Friday, June 6, 2014

Are You Being Served?

Because I was offered, and accepted, a high position with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (hereinafter known as "The A&P") while I was still in high school (the position was known as 'clerk,' and was just nine or ten rungs down the ladder from CEO, as I understood it) I have come to expect good, pleasant and friendly, cooperative customer service in retail establishments.

Of course, I also have come to expect that passing strangers will wax my car and Dick Cheney will stop taking his friends hunting, so what do I know?  

At the A&P, we were not allowed to shrug our shoulders and say, "I dunno" when asked when a certain product would be back in stock, and a desultory pointed finger in a nebulous direction, accompanied by "Over there somewhere," was not considered a satisfactory answer to "Can you tell me where the orange marmalade is?"  Our manager - and I have Facebook friends who worked there with me to bear this out - was Mr Hinchliffe, and he tolerated no foolishness when it came to how we interacted with customers.  Sure, he knew that certain of us would fill our palms with whipped cream and lurk atop the walk-in cooler in the stockroom, ready to drop a Redi-Wip bomb on some unsuspecting coworker.  And he probably knew that there was a reason why we always found Oreos and Mr Chips cookies open or damaged on the shelves, forcing us to eat them lest food be wasted.  Never did we find those Lorna Doone or Strawberry Wafer cookies damaged.  How about that!   As long as he didn't have customers walking out of his store to shop across the street at Food Fair, he was cool.  And he knew the way to keep 'em coming back was to be nice to them, to be polite.

It's usually not that way in stores.  I think Peggy would sooner walk around looking for something than to bother asking where anything is, and I find it's not often that someone takes the time to be kind and courteous in a retail setting, especially the big stores like groceries and anything with the word "Mart" in its name.  

They used to make beer in this building.  Now the
building is full of condos full of people who
drink martinis and cosmos.
However! Certain indications indicate that the trend is changing. For example - we went to the new Harris Teeter grocery store down in Canton the other day.  Canton is the part of Baltimore where for years, new Americans got their start working hard in canneries, breweries and broom factories.  Now it's where young professionals plunk down $335,000 for a row house on which those immigrants worked like the dickens to pay the $3,350 mortgage a hundred years ago.  The entire American economy, once based on making things, is now based on selling things to each other, from insanely overpriced cups of coffee to apartments in a building that used to be a brewery, and I wonder if it still has that delightful beer-y aroma.  

Anyhow, the people at Harris Teeter were everywhere, greeting us as we ankled in, as they heated our banana bread treat at Starbucks, at the checkout area, and all around.  Even the off-duty city cop working security was like a cheery greeter.  

And I went to Home Depot for some topsoil and grass seed the other day, and everywhere I went, cheerful clerks asked if I was finding everything ok, and did I need help hauling my stuff to the car, and hoping I was having a good day.

And finally, most surprisingly, I hit a Subway last night, because no one felt like cooking after a delightful afternoon of snoozing reading at the library.  The young lady - the Sandwich Artist - asked what kind of roll I wanted, got the toasting done, made the subs with care and skill, got the toppings right the first time and still took time for a moment or two of pleasant banter with a very surprised older gentleman.  

I am too a gentleman!

But I saved the receipts from the HD and the S Way and I am going to drop emails to the home offices about how great their customer service is.  It's the least I can do and, as Rocky Balboa would say, it don't cost nothin', you know what I'm sayin'
to you here?

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