What a f**king liberty!
Y’know, it’s been a while since I’ve had a really bad customer service experience so I suppose I was way overdue. Thankfully it didn’t exactly happen to me, though considering where we were, we should have already learned our lessons. Gregory and I were at Prince George’s Plaza last night in the newer retail development where there’s a Staples and a Circuit City. Yes, the same Circuit City where the employee couldn’t be bothered to help me make an informed decision about an HDTV, cutting me off and walking away mid-sentence. Still, he needed some, in my opinion, overly-specialized and immediately redundant equipment (an Easy Transfer cable for Windows Vista), and since he lives barely down the road from the stores they seem the most likely options in which to make the purchase.
He spotted the device at Staples, but also thought that he might be better off with a USB flash drive which apparently can accomplish the same result and would have a lot more use after the transfer of data. So he plucks a good candidate (8GB) off the shelf, not the actual product of course but a box with label inside, and finds an employee to retrieve it for him. I didn’t hear whether there was an actual exchange, but she took it from him and headed towards “the back” after also getting a similar request from another customer. Since he needed other items, we wandered around a bit through the aisles. At one point, I did try to get her attention to ask if she found it, but she ignored me completely while trying to serve a customer. (I say “serve”, she was actually trying to desperately upsell him to something he didn’t need) So I joined Gregory in browsing. Both of us used to love going to office supply stores, but lately it’s just sort of a *meh* experience.
After enough time we headed back to the flash drive area and found the same woman that had helped us before. She was working on unboxing and stocking some items and he asked her if she found it. She told him that they were still looking for it. This seemed only a tiny bit unreasonable, but not completely unbelievable so we kept browsing. After another bit of time we found her joking around with another employee, both of them playing around on laptops. He asked her to check on it again and she asked him which item it was. He told her again (we couldn’t show her the box because it was still “in the back”) and she said, “Oh I had another customer asking about that!” to which he responded, “Yeah, that was me.” She then said that they were out of stock for that particular item. Showing remarkable but not exactly complete restraint, he made an issue of having his time wasted while waiting for her to get back to him when she knew that they didn’t have the item. And the main kicker that turns this from a minor inconvenience to a crap experience was that she listened to him and then walked away. She didn’t offer the slightest apology or mention alternate solutions, nothing at all. And we did try to look at other items that might be suitable, but at that point we just put down our potential purchases and left.
We decided to try Circuit City since it was right next door and we’d barely gotten past the doors when a woman hands us an advertisement about a Verizon phone. She didn’t try to tell us anything about it or even direct us towards the phone kiosk and I thought, “Man what a shit job.” Still we found what we wanted fairly quickly and they had some old school dance jams playing, so it was quickly turning around our mood. Then we tried to check out. There were 6 registers, not a single one had their light on, nor was anyone staffing them. There was sort of a long line at the customer service booth, but it was hard to tell if they were ringing up purchases or dealing with returns, etc. So we stood for maybe half a minute, just to see if someone might notice that a customer was ready to check out. No response. So finally Gregory hit the enough! point, and put the cable down on a nearby snack/candy stand and we headed towards the door. At that point the little “security” dude — whose primary job function is to look in your bag and make a scribble on your receipt — says, “Hey you can’t leave that there.” He didn’t approach us, used no pleasantries, nuttin’… so naturally we ignored him. He said it again saying we had to take it back to the shelf to which Gregory responded that he’d like to see him try and make us. It was less annoying than it was just plain laughable.
Oddly enough we had dinner at Outback Steakhouse which is the site of my first experience with “PGP Hospitality” which I found out is pretty legendary around the area. When I was last there, the service was bad, uncaring, food improperly cooked, no adherence to the “No Rules, Just Right” motto. I wrote a letter — it was sorta my thing back then — and of course they responded with an apology and coupons. Ever since then, I’ve been twice with Gregory and have had very nice experiences. Over dinner we were just chatting and trying to sort out just why people in retail jobs don’t give a shit anymore. I mean sure it’s a crap job, but it’s not like you could have expected anything different when you applied. Plus a lot of people hate their jobs and still manage to do them well and serve their customers to the best of their ability, no matter what field they’re in.
I chalk part of it up to the “DC Attitude”. I’ve seen a lot of it in food service especially, but other types of retail/kiosk employees as well. They just don’t care and are practically chomping at the bit waiting for you to have a problem with it. I’m sure part of it is inadequate training and managers that are just happy to have warm bodies in nametags than worry about whether every customer is served well. But sometimes you have to wonder if people have just learned to put up with crappy service and accept it.
After being in DC with no car, I’ve relied more and more on delivery for certain items and it’s like the couple in “Best in Show”, you can talk to someone… or not, but generally you get good service and it’s brought right to your door. Last night over dinner Gregory wondered why he should have to either order something online and be sure to be home for it or drive well out of his way to areas that have much better customer service when he has stores that are supposed to be able to provide it right down the street. Unfortunately, I don’t know. In this case I just have to look at the best solution for the situation and more often for me, the best service is coming from a website instead of a person. Gregory sent off letters about it and I’m sure he’ll hear back some apologies and perhaps get a gift card or two out of it, but it it actually manages to change anything, I’ll be shocked.