It is with a heavy heart that I report to you the death of customer service. While I had heard several rumors of his demise, it was not until I went shopping for shoes for Frankly, Jr. that I viewed the cadaver first hand. The corpse was spotted in several locations at the mall. Observe:
The fun began at shoe store number one, a well-known sporting goods store that bear's the first name of its founder. I mention this because, after shopping there, I began to wonder if the name above the door was an adjective describing the employees who work in shoes.
Son number one and I walked into the department and began looking at tennies which, by the way, cost more than the monthly rent on my parent's first apartment. An adolescent salesman, I'll call him Andy Acne, walked over and stared at us as if he was seeing an alien species for the first time. Just as Master Acne looked like he was about to start throwing peanuts to the monkeys, I ruined his fun by asking him to check my son's shoe size.
He stared at me blankly.
I asked him again. He walked over and pulled a shoe off the rack and said, "what size did you need?" I asked him a third time, "I need you to size his foot so we know." "Oh, okay." I waited for him to call me "dude," but he merely bent over and thrust Bubba's foot into the metal shoe sizer thingamabob. "Looks like it's eight and a half." "Let's go Bubba." I walked out of the shoe department with Caleb hopping on one foot trying to yank his shoe on in strange chicken dance fashion. Bubba walked in wearing a six and a half. No way was he an eight and a half.
At shoe store #2 we asked a polite young lady to size the boy up. She did - seven and a half. So far so good. When she went off to attend to another customer we asked another "associate" to see a particular size in seven and a half. After waiting several minutes for the salesperson to rummage around in the back room, take a bathroom break, call his bookie, and grab lunch he returned . . . empty handed. "We don't have it in that size, but we do have it in a mis-matched pair. One's an eight, the other is an eight and a half," he said. Just who, I thought, has the other mis-matched pair, and what makes this fellow think my son is equally deformed? We selected another style and, after finding it in the right size, asked them to hold onto it while we did some more shopping in the mall. A much too made-up, barely-out-of-high-school, should-have-gone-to-college-but-I'm-making-such-a-big-difference-selling-shoes person popped off, "We'll only keep it one hour. After that we put it back on the shelf."
Down the hall, down the escalator and into another sporting goods store. We asked to see a particular shoe in a size seven and a half. He disappeared into the bowels of the store and returned momentarily. "We don't have it in that size, but we do have it in an eight," he said. I wondered, why didn't he trot out the size eight to see if it might fit? "Okay, then what about this one?" He simply looked at me - not the shoe - and said slowly, "I . . . don't . . . think . . . so," and returned to checking items off his clipboard and ignoring the source of his store's income.
After an hour of looking for kicks, we came in under the sixty minute deadline, bought the pair and left - thank you Jesus!
I was still simmering in the juices of my ill customer service treatment when I drove to the big home improvement store near my home to purchase a light bulb for our microwave. I don't want to besmirch the name of this fine retailer, so it will remain nameless (they're really, really orange, by the way, and spend their customer service training funds to sponsor Tony Stewart's NASCAR).
I walked to the appliance department (in the back of the store), where I originally purchased the microwave, and asked the gal there for a bulb. "You need to go up to lighting for that." I walked back to lighting (in the front of the store). A smock wearing gentlemen asked me what I was looking for, so I showed him the paper with the bulb number written on it and told him. He replied, "This isn't my department, but let me see if I can help you out." Thoughtful. Good beginning. Maybe things will be different. "Let's go check in appliances," he said, and before I could tell him I just came from there he was off and running with me several paces behind.
Arriving in appliances (at the back of the store) he unscrewed the bulb cover on the nuke, took out the bulb and headed back toward lighting (in the front of the store). There, he stood, arm extended, bulb in hand, comparing the bulb in his digits with those on the display. After a while he intoned, "Looks like we don't have it. Perhaps you can special order it."
Off to the service counter I went, where I stood in line for fifteen minutes while a woman ordered flooring for her daughter's bedroom. When it was finally my turn, I explained to the fellow behind the computer that I needed a light-bulb for my microwave. "Appliance bulbs have to be special ordered back in appliances . . . "
He continued speaking, but faded from my hearing as I made my way to the front door. . .