4.12.2011

Out Customer-Servicing Customer Service

I worked Customer Service pretty much all through college. I worked the two worst possible variations of it, too: retail and customer service. You've heard it all before: people are fucking monsters in general, and people entitled by the mantra "the customer is always right" will make you pray for genocide. I actually didn't hate my job at the little video store. Yes we had shit heads who would try to steal Xboxes or the donation can for the guy who had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and shit. But for everyone one of them there were two or three friendly, amiable people who would come in and shoot the breeze or bring us dinner when we were forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

I learned pretty quickly how to throw on my retail face; that overly-joyed-to-see-you smile and spunky lilt in my speech. "Heeeeey!" I would beam happily at some shlub renting 14 video games and the same copy of Happy Gilmore he rented every weekend, "How ya doin' this weekend guy? Big plans?" So while I don't use my knowledge of how shitty retail can be to give employees carte blanche for their behavior, I do empathize and cut them some slack whenever possible. I also sincerely appreciate it when people in those positions take the time and make the effort to be nice and courteous, because I know I'm just another dude in a long line of people preventing them from clocking out.

Sometimes, though, they just cry out to be fucked with.

I went down to Starbucks in the building where I work to get a late afternoon caffeine boost. A super eager college-aged kid with a tight jew-fro of brown curls atop his head greeted me. I gave him my order, mentioning that one of the other super-eager girls behind the counter had already started making it while I was in line.

"Wow," he smiled, "that's like...the perfect way to order."

"What?"

"I mean you gave me the size, the drink, the extras, and you mentioned she already started making it. That was perfect."

"Oh, well thanks. I'm just lookin' out for you, man." He paused and seemed to consider this.
"Well, I want to look out for you too." My awkwardness meter started creeping up. "How's your day going?" I hate questions like this. He doesn't care. He doesn't know me. If he DID care it would be really creepy. Why not just say "have a nice day" or something? I always struggle to sound interested or receptive to shit like this. I decided to fight awkward retail conversation fire with fire.

"It's going pretty good so far. Would you want to have dinner?" His eyes went wider than the mouth of my grande nonfat no whip mocha. I felt so bad I wanted to stop everything, but I was committed. 

"Uh, well, I mean I would, but I don't think it's appropriate. Or something."

"Alright. Have a good day man." I dumped my change into the tip jar and walked over to pick up my coffee, which of course was not ready and thus I spent another three minutes or so six feet away from a beet-faced young man who had just shot me down as he tried to pretend I was not creeping him the fuck out while helping his other customers. Eventually I got my drink and left, declaring myself the victor of some weird battle of wills only I had decided we were fighting. 

One of these days that joke is going to really backfire on me and I'm going to end up having the most awkward dinner conversation ever with a 20-year-old college guy.

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