Thursday, November 26, 2015

Top 11 Things I'm Thankful for this Thanksgiving Day

In no particular order:

  1. A multitude of angels in my life, freakin' and otherwise.
  2. A teenage son who treats his wonderful girlfriend like a princess, demonstrating what a kind, thoughtful, loving and mature young man he has become.
  3. Radio City's Christmas Spectacular for actually leaving the Christ in Christmas. It's nearly impossible to see Christianity on display in a secular environment these days. So nice to see they didn't sanitize it to avoid offending anyone.
  4. A fulfilling career in which I get to share the stories of those who are truly making the world a better place.
  5. Those who help others--around the corner and around the world--not for recognition or reward, but because it's the right thing to do.
  6. Books, so many wonderful books!
  7. A teenage daughter who will hold my hand walking through NYC, and ask me to lie down with her on a rare night when she can't fall asleep.
  8. The opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream and the friends and family who encourage and support me.
  9. A teacher whose childlike joy and passion for his craft make being in school again an amazing experience.
  10. Puppy love.
  11. Being married to my best friend--a man who makes me laugh, think and look to our future as empty nesters with anticipation instead of sadness.
Finally, thank you for your friendship. I can't imagine walking through this life without one another to lean on!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Service" Spelled with an F U

Let's rant, shall we? The topic: customer service. Or the lack thereof. In 24-hours I moved from bemused to pissed off thanks to two separate service fiascos.

Incident #1: The Acme Cashier

I was already irritated by the elderly. I say that with utmost respect for those who consider themselves to be in that category, though I'm relatively certain no one I would classify as elderly is reading my blog (mom and dad, you're old, but not elderly - insert winky, smiley face here). Anyway, I was irritated because slow, confused women with clown makeup and crazy hair were wandering around the aisles at Acme at 5 p.m., making it difficult for us young and busy professionals to do what we came to do. Why do they need to go to the grocery store between 4-6 p.m.? Shouldn't they be eating an early bird meal at their favorite diner?

This is not related to my service complaint, however, as I write, I believe I may have stumbled onto a brilliant service concept. Much like the "adult swim" at the pool, perhaps there should be separate hours for shopping based on age group. Those 25-54 can shop between 7-9 a.m and 4-6 p.m.; those 75-plus and moms with infants are given a big chunk of time between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; and teens can come by after school, 2:30-4:00 p.m. and at stupidly late hours when they're in need of cheese curls. There should probably be a similar schedule at the health club.

But I digress.

My main Acme complaint was with Louis, my couldn't-be-happier-to-have-this-job cashier. I don't know if I set him off by letting him know I didn't mind bagging my own groceries--perhaps he took it as a personal affront, like I didn't think he'd do it right--but the dude literally threw my groceries. Not at me, thank goodness, but onto the grocery collection area. This was fairly amusing until he came to my bananas and apples, and then the bread. Apparently no one told him that fruit bruises when tossed, and that bread can be bent out of shape, much like his increasingly grumpy customer.

Incident #2: The Jiffy Lube Guys

In my never-ending quest to save money, I drove out of my way to Jiffy Lube for an oil change and state inspection. I had a coupon (turns out I had a coupon for Midas, which made this incident even more irritating).

When I went to pick up my vehicle, the guys at the counter decided to mess with me. "That's $249.00." Seriously? "Nah, just messing with you. It's actually $____." (I'm not going to tell you how much I paid because I don't need my dad or anyone else tell me I was ripped off.) Of course, now I'm wondering if what I paid was the real price because nowhere in the place were the service prices listed. Still, I smiled gamely at his delightful sense of humor. Then I got into my soccer mom minivan and prepared to drive off. Until I noticed the pond.

A nearly full travel mug of tea that I had left in my cup holder had spilled in that handy little tray/console area between the front seats. Crumbs, bits of paper, and my parking pass were floating in a half-inch of liquid; the empty cup holders also were filled. And I was pissed. I returned to the shop and asked for towels to clean the mess. Did I let them know it was their spill and that I was displeased? No. They were bigger than me, had already intimidated me at the register, and I'm not good with confrontation. I sopped up what I could and drove away.

About a half-mile down the road I stopped at Philly Pretzel Factory to address my constant carb craving, but before I could even get out of the car, I had to write. An angry Yelp review was burning a hole inside of me. I had to let it out. I deal with my problems much better in writing:
"Just had my car inspected and oil changed at this Jiffy Lube location. I'm uncomfortable with what I paid because there were no posted prices for their services, which is what I find at Midas where I normally go. I went to Jiffy Lube because I had a coupon. Probably a big mistake. Most disappointing, when I got into my car I saw that an entire travel mug of tea that I had left in a cup holder had spilled in my center console and nobody bothered to clean it up before giving me my car back. Something so simple that would've made such a big difference in how I feel about my service. Because their service requires them to vacuum the floors, they did that, but since it didn't say anywhere that they should clean up when they spill something in a customer's car, they just left it. Classic lazy customer service. I won't be back."
After letting out my frustration and picking up my pretzel--which was cold and kinda hard and itself worthy of complaint--I headed home. And then it occurred to me. The son-of-a-bitch hadn't returned my insurance card and registration. And freakin' Jiffy Lube is on Baltimore Pike, the busiest damn retail road in Delaware County. And I hate running "errands" more than going to the dentist. And it was almost 5 p.m. and traffic was already brutal. I contemplated asking them to mail me my stuff, but wondered what the odds were that it would ever reach me.

I called and the assistant manager answered the phone--not the same guy who totally made up the price of my oil change and inspection. I told him they forgot my paperwork. He informed me it was on my passenger seat. Ah yes. Indeed. I figured this was an opportunity to share my thoughts about spilled tea. He apologized, wasn't aware of it, will tell the big scary guy who worked on my vehicle. Awesome. Originally I had posted my Yelp review with my photo; I took that down. I don't want him to find me. There are risks associated with speaking ones mind.

These delightful experiences are ripe for political commentary, which as a rule I stay away from because I'm generally in enemy territory with my views. But I do find myself thinking about personal responsibility and its role in the lives we live. If you hate working as a grocery store cashier, what could you do about it instead of taking it out on your customers, and ultimately, your employer? And I wonder about the debate over minimum wage. If the cashier and the Jiffy Lube guys were paid more, would they care more? Or would they be paid more to deliver the same shitty service? Tough subjects, indeed. Perhaps Ian, as an economist in training, but with a servant's heart, will one day help solve these problems plaguing our increasingly polarized country.

Wow. This post took a turn, didn't it? Sorry to end on such a heavy note. To make it up to you, here's a picture of a kitten. Make it a good day!