of being homophobic too since I visualized them all as straight. Not to mention that in the post I even mentioned a girl with a whale-tail and bare midriff, instead of it being a gay guy. Obviously I'm bigoted against unemployed hipsters with black eye shadow who hang out at the mall. Not to mention men with hair plugs and 70's muscle cars who cruise high schools and people who like Frank Sinatra, and of course, I've got a thing for fat people who like free food samples and look like Homer Simpson.

    But hey, obviously I'm a bigot, because I'm a middle aged man, right? Accuse me of stereotyping by stereotyping me? If you're not from Scalzi's site, you sure as hell should be, you'd fit right in with those Genderfail assholes.

    We're now done with this conversation, don't comment about it again or I'll delete your ass. And you can take that any fucking way you like.

  53. Having experienced some bad customer service, I've made it a point to acknowledge good service, not only to the person providing it but to the supervisor (If I can find the supervisor). When I was in the liquor store and the clerk very nicely intercepted a shoplifter, with no big fanfare, I made sure I told her supervisor and praised her. When the produce clerk went out of his way to help, I made sure to tell his supervisor (hmm, those 2 incidents were the same store, think there's a pattern here). On the other hand, when I'm not given customer service, I tell the person (speak up, look at me when you are talking to me - I'm approaching the senior stage, my hearing used to be better) and if I am really pissed, I take that to the supervisor and suggest customer service training. Oh, yes, the LOUD overhead music. I have bitched in person and writing multiple times, hasn't helped. Ear plugs do, and I'm considering wearing my shooting ear protectors sometimes. With a sign, "this store is too damn loud"

  54. I used to work for Ga.F&G in the early 90's. Part of my job was answering questions from the general public on how to grow big deer to how do I get the raccoon out of my attic. Granted, this is Atlanta, and I was surrounded by MCP's, most of whom I worked daily with. Used to get the "Uh, can I talk to a biologist?" - reply "I am a biologist; and if I can't answer your question adequately enough for you I'll find someone who can (re: a male). I never had a caller ask me to go find them another biologist to talk to. (These years certainly must have honed my CS skills.)

    Now I run my own consulting business and the way I treat my clients is very important to me. Most of them are really surprised by my attention to detail and concern that I am providing them exactly the services that they need. I even send a handwritten Christmas card every year to my clients. I've had them come back to me and thank me personally for such attention- something most have never had before.

    And my final thought on this - Ah, the old family hardware store. When I was young and single it was my favorite place to troll for men....but that's another story...;-)

  55. And just what do you have against middle aged guys in camaros that cruise Elementary schools? You left them out. In favor of the pervs that cruise the High School. What is wrong with you?

  56. My level of tolerance for the GenderFail/RaceFail nonsense is exactly zero, it's a stupid hateful philosophy full of glaring logical fallacies - especially the self-abasing version perpetuated by the tools on Scalzi's Whatever. You want to piss me off instantly, pull that crap on me. I put up with hate mail for months and had my name smeared all over the web by those self-hating hypocritical fuckers from John Scalzi's blog, while he acted the coward and basically lit himself on fire. I will not put up with it here. Period. They can all go straight to hell.

    I write from the perspective of a white middle-aged male ex-military progressive Alaskan because I am a white middle-aged ex-military progressive Alaskan. Nobody else gets a vote on how I write or which gender pronouns I use in my posts. The rules are clearly stated at the top of this blog, if you want to read a blog from a female perspective, then google yourself one, there are plenty of excellent blogs by female writers on the web, including a number written by friends of mine and listed in my blogroll. Try Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men for starters. Otherwise, write your own damned blog. But under no circumstance do you get to tell me how to write or from what vantage point. And if you're going to accuse me of bigotry then you'd better be ready to get kicked right in the fucking teeth.

  57. Thanks for the plug Jim. I myself am bored to tears with racefail, genderfail, whatever. There are so many examples of genuine sexism and racism in this county I get a little confused about why people get so wrapped around the axle about gender neutral pronouns. Sexism sucks, and being exposed to it every damn day sucks worse. But working in a male dominated field my whole life has taught me that I don't need to look for things to be offended about. There's always something that finds me in due time.

  58. There still are two small hardware stores in Anchorage, Ace in Muldoon and True Value on Jewel Lake. Do you ever shop those?

    20 years ago when I lived in Anchorage I used to shop exclusively for hardware at True Value on Jewel Lake.

    Just wondering if you ever patronize these locations. When I moved to the Valley there was an Ace Hardware in Palmer and since I worked in Palmer I would visit them for most of my needs. They've been closed for a few years now.

    I like "old school" hardware stores as opposed to the box stores and I like to take the time to patronize them and give them what bucks I can instead of running to the larger stores, which includes Spenard Building Supplies; they are Alaskan but they are basically a "big box" I'd rather stay with the "little guys, but they are disappearing quickly.

  59. @Janiece, I don't need to look for things to be offended about. There's always something that finds me in due time.


    @AKPetMom, I live in Palmer. I patronized the Palmer Ace right up until the day it closed the front door and I was damned sorry to see them go - and the bearded middle-aged guy behind the counter is one of the people I was visualizing when I wrote this post. For what it's worth, that was less about the Big Box stores in Wasilla, then about Ace's supply center and shippers raising their prices until small rural stores simply could not afford to stay stocked.

    I've been in both the hardware stores in Anchorage that you mentioned, both are good places with great people. Though I really have to have a reason to go all the way out to Jewel Lake. Once True Value stopped carrying WaterLox finish, I stopped having a reason to drive all the way across town.

  60. You should see the things that "chap the asses" of retail clerks about their customers. As a former bookstore employee, I can say that:

    1. I have other customers who need help, so don't expect me to babysit while you take your ease in the cafe.

    2. Yelling at me about how rich you are and how many books you can afford to buy won't make the book you want magically appear in stock. All I can do is order it for you, and call you when it gets here. And yes, the economic crash has meant that we have a smaller inventory.

    3. I can make suggestions for books that your kids might like. I can't make them like reading--especially when you've made it clear that you think reading is a waste of time.

    4. No, I can't remove all the books by liberal, or conservative, or religious, or atheist authors from the store.

    5. It's not my fault that bookstores don't have copy machines so that you don't actually have to buy the book. A bookstore is different from a library.

    6. Before November 2008, we had about 8-10 employees in the store at any given time. Now we have one manager, one cashier, one person in cafe, one person at the info desk, and, if nobody called in sick, one "floater." We're running on fumes and doing our best to stay open so that people can come in, browse, and go home and order from Amazon.

    While you may not receive the service that you would like, the problem you're trying to solve has probably not been caused by the person you're currently yelling at.

  61. @AKPetMom, one other thing, I won't patronize SBS. Period. I don't like their attitude or their shitty arrogant customer service. I also don't like their "support Alaskans" bullshit - they had no problem screwing their fellow Alaskans when they were the only game in town, now that they've got competition they suddenly lower their prices and talk about Alaskans? Fuck SBS. I'll give my money to Lowes or Home Depot first.

  62. @Roxanne, all valid points and you'll get no argument from me. I watched a customer in an Anchorage bookstore hit about five of your six points yesterday in fact.

    I keep meaning to write a post regarding shitty customers. Maybe I better get on that. ;)

  63. ROFLMAO!!! Spot on! How about doing on one about being stuck in phone hell? Or the creditors calling your house constantly because they fished online for everyone in America who happens to have your same first initial and last name? Then the idiot gets offended when you're pissed off about the calls?

  64. @Jim Wright: LOL! You're such a smart guy that I'm sure you understand. But I was talking about retail brick-and-mortar stores, and people commenting on this seem to have more issues with phone service.

    Here's the thing: How much are you willing to pay for customer service? Most people want bookstore service with Amazon prices. That doesn't work. If people aren't willing to pay for customer service, then companies will low-ball service.

  65. Jim, if you haven't read (the customer is)Not Always Right, take a peek. You'll laugh, guaranteed.

    I haven't worked customer support for fifteen years now, but I recognize those customers quite well. I think all computer programmers should be forced to work customer support for a few years, that way they'll make their software for the salt of the earth -- a.k.a. "morons" -- rather than assuming you have a PhD. in Computational Physics and thus can deal with a UI that requires a genius IQ to understand (Microsoft, I'm talking to *YOU*, WTF is with this "ribbon" interface?!).

  66. The house we just bought in WA is in a little town by Bremerton that has a MARVELOUS hardware store. The owners are a husband and wife team (she knows as much or more than he does), their daughter and son work there and I saw more female help than male. They had just about every thing you could think of, and the aisles were close together (like they used to be) so passing someone takes finesse. Brown's Electric used to be like that, I remember going there with my dad on many, many Saturdays. I love good hardware stores.


  67. Spot on, Jim.

    However, as someone that's worked in retail for too many years and now is lovingly employed by an inbound air line call centre (yes, centRE. It's in Canada. We still use the Queen's English here) I can find often as many faults with poor customers. Roxane hit many of them on the head. I'll save those comments for another time, this one ended up way too wordy.

    Many of the problems I've found come from middle management and a constantly revolving policy of how to "improve service" which is usually another euphemism for "how do we cut costs a little bit while still having someone to take the customer's money". Too big a focus on the bottom line and not enough on real service.

    Back in the day when I trained floor staff and cashiers for aforementioned music store, I would make them:

    1) understand that answering the phone while you are helping a customer in the store is never an option, that's what the staff in the back room are for.

    2) have multiple greetings when working the cash desk, none of this robotic "hi how are you today" repeated ad nauseum to every person that comes up to the desk

    3) when on cash, get someone on the floor to help if a customer couldn't find something and managed to make it to the cash desk / by extension, if a cashier asked you for help with their customer and you were able to, you did it. Pronto.

    4) at least acknowledge every customer that comes into the store with a smile and a simple "Hi there!" and the LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE. If they figured out how to drive themselves to the mall and walk upright into the store... they probably know how to ask for help if they need it.

    4a) Afterthought - we all received accessibility training so we found how how annoying our store was for people in wheelchairs or visually and/or hearing impaired, so we could help them better. It was a good thing for training for all of us. It changed the way we helped people with different physical needs.

    5) treat every customer with the same respect and care and consideration - it didn't matter if they were a 16-year old who wanted the latest Alanis or Backstreet Boys or Eminem CD or it was the middle-age white male with a beard looking for "Sweden's Greatest Folk Songs for Bearded Middle-Age White Hardware Store Guys"... the second may take more time to help, but in the end, it's another hopefully satisfied customer who'll hopefully come back to us first the next time they need something

    Sadly, we eventually ended up with a hotshot young manager (ie: he had repeatedly kissed the ass of the new corporate VP and was rewarded with his own store when he was far too immature for it) who quickly shot all these policies to hell with his desire to make every transaction faster (so remove all courtesies and pleasantries from the conversations) and to follow people around suggesting other CDs to them (Well I know you're looking at AC/DC, but did you know that Celine Dion has a new CD out and it's on special this week? No? Oh, I don't think the Celine CD would actually fit in there, sir, but thanks for the suggestion!) Well, you can certainly spend more time with customers when you eventually end up with only have half as many...

    In the end, I had to quit working there. The new manager was just too dense and caused too many problems. But thanks to sufficient ass-kissing with the VP, he was quickly promoted to District Manager so he can train new managers in other stores. Really.

    The entire chain of 200+ stores was recently sold off for the equivalent of corporate scrap and will probably be out of business in another year or two. Go figure.

  68. Frankly, Jim, with all the complaining about GenderFail and such, I'm rather disappointed in the level of customer support on this blog. I mean, here I am, walking in with cash to spend here, and... oh, wait.

  69. We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes.

    What every single fucking time, for every single fucking company I call,including the government. If that is your reality, hire a few more people you bunch of morons.

  70. My favorite is companies that make a product, have a website to extol it's virtues, but who won't sell it to you because they only sell via some sales channel that, unless you want to buy a cargo container worth, won't even return your calls. In many cases, that means that you can't buy it at all, as the only people buying the stuff in quantity are the ones using it in that quantity.

  71. (Microsoft, I'm talking to *YOU*, WTF is with this "ribbon" interface?!).

    Ah yes, Office 2010, otherwise known as Where the *&%*+ is the Print key!

  72. I worked retail for many years, and unless I was having a really bad day, I don't think I fit any of the above descriptions. I try to be a little understanding when I go into a store, but yeah, I hate being bombarded when I walk in with people asking if I need help. I know your company probably has a five-foot rule, but if I need help, then I'll find it. Of course when I do need help either no one's around or they're all clustered together having a conversation about the latest achievement they've unlocked on Halo 13 and I've got to interrupt that important discussion to see if they have X in stock.

    It used to kill me to see others slacking around me when I was working retail. Not that I didn't do my share of goofing off, but if there were customers around I was out there taking care of them.

  73. I am currently experiencing sub-optimal customer service from my health insurance provider, MD-IPA, a subsidiary of United Healthcare.

    Every single time I call, I have to pass an electronic checkpoint, giving my member ID# and birth date. When I finally speak with a real person, I have to repeat this same information. Every. Single. Call. When I've complain about the waste of time giving this same info twice, I've been told that there must be a temporary error or some such excuse. I wonder if the tactic has some nefarious purpose (discouraging callers?) or if it is simply general incompetence.

    That was the minor annoyance. The major problem is that this company provides insurance coverage for my son. They have denied 7 claims in a row due to "other primary insurance coverage". There is no such other coverage. I have first called, then written and called, then written and called and asked for a supervisor after denied claims 5 & 6. When I failed to get the promised 48-hour call back from a supervisor after 5 days, I then complained to my employer's insurance liaison. That last got some attention, and I was told "everything is fixed" but I still had claim #7 denied. Things seem to be better now, but I'm not going to assume anything is "fixed" for a while.

  74. I think you'll be waiting for that job as greeter at WALMART behind me. They'll never hire me either.

  75. Jim:

    No question, we all have suffered the indignities of abysmal customer service whether on the phone or in person, and the older you get, the more exposed to it you become. I don’t often go shopping with my wife because she is so slow. She pokes along, talking to just about everyone but is a good listener who could charm the rattles of a diamondback.

    This morning my wife and I walked into a new market that is trying to make inroads in our local area and were pretty shocked to see mouth-watering, fresh produce and meats neatly displayed and many people working to keep the counters stocked. And when she couldn’t find a particular item, one of the stock clerks practically took her by the hand, thanked her for stopping by and led her directly to the item.

    I’m a great believer that retail business especially is a two way street and petulant behavior by customers leads to irritable behavior by service people. It happens to me occasionally but rarely to my wife. And I think I know why.

  76. Please stay on the line and your call will be handled in the order recieved."

    Somebody must be chatting it up with Alexander Graham Bell because no matter when I call I can never, ever, ever get my freaking call handled.


  77. I LOVE when things chap your ass!

    Um.... sorry about that.

  78. @Jim A.: The first part of your issue is a technology problem. I'm not making excuses for your insurance company's fucked up lack of service - far from it - but 90% of problems that are call center related are easily fixed if you ask the right technologist.

    Unfortunately, most companies think they know better than the technologists, and so never ask. Why should they, when their own opinions are free, and mine will likely result in a capital expense?

  79. Janiece,
    I assume that you were responding to my comment (Jerry A.) since I have not seen any comments by a 'Jim A.' on this post.

    I have no doubt that there is a good technological solution to the [punch-in-the-numbers then repeat verbally to the rep] problem. I think that United Healthcare has gotten so big that (a) they simply don't give a damn, or (b) their customer service reps don't bother to pass along complaints, or (c) both. I'm voting for (c), but hoping in vain that they'll hire somebody competent to fix this time-waster.

    I am mildly confused. I didn't even utter the phrase "chap my ass" once, so I can't see how you would have mistaken me for Jim Wright, but he seems to be the only Jim here. If my writing ever rises to the level that makes anyone confuse me for Jim, then I would be honored. (Chocolate? Check. Science fiction? Check. Middle-aged guy? Check. Ornery disposition? Check. Chapped, leathery, wrinkled posterior? Nope. Not me.)
    Jerry A.

    p.s. I like your blog, Janiece, even though I rarely comment.

  80. No, I did not read all 79 comments; I was too busy laughing...My favorite is the canned phrase that "your call is so important to them" as they leave you hanging for minutes. and keep repeating that inane and inaccurate statement every half minute....Last time that happened I suggested they can keep me on longer with some good Willie Nelson or Steely Dan to distract me....

  81. HEY! I like(d) Journey. I also very much enjoyed Better Off Dead!

    In any case, my customer service pet peeve is using someone who cannot speak English at the Drive Thru. Good God people! What Fracking part of NO CHEESE did you not understand! I am goddamned hungry and therefore already cranky. Don't fuck up my order!

  82. On the subject of great hardware stores……. There used to be this really great hardware store in Petaluma California, the name escapes me. The floors were native oak slabs laid over a foundation of squared off virgin redwood logs. Those floors had one inch deep paths worn in the wood in the hundred years that store stood.

    It burned down a dozen years ago or so. Like many other men who lived in the area I went down to stare in sadness at the charred wood. On my mother's cast iron pans I saw grown men sit across the street on the lawn of the museum with tears streaming down their face at the loss.

    The local ancient hardware store in Chico Ca. still stands. Those nefarious bastards have kept the middle aged men who can find you a 6mm brass nut but they put pretty college girls at the register. Now I own a can of something called Anti-Monkey-Butt-Powder. Hell, I had to buy something because standing there and gawking otherwise would just be rude. Works too; might help that constant ass chapping you got there.

    wv: hicksk, a rural resident that can't get to the hardware store before closing.

  83. I just came back from Californica. Had the chance to go to "Japan woodworker" in Alemeda. On walking in a kindly man asked from his perch at a computer what i was looking for. I could see all about the room and could only say everything. A little later a nice young lady helped me choose the water stones and was nice to advise me not to drool on the tools. I just had to fondle some of the chisels my wife would never accept me spending money on. After about an hour and much intelligent help i had my pile of tools and was the only customer for the whole time i was there. As i checked out the manager an two sales folks stood around and we talked Alaska an fish and wood. This was-had to be-the best shopping experience of my life. I am confident ordering on line or over the phone will be a breeze.

  84. AKjah_ Should you ever chance to come back down to California stop by Hida Tools in Berkeley. The heavy kama I purchased there has lasted eighteen years of blackberry bushes with hardly a nick in the blade. The saws are unbelievably smooth also.

    Some people. It's like going to Tahiti and missing the beach.

  85. @Nick K. Aghazarian: I'm from Wisconsin. The part I wouldn't understand would be the "no" part.

  86. Pangolin,
    "Anti-Monkey-Butt-Powder"?!? My wife and son looked at me funny while I howled in laughter. Not that that's anything unusual.

  87. I work for a medium sized insurance company. It has been around for 100 years and we have some very loyal customers. That loyalty is due to good customer service. You call us, you get a person. And if that person can't help you then they find the person that can. Very basic, but it keeps the customers happy.

    Oh yes and we pay claims, often.

    And it is just that simple. The bigger companies need to get a clue.

  88. @Randy, @Nick,

    I think the confusion stems from the fact that drive-up burgers typically come with American Cheese, in my book that's already "no cheese."

    See what I did there? Clever, huh?

  89. Jerry A., clearly you've never been a long distance motorcyclist if you've never heard of "Anti Monkey-Butt Powder". It's right up there with oil and gas on requirements for sitting in a saddle for 10+ hours a day, about the only people who wouldn't know about it are the sorts who wear assless chaps and ride their bike only far enough to get to the next bar :). So it seems that this particular hardware store has some long-distance motorcyclists who come through to buy hardware to fix whatever fell off their bikes, which is basically everything unless you go over the bike with a fine-tooth comb and glue everything with Lok-tite before you leave home (because you can be dang sure the factory didn't!).

    (As an aside: Q: What do you call someone in assless chaps who was just in a motorcycle accident? A: Assless :).

  90. @tux, my local Ace used to carry Mother's Chrome Polish for similar reasons - until the Harley store opened down the road.

    Nothing better for cleaning motorcycle chrome and pistols than Mother's.

  91. Once worked in a cheese factory, we made a significant portion of the Kraft Swiss cheese sold in our region. We were not Kraft, they simply bought most output.

    American Cheese, at the time, was Grade D mild cheddar, Swiss and Brick ground up and pressed into blocks. It is now worse.

    We made 12-20 2000 pound cheeses a day and stored them 60 days in ~60 pound blocks.

  92. I used to work at Pizza Chicago and despite the complete waste of flesh that was the assistant manager, upper management had one thing absolutely right: make the customer happy. I was told that if the customer complained about waiting so long for a pizza (it was thick crust, and they did a huge amount of delivery and take-out - the ovens got backed up), give them a free pitcher of beer or a round of drinks. If they complained about something, or even if they didn't seem to like it much, just take it off the bill. No keys, no codes, no management authorization, each server was empowered to do what it took to make the customer happy. Problem? Give them a gift check for a free pizza. Big problem? Cancel out the bill entirely. They want dessert, but don't like raspberry cheesecake? Get some ice cream and make them a root beer float. Whatever you need to do to make sure they return, do it. Ingredients are cheap, customers are dear. It was really nice working for a place like that...

  93. @Pangolin - Was it Rex in Petaluma?


  94. Rattakin_ That be the place. I used to know it as Tomasini's Hardware which is probably why I couldn't remember the name. I can still remember the smell of dust that would come up from those old wood floorboards.

    The rule was that any project more complicated than changing a lightbulb required three trips to Tomasini's. I think we just like to hang out there.

    Damn shame.

  95. It's even worse that all this:

    Even when the kid in the trenches wants to do the right thing, their managers do not let them.

    Sometimes I feel like Mr. Incredible telling the little old lady at the insurance company how to navigate the paperwork hell they have...

    Of course, I work in healthcare, so it's Medical paperwork hell AND insurance paperwork hell.

    And it's there for a reason: to slow down claims so they can hang on to money. Insurance and health care are about profits for themselves and their stockholders.

  96. I thought I would write about some REALLY OUTSTANDING customer service I recently experienced. It was at Renovation, the annual SF convention held in Reno, NV.

    There was never, ever, one moment when I didn't receive excellent service with a cheerful, can-do attitude. From the restaurant matre-d' to the server, to the bus driver and the security guard -- it was wonderful.

    There was a shuttle that ran from one hotel to the convention center. That driver picked up the crazy SF fans, many dressed to startle, drove them about a mile, dropped them off, then picked up others for the return trip. Repeat. A lot. I thanked her for the ride. She said, "No. Thank YOU for the job."

    So I figured that if you want top-notch customer service, find a town or city entirely dependent on tourism/hospitality, in the midst of a severe economic downturn. One with 50 or 100 or more folks in line for every customer service job. One where if you aren't willing to make the customer happy, there are PLENTY of people who want their turn to try.

    That's where you get top-notch service.

    Reno. Highly recommended for customer service.

  97. I have long felt that every person in customer service should be required to read this book.

    Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service

    Seriously, these guys have amazing customer service. They are expensive but worth it to anyone who values customer service and quality products.

  98. Counter help at fast food restaruants/grogery stores, convienence stores that will not talk to you, even to ask you what you would like to order. God forbid they ever count your change back to you. Usually you get some sort of mumble from them as they hand you a wad of bills and coins that they just scavanged from the register. What happened to "Hi, how may I help you? Thank you for visiting All American Burger. You change is XXXX, Thank you and have a nice day."

  99. I have to put my story in. I went to a local fast food restaurant drive through yesterday. I am a vegetarian so I ordered the taco salad but without meat, add beans. They charged me additionally for the beans. I told the girl at the window I thought it was stupid they charged me for the beans when I didn't get the meat (typically, meat costs more than beans). The girl shrugged and said, "I don't know." Then she said, "I think a lot of things are stupid sometimes, too." Seriously? I don't care if we share opinions...it's YOUR JOB to make sure I'm happy with your food and service! I'm not complaining just to trade complaints...I expect you to do something about it! If I go back to that particular establishment, I will ask for a manager if they charge me for beans. Not because I can't afford $.30...it's the principle!

  100. By and large, customer service hates customer service, too. From that, it's not surprising the experience is so painful.

    We recently had a small hardware store driven under by not one, but two big box stores - customer loyalty was such that the big guys had to double down.

    My big gripe is customer service types who are happy, competent, and are actively trying to help... But you can't understand them.
    Have had this happen far too many times with Tecnical Support and HelpDesk operations. And, to make matters worse, they give these poor, motivated, hapless souls VOX-activated headsets that clip the first syllable or two off of every sentence.
    Whee! Good times!

  101. When I used to work at T-Mobile, they were very proud of the fact that they were #1 in customer satisfaction at 71%. Proud. Of a C-. Smartest kid in the dumbest class still makes you a dumbass. If the best is still below average, well, it seems we're all screwed.


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