We don’t have to be shunted around, blocked and frustrated by poorly trained staff. Stores should after all make it a priority to train their staff better, writes Lance Fredericks.
MY FRIEND Larry’s new girlfriend had what I considered to be the most off-putting manners I had ever seen.
When we would go out and everyone ordered their meals, Larry’s girlfriend would say that she wasn’t that hungry and just ordered a small snack. Larry, however, an active lad, ordered himself the super duper jumbo wumbo burger.
Now for the uninitiated, the right way to eat a meal at a steakhouse is that you nibble away at the stray bits around your plate and steadily power your way to the centre of your meal – saving the best piece for last. And Larry did just that; after all that’s how things are done.
Then it happened, as he was about to plough into the juicy, saucy, crispy, greasy bit that he was saving for the climax of his meal his girlfriend said, “Can I just taste that piece?” and popped it into her mouth.
The colour drained from Larry’s face. It looked as if he had lost all reason to live.
It didn’t end there, however. As it turned out this was just something she did. Every time they went out she would wait until poor Larry had put aside the most desirable piece of his meal and pop it into her gob, saying each time, “Can I just taste that piece?”
It was during this time that I decided to rather stay single. It was that simple.
Look, I know what you’re thinking; why didn’t Larry just eat the best bit earlier on? The answer is that men do not have that ability. We have to, as rule No.223b paragraph XI, subsection (b) of The Revised Book of Man states: “Thou shalt save for the last morsel the choicest bit of the meal, and thou wilt consume it with rolling eyes, a shiver down thy spine, a tingle in thine bottom and thorough enjoyment. This shalt confirm that thou art man.”
I almost got the feeling that Larry’s girlfriend was taking advantage of him because she believed she had some kind of power, some spell over him. It didn’t seem fair. Even though she was his girlfriend and it was none of my business, her behaviour gave me a queasy, crampy, almost gassy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I got that very same queasy, crampy, gassy feeling a few times over the past few weeks and as it happened I realised what was causing it – it was the feeling I get when people try to take advantage of me, or people I know, just because they feel that they are able to do so without consequence.
For example, a few weeks ago I went shopping with a gift card. However, the items I purchased turned out to be the wrong size and I returned them, asking that the purchase be credited to the gift card.
The young woman at the counter called her supervisor who told me, “Sir, it’s a debit card. The money won’t go back. It will show that the transaction was successful, but it won’t go onto the card again.” Then she added, “You can go to the Mall Management office and ask them. It’s impossible.”
I ‘believed’ her, because she was so polite and agreed to have the purchase price paid into THEIR store’s gift card – thereby locking myself into buying from that store.
However, a few days later, just out of curiosity, I went to the Mall Manager’s office anyway and checked out her story. It turns out she had lied to me.
Then, just this past week, my Mom wanted to exchange an item at one of the mall’s bigger department stores, but hit a brick wall. The staff at the desk stood square-chested and defensive and told her in no uncertain terms, “That is a sale item. The last day you could exchange that was yesterday. There is nothing we can do about it now because that item has been removed from our system.”
In other words they simply said ’NO’ and Mom had to deal with it. They never checked the invoice, they never tried to help or accommodate her, they just dismissed her with a satisfied grin and a “Have a nice day further”.
As it turns out, according to the tax invoice that they refused to look at, the item COULD be returned, and Mom took great pleasure in politely lecturing the flushed women at the tills on good customer service while they did what they should have done earlier.
I was giggling when, each time they tried to explain what the misunderstanding was, Mom told them about how a store like theirs should be treating customers better. I celebrated a victory for the eternal victim.
I am convinced that the core aim of business is to benefit the business itself. Any perks for the customer is a distant afterthought.
I say this because recently a friend of mine, who is the financial manager of a small organisation, went to the bank to draw a bank statement; this is something they have been doing for years and they need the statement for auditing purposes.
“I am sorry sir,” said the nice lady behind the counter, “We no longer print statements in the bank. You can draw one at the ATM or download a PDF on your banking app.”
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? However, it turns out that with the statements at the ATM and on the app the client is unable to specify between which dates they need the printout – which their funders and the auditors require.
“Oh, that’s not a problem,” said the nice lady behind the counter, “We can print custom statements for you. It only costs R65 per statement.”
My friend was livid. He asked me to try to help him understand how a bank changing its policies to make things easier for them could so harshly affect and inconvenience their clients.
I had no answer … I just pictured Larry’s girlfriend scarfing down the best bit of his burger. And I got that same feeling in my gut. The feeling of watching someone who was just hoping for a fair shake getting shaken down by someone else just because that someone else had a bit of power.
We need a positive change in the service industry; a complete redo.
People need to – politely, of course – say when we are dissatisfied with bad service. We don’t have to be shunted around and blocked and frustrated by poorly trained staff. Stores should after all make it a priority to train their staff better, like Larry’s girlfriend’s parents should have raised her with better manners.
We should also remember that we don’t have to take one person’s word for it that our problem cannot be resolved. We can ask to speak to a supervisor, the manager or even the owner of the store. But we need to remember to remain calm and have a very clear, yet reasonable picture of how we’d like the issue to be resolved fairly.
Oh dear, something just occurred to me. If Larry ended up marrying “last mouthful Laverne”, then he’ll not be impressed by what I have been saying. But if he is married to her, I would wonder if he’s adapted his eating methods.
Similarly, stores are either going to have to adapt to their customers’ needs, or the customers – if we don’t stand up now – will have to prepare to accept and embrace bad and ever-worsening levels of service.
It’s that simple.