Part Deux-Deux: Ringing Me Up & Wringing Out My Self-Esteem

Oh, I have one more incident or non-incident (depending on your politics) to report regarding customer service, or lack thereof.

I went to a mainstream hipster store yesterday (name redacted because they don’t need/want people to think just any-ol’-body can prance into their cooler-than-thou stores).

I wasn’t intending to buy anything but then Boyfie pointed at this adorable little T-shirt tunic-dress with a ribbon tie-belt, and I couldn’t very well say “No, I am not going to try that piece of heaven on.” And then, after having done that, I couldn’t further say “Nah, maybe some other time” after he gave me the thumbs-up in spite of the aggressively apathetic dressing room attendant who was also staring at me. I mean, damn Mami, a girl’s gotta bow to the fashion pantheon sometimes.

So I went to ring myself up. I wish you could check yourself out of retail stores just like you can do now at grocery stores but then everyone would be entering couture as 50% off sunglasses or whatnot, and it would all go to raggedy pieces from there. Not to mention those electronic sensors you gotta remove; those things could have their own show, they’re so fierce and yet entirely lacking any substantial personality.

The cashier was a card in the very truest sense of the word. First of all, he was the first South Asian male hipster I’ve seen ever, but not even in the second-generation Americanized sense. He still had his Asian accent well intact,and a full mustachio to boot. He also appeared to be in his mid-30s, or was one of those exceedingly overdeveloped teenagers considering no other staff in the store appeared over the ripe age of 25.

Hipsters don’t care who you are, only who they are! (She has arm warmers; what do you bring to the table? That’s rhetorical.)
photo courtesy of Flickr and permanently scatterbrained

We both sized each other up pretty quickly, me deciding he was a figment of my imagination, and him deciding I was a barely-there nuisance that needed to be dealt with smartly so he could continue on with his independently labeled night.

“Hello!” He proclaimed boldly, flashing his white teeth like reverse customer currency.

“Oh hi.” I said trying to downplay the interaction.

“I’ll take you over here actually,” he pronounced, whisking himself and my selection over to the opposite end of Register Island.

“Alright,” I said, already significantly disoriented.

He looked more like Tickle Me Emo than Tickle Me Hipster, but he was bursting with joie de freakin’ vivre!
photo courtesy of Flickr and moacirpdsp

“Did you find everything you needed OK?!” His tendency was to accent the last syllable in every sentence so instead of just inflecting upward with the question mark, he added some extra flair, causing his words to shoot way over my head into outer space.

“Uh, yes.”

“AWESOME!!!” He shouted this so loudly that the store, which was completely devoid of people except for other employees impassively folding inventory, shuddered a bit. The sales rack completely disintegrated in the face of such unbridled enthusiasm and passion for retail.

I wasn’t sure where to look as he handled my purchase so I kept my eyes on the cash register and didn’t let them budge by a millimeter.

“Your total is [blahdee-blah]!” (Again, this announcement was couched in the weight and volume of a trumpet blast, but one that aims to appear as if it’s not trying that hard.)

I was already brandishing my credit card protectively in front of my face, ready to obediently scan it on the little machine provided.

“I’ll swipe that over here,” he said grabbing my card and sweeping it through with a grand flourish.

I was completely bedazzled with fear at this point.

“PLEASE SIGN ON THE LINE!!” He screamed while maintaining a secret smirk on his lips.

Why scorn, what is, how hey?! As I got ready to sign, the electronic pen disobeyed my hands and instead of a signature, an ugly black whirlpool of ink pixels spat out on the little window.

“Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The cashier groaned.

I was certain he was groaning at my penmanship, but I looked up and realized Nope, he was just groaning in general. Into the air. At the state of the world (in which I, a mere black and white stick figure to his 3-D technicolor personality, could exist).

I pressed Accept on the electronic signature tablet. And he did some more twirling and whirling in getting my receipt in the bag, and then doing a choreographed curtsy-bow, he bent entirely perpendicular to me and condescendingly handed me my bag over the counter as if I was fake-royalty.

“Here you are. Have a good one!” He chirruped, but again with absolutely zero sincerity and making .05% eye contact. Then I was dead to him and he was back to hamming it up for his colleagues/the opposite of society.

I ran out of that store clutching my impulse buy and muttering some incantations to ward off bold personalities. Boyfie had already wisely escaped about midway through my transaction.

Habitat for inhumanity.
photo courtesy of Flickr and Ingorrr

That man-boy clearly enjoyed patronizing patrons of the store.

Anyhoops, in conclusion, customer service. What is the haps. Shit’s crazy!

How May I Help You Get Out of My Face?

I don’t know what happened to customer service (besides the financial climate, I mean), but it’s gotten just plain weird.

Don’t expect coddling here!
photo courtesy of Flickr and yummiec00kies

I am bad at handling social interactions to begin with, but when I’m supposed to have some kind of barter relationship with someone, I expect it to go pretty smoothly since all the steps are already laid out. In fact, I usually just shimmy in and backwards shuffle step appreciatively out, and try and cause as little significant impact on other people’s days as possible.

I call it “leave-no-trace consuming.” I (Louisiana) purchase lots of stuff but nobody remembers I bought any of it because I either buy it online or I try to make little to no impression on anybody in stores across America, or heck, the world even!

So on Saturday, I go to explore this bakery cafe that has been in my neighborhood for many years, but once I had a dry brownie there so I imposed a random hiatus period which I generously decided to lift out of mild curiosity. Brownies can only stay dry for so many years until things need to change.

Here’s what happened. The place had a whole new look. Instead of just selling dry brownies, they now sell everything you could fancy (minus plungers, though I know that’s the go-to for most economically-impaired imaginations) including grain-infused Swiss yogurts, fresh-tossed and packed penne, passion fruit rugelach, and a coffee bar!

So of course I lost my senses for awhile including my sixth one because I was in no way prepared for the (cinnamon) twist ending. As I made a few rounds of the store and the cashier, a harmless-enough-looking young ‘un (maybe college student, maybe not), began giving me the hairy/evil/lazy (triple threat) eye. That should have been my first and last clue.

So I finally make all my selections and I’m feelin’ real jazzed because I didn’t know the store was going to succeed my expectations in such a grandiose, yup-yup-yuppieish manner as opposed to the rah-rah-recession bread line/coffee grinds puddle water I anticipated.

As we being our exchange, this guy gives me the coldest customer service I’ve ever experienced. No smile, no gratitude, no acknowledgement of being a human being. I mean, there’s angry cashiers, but this man was just empty. A corn husk doll making change happen in only the most material sense of the word.

I thanked him profusely and every time I thanked him, something strange happened. He would just stare right into my eyes as if to say, “Just stop. Stop acting like we’re interacting with each other, you fellow droid. There is nothing. Only the void.” I’m positive he was a robot set to stun with silence.

Some people just know how to discomfitingly stare.
photo courtesy of Flickr and noahg

Contrast him with the cashier guy at the movie rental store (where I also paid a visit) who was quite possibly a current or ex-gang member. He had a neck tattoo, he looked like he could use a DVD case as a throwing star, and his name has been a gang member’s name in nearly every film I’ve seen about gangs.

Anyway, he was definitely both professional and polite, but he also looked completely robot-like. I was a bit scared when he finalized our transaction because he took out this random piece of paper and put a tally mark next to his name, like I was being added to some kind of a pure numbers list.

I guess gang members like keeping track of their “sales.” But I’ll be honest, I was slightly apprehensiveespecially because I was renting a Harry Potter movie, which probably wasn’t winning me any toughness points (“I know some paid-time-off spells?!”).

I guess that service with a creepy smile is worse than no smile at all.
photo courtesy of Flickr and aliwest44

I don’t know where I was going with all of this except that never judge a brownie or a DVD by its cover because it turns out to be completely pointless anyway. And always be nice to customer service people even if they are mean to you because they could very well add you to some kind of list, and then you could get coupons in the mail and stuff. Also if they stare at you a lot, act like you are checking your watch. It works especially if you also need to know what time it is!

P.S. Later, in my effort to be a civil servant, I tried to donate a musical instrument to a store and they said “No, thanks! But you should try a school instead.” Yeah, like walking into schools and dropping off gifts for no one in particular is something we do in this day and age. But I’ll try. I just had to complain about it first by staring at the sky, shaking my fists yelling “Why?! Why?! Why?!”, and blogging, naturally.

Life Likes Me, But Not in That Way

So today I went to the hair salon with my mother and sister for some Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Sexy Pants in the City-type girl fun. I was actually just there to watch my sibling and parent get beautified, while I gaped like an unscheduled ogre in the corner.

But that’s not the surprise-wow-cool part!

The exciting part is that my stylist who I have gotten a few haircuts from in the past (but have not seen for close to eight months) came up to me as soon as he spotted me and boldly pronounced, “I saw you on TV!!” in front of all the princesses and lala’s in the room! (He knows I do stand up.)

Me: “Noo, where?”

Stylist: “On Last Comic Standing, you were in the New York audition, right?”

Me: “Yeah! It was just a flash of me!”

Stylist: “Yeah but still, really cool!”

So then I was floating for a good long while.

Oh, I’m getting more and more big-headed by the day!
photo courtesy of Flickr and Gentil Garçon [sombres présages]

Until I went to get a hot chocolate at the bakery next door and they straight up gave me a mocha without my knowledge! So purely by accident, I have fallen off the clean wagon again. And I sensed something was off but I kept drinking it, willing it to decaffeinate itself. Finally, I went back for an exchange, though my heart was racing like a…racehorse (from the espresso, natch).

However, the real customer service tour de force happened last night. My family went to a Chinese restaurant and when the fortune cookies were dealt, mine turned out to be a real brain-puzzler.

“A clever crow will always paint its feather black.”

Our whole family couldn’t come up with a satisfactory meaning for it so my mother asked for the manager. When the waitstaff started to look all worried, she added with exasperation, “No, it’s not about you guys! The service was fine!! I just have a question about this fortune!” Which made us seem like real eccentric nitwits, I’ll tell you that much.

In any case, the fortune’s explanation was very reasonable. The smart man blends in and doesn’t show off. Of course he does…you don’t see a crow flying around with peacock feathers because that would be ridiculous. Also crows don’t have peacock feathers but I guess that’s neither here nor there. Also this entire entry proves I did not take my fortune’s advice at all.

Setting the Bar(ista) for Service

Yesterday afternoon, I bought a weekend coffee so I could bask in the sun and sip it. No big deal. I went to a family-owned place with a nice patio outside for sitting and ogling other people’s dogs.

The barista was of fair-enough friendliness. She half-smiled at me as if we were acquaintances (not friends) and fulfilled all her responsibilities with no great fanfare. I didn’t get the feeling she thought much of me, but I couldn’t really tell either way.

But then! When she handed me my coffee, the following happened.

Barista (B): So it’s pretty nice outside today, huh?

Me (M): (jumping at the chance for brief human connection) Oh yes, it’s very nice outside.

B: I bet. I have been inside all day…(musing off into distance)…in fact, since 9 a.m.!

M: Aw, that’s too bad.

B: Yeah, and I have to work until 7 p.m.! (overworked pout) I’ve been working really hard.

M: Oh dear.

B: My father asked me if I would work today last week, but I didn’t know it was going to be so nice outside…

M: Yes yes.

B: And now, it’s work all day! And work all the time!

M: Ok, thank you.

I really didn’t know how to exit the conversation except to give her an understanding head tilt and warm puppy eyes while backing away slowly to imply earnest empathy for her situation.

But I felt like she wanted something more from me. Else why all the outpouring of gritty sentiments!

You guys, here’s what I think played out! She wanted me to regift her the coffee she just made me. It was really all I could offer her…besides my credit card again (as I am a non-cash-carrying buffoon).

Then she could add it to her vast pile of sympathy coffee cups (similar to the pile of bones giants have in their cave that make up a fond display of their past victims). And thus make the day worthwhile somehow.

I hope you like your espresso made via guilt drip.
photo courtesy of Flickr and gahdjun

But here’s what I did! Walked away without a smidgeon of external remorse!

Because I am more scared of customer servants than they are of me. An exception to the rule they probably learned in training. Be warned; I will bolt at the first sign of solidarity.

Also, aren’t most revolutions planned in coffee shops?! Free trade and all that.