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Customer Service So Bad It's Funny

Every Sunday, I take dad to the grocery store. On the way, we stop by a big-box hardware store to pick up two 5-gallon jugs of water. The emptied returned jugs are supposed to be processed through a shoot, into a bin, followed by a return receipt. This is only in theory. Dad and I have done this for over a year, and have never received a receipt. Dad usually waits patiently in the car for my return with the water and the day’s customer service water story. It’s almost always a challenge, but today … was … special. I got in line with an empty cart. The water, which weighs 40 lb., was by the door on the way out. I waited patiently for my turn. This is how the conversation went.

The Dialogue

Me: “I returned two empties, and I’d like two 5-gallon waters, please.” First Cashier: “There’s nothing in your cart.” Me: “Yes, I know; I returned two empties, and I’d like two 5-gallon waters, please.” First Cashier: “They’re over there.” (She points) Me: “Thank you, I know, I’d like two of them, please.” The cashier didn’t say anything. She simply pointed. Me: “Can you ring me up, and I’ll pick them up on my way out, please?” First Cashier: “No, I have to scan them.”

Little Scanner Card Thingy

Just so you know, in over a year of my coming to this business, no one at the big-box has ever scanned the water. They have charged me the wrong price, not credited my returns, called management to ask for help — but they have never asked to scan the 40 lb., 5-gallon water jugs, because they have one of those little scanner card thingies, like when you buy water-softener salt.

Me: “I think you have one of those little scanner card thingies you can scan for the water.” First Cashier: “No … no I don’t, no little scanner card thingy here. You have to bring the water here so I can scan it.” Me: “Okay.”

Lugging Water Jugs

So I go lug the jugs — it’s only 15-20 feet, not worth arguing. The cashier did not wait the 18 seconds it took me to get the water and bring it back. She had taken the next customer. Several more customers were waiting in line. They looked at me like I was an interloper, a line cutter. The only other open line was shorter. I went to the other line; it only had three customers in front of me. When it was my turn, I politely repeated my story.

Me: “I returned two empties I’d like credited towards these two 5-gallon waters, please.” Second Cashier: “You want to return these? I can’t take water back!” Me: “No… I do not want to return these. I returned two empties and I’d like to buy these two (I point) 5-gallon waters, please.” Second Cashier: “Okay, you know you don’t have to get the jugs and bring them here, because we can scan them from this little scanner card thingy?” Me: “Thank you, I’ll try to remember.”

What Happened to Customer Service?

Not all customer service is poor, some is outstanding. However, is it me, or too often has customer service become an afterthought? Is my view skewed because I’m, well, old, and fondly remember being greeted, waited on with a smile, and treated as if there was nothing more important than my patronage? Don’t get me wrong — I’m not “that” grumpy, old hermit, who believes there are no friendly people remaining on this planet and customer service is a thing of the past. That’s my dad’s job. However, poor service happens enough to make me wonder: in today’s world aren’t there niches available for service, or do we accept the gum-chomping, speed-texting, teenage cashier, who ignores us when we ask, “What aisle is the cat food on?”

Randy Clark is the Director of Communications at TKO Graphix, where he blogs for TKO Graphix Brandwire. Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He’s the proud father of two educators; he has four amazing grandchildren, and a wife who dedicates her time to helping others. Randy is the author of How to Stay Ahead of Your Business Blog Forever and The New Manager’s Workbook: A Crash Course in Effective Management.

Mandi's Two Cents: Now I remember why I love online shopping! :)

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