Something missing with customer service

Weekend voices: Ruminations

We have gotten into a rut at restaurants. At one, we order breakfast, no matter the time of day; and we always order the same things. At another, we have our favorite things. When visiting certain franchises, it doesn’t matter; we have particular dishes at each place.

Hubby and I recently went to a new favorite restaurant in the county, looking forward to our usual selections. The menu had changed. We can no longer get my favorite pulled pork, and he cannot get his salmon. Why? Why do things need to change?

“More seasonal options” we were told. We won’t be going back until spring when, hopefully, the menu will revert back to our favorites. I like sit down meals, with real wait staff, and pleasant conversations. I like good service and familiarity. I’m all for progress, I think, but change for change’s sake is unnecessary. What’s that old adage? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I don’t know about the Walmart in Dunkirk-Fredonia, but my Walmart in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, recently had a “makeover.” Basically that means they changed everything around so I can’t find anything anymore.

Same stuff, just located in different places, as if that makes everything new and more desirable. We only shop twice a month, so for a couple months it took twice as long to shop because we couldn’t find anything. My husband’s pet peeve is the Walmart “pickers,” those employees who pick out your groceries for you, you drive up and they load everything into your car. “They’re always in the way,” hubby complains. “It’s irritating trying to get something off the shelf and their big carts are in the way.” They don’t bother me, but I’m not old and crotchety — yet.

My peeve is waiting in line at a service counter/check out, getting to the head of the line, and the phone rings. Everything stops while the employee talks to the person on the other end of the line. I took the time to actually go into the store and yet I have to wait for someone who picks up the phone instead.

Customer service has gone the way of full service gas stations. If you can’t find an item, pick up a service phone, if you’re lucky enough to shop where there is such a thing, and ask the employee who answers. It’s a toss-up whether or not you get the right information. Have you ever tried to find an employee at the big box stores? They scatter like mice when a customer gets too close to them.

You know who does offer good customer service? Starbucks. A trip to the mall isn’t complete unless we stop at Starbucks for an overpriced drink. But the service is great at every one that I’ve ever been to. I asked for the manager at the most recent stop. The employee looked a little worried.

Asking for the manager seldom a good thing for the employee. But I just wanted to tell management how much I enjoy going to their coffee shops, and to ask if they receive special training to make their customers feel welcome. As a matter of fact, they do; particularly after the incident in Philadelphia in 2018 where two men were asked to leave a Starbucks, which escalated into multiple police officers, handcuffs, and arrests. Starbucks employees are now trained on the Third Place Policy. Home is the first place, work is number two, and Starbucks, is number three.

From Starbucks website: “We want our stores to be the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect. Any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase.”

We are all about saving time these days. Drive through fast food; drive through banks; pump your own gas, where they don’t even come to collect your money. If you pay by cash you go to them with your payment. What are we doing with all this time we saved? We’re looking at our smart phones, texting, surfing the web; that’s what we’re doing. We’re certainly not partaking in a lively conversation, or reading a good book.

I like to think of myself as progressive and fairly in tune with the way things are, but darn it, I want good customer service no matter where I am. Is it too much to ask for courtesy and helpfulness? A smile, a please or thank you, can go a long way to making me happy. And I give the same — a smile please. Thank you.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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