Rolling doughnutsWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
Among the themes I like to revisit on a regular basis, customer service is the most fascinating and provides the most fertile territory.
For example, I recently received a letter from T. Stearn of Toledo, who said she uses this page to line her iguanas’ enclosure. She wrote her shaky-handed, over-punctuated letter on children’s notebook paper, complete with three-hole punches and the ragged left-hand edge from tearing it free from the spiral-metal binding, which I am surprised the facility allows her to have unsupervised. She said she “can’t stand it anymore,” my “boring people with inanely precious tales of your no doubt perfect children, showing your racism, waving it around disguised as righteous indignation or crybabying about being the only white kid in high school.” She helpfully adds, “Screw waterboarding — just make ’em read that drivel you call ‘writing’” and tosses in such Twain-level gems as “seig hiel” and “my iguana’s gonna be landing one right on that Fake smile of yours’ soon. YAY”
I certainly commend her for recycling this page and for taking such good care of her iguanas, although I feel kind of bad for any pet trapped in an undoubtedly windowless, stale-smelling facility with her and wonder if she obsesses over which of them has the biggest dewlap as she and her iguanas slowly chew flies together.
Now, see, my unnecessary comments and crude characterizations are an example of poor customer service. What I should do is simply thank T. Stearn for her time and feedback, wish her iguanas good health and strongly consider dialing back my constant, incessant nattering and crybabying about being the only white kid in high school.
I could have received better customer service during a recent Sunday morning grocery store trip. We had overnight guests so I drove to a Kroger to pick up orange juice, fruit and doughnuts and bagels for the family.
The bakery did not have bagels baked yet, but it did have fresh doughnuts priced at $5.59 for 12. I boxed up a variety and managed to avoid eating all of them as I waddled to the checkout area. Only the self-serve lines were open, so I swiped the goods across the scanner and bagged them on the stand.
As I went to pay, I noticed that the dozen doughnuts had rung up for $7.89. Two bucks is two bucks so I pressed the “call for assistance” button. A checkout person glanced my way, turned back to a conversation she was having and then slowly started moonwalking backward my way as she finished her talk. She approached the checkout and offered a greeting-less, “What do you need?”
It was barely 8 a.m. on a Sunday, and I wasn’t at my most sunshiny either, so I just explained the overcharge and then stood silent as she looked at the price on the screen, looked at me, looked back at the screen and then wordlessly crossed over to a phone to call the bakery and tell them “this guy” was claiming he had been overcharged for a dozen doughnuts. The person on the bakery end of the phone must have confirmed my claim, as the checkout person crossed back over and silently started working on the touchscreen. She put in the correct price, adjusted the bill and started to wordlessly walk away. I thanked the back of her head as she left and turned to pay, when she stepped back to me and conspiratorially said, “You know, what you did was enter 12 dozen doughnuts instead of one.”
Up to that point, I was too self-absorbed in thinking of new adjectives for a few inanely precious tales of my perfect children to really care about her attitude and lack of interaction. I wasn’t looking to get my iguana serviced, I just wanted to avoid a $2 overcharge on a dozen doughnuts.
“No, I don’t think I did,” I said.
She shot me the same look of pitying contempt one might reserve for a mentally impaired iguana owner.
Then, I did the math. She was claiming I had entered 12 dozen donuts and the register totaled them at $7.89. According to her, I could walk out with 144 doughnuts for less than $8. I figured that, within hours, either that day’s “Smoke on the Water — Ribs for the Red Cross” was going to get its first doughnut eating contest, or that a lot of people staying at the Cherry Street Mission were going to have sugar highs and sprinkles on their shirts.
“If that’s the price for 12 dozen doughnuts,” I said slowly, “I’ll take them.”
I was back in the bakery getting ready to oversee the boxing and delivery of 144 doughnuts at about 5 cents each, when I remembered I had several people at home waiting for their breakfast and several Kroger staff in front of me who didn’t need to be punished for the attitude of one of their co-workers.
So I left with just my original purchase and another story about the minor inconveniences and sour taste left from poor customer service. It’s a lesson too many businesses have failed to learn (I’m not usually a Kroger fan, but I have never before had a negative experience with its staff and would not categorize them as habitual offenders).
In that spirit, I offer thanks to T. Stearn for the criticism and promise to be less of what she described as an “*******.”
And hey, T. Stearn, I’m mailing you a dollar bill folded like a paper airplane; that way, you and your iguanas can take a flying buck at the rolling doughnuts at Kroger. YAY
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.