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Friday, September 08, 2006

Too Good

I had something happen to me during my shift yesterday that I'm still shaking my head over.

The head of another department came up to me and chastised me for being "too efficient" and "too nice" to the customers!

Now, I take customer service very seriously. To me, the customer in front of me is the most important thing, and I do my best to make sure that customer leaves my till feeling better than when they got there. The fact that I get customers who make a point of thanking me and telling me how much they appreciate my efforts, with some even telling me they make a point of going through my till if they see I'm on shift, regardless of how busy it is, tells me a lot. I mean really, people in general are quick to complain, not to compliment, so when I get complimented, I appreciate it.

One of the things I always do now is check people's eggs. I didn't when I first started, simply because I didn't think of it (after all, I always check my own eggs when I buy them, and I assumed everyone else did, too), but at one point I did and found some broken eggs. After that, I made a point of checking eggs and now it's become a habit I don't even think about anymore. I've even had other cashiers comment on it, and some of them have started to do it, too.

Yesterday, during my 5 hour shift, I found broken eggs on 2 occasions - and with one of them, the customer was surprised because she thought she'd checked them well enough before she picked that dozen. The other was buying 4 dozen, and the broken one was broken on the bottom, so if she'd simply opened the packages to check them, she would've missed it. It just so happened that these two incidents were within about half an hour (probably more like 15 minutes) of each other. The first time I called for a replacement, the guy from dairy brought over the dozen and took the package with the broken one with no issues (normally, I try to have someone working the front end do this, but there wasn't anyone available). The second time, though, when I told him on the phone that I needed another dozen eggs, he was snappy (not directed at me, just impatient that it happened again, especially so quickly) and made a snide comment along the lines of "why don't they check their own eggs?" He still brought me a replacement dozen in decent time, though, and I thought nothing of it.

About an hour + before the store closed, things quieted down for a bit, the head of the department that includes the dairy section came over and started telling me that I was just too nice, too efficient, and that I shouldn't be. I must admit, at first I thought she was joking. She had to be - the idea of being told NOT to provide good customer service was just too foreign to my thinking. She told me that they were really strapped, and that my calling them for this was making it hard for them. Like every other department in the store, they are short staffed, so I can understand that it was inconvenient, however the whole point of being in the retail business is taking care of the customer. That's how money is made, after all.

Two other cashiers happened to be near me when she did this - that was another reason I didn't take her seriously at first. Rule number one in professional behavior - keep negative feedback private. Still, her whole tone had me feeling like there was some sort of punchline. Instead, I was told not to do it anymore. The customers can check their own eggs.

After she left, I turned to the two cashiers beside me with what was probably a rather stunned expression on my face. They looked equally stunned.

At that point, I got another customer and we all went about our business. As I thought about it, and it finally soaked through my thick skull what had just happened, I found myself feeling angry. I don't usually get angry. Ticked, sure. Frustrated, who doesn't? But real anger is a rare thing for me. Part of the reason is that, when I become angry, I get teary, and I don't like that.

Now, I know that a lot of the other staff, including some of the other cashiers, seem to find customers inconvenient. They'd love their job if it wasn't for the customers. In the staff room, I hear a lot of complaints and stories of unbelievably rude customer behavior.

What I find strange is that, I never seem to get these customers. Sure, I get people in bad moods, and the odd unpleasant behavior, but nothing even close to some of these stories. I don't know why that is in come cases, but I do know that in a lot of others, *my* behavior towards the customers goes a long way to deflating potential problems before they happen. It's basic psychology. People tend to behave the way they are treated. Most of the time, the treatment customers get is rather neutral, so their response can go either way, based on their moods. Who knows - maybe someone just ran over their dog before they got there (I actually had that), so they're in a really shitty mood. I try not to be neutral, and make a point of dealing with each customer as an individual that's worthy of special treatment. I've even found myself reacting to someone who seems surly by smiling even more, being extra polite, and making extra effort to make things better for them. I don't even think about it anymore, but when I've noticed myself doing it, I've also noticed that the surly customer is rarely still surly when they leave my till.

My point being that I'm seeing a positive response from customers because of the things I do. Simply put, happy customers are repeat customers, and there's no advertising in the world better than a happy customer. In the end, though, I don't do it for the store. I don't do it because it's part of my job. I do it because I know what it feels like to go through a till as a customer, and I know how much better *I* feel when the cashier treats me well. I want my customers to feel that way, too.

Even more, though, is that to me, it's a matter of personal integrity. I am a strong believer in doing my best in whatever I do, even if it's mundane. To do less than my best goes against my personal work ethic. For me, doing "good enough" isn't good enough when I know I can do better, and I know I can always improve, and improving is one of the things that I find exciting about life. Doing less than my best pulls *me* down. It's a comprimise to my personal ethics that I refuse to accept.

So to have someone from another department actually come up to me and essentially tell me to not do my best angered me. Maybe "good enough" is good enough for her, but it isn't for me.

Needless to say, I'm still checking people's eggs.


  1. Good for you keep checking the eggs,

    now did you know I was a cashier and now a waitress well I just quit that because of it is just too much. Now I'm not whining about working I would still do it anyways, what I ask is equality for both paid and unpaid work. I commend you for working and putting up with the bullshit from your boss but I wish as you that you wouldn't have to. That is why I say the stuff I do. It is not about being at home all the time, but if you help one then it is only fair to help both.

  2. I guess I should make it clear that this person was *not* my boss in any way. She runs another department, but that's it. All she's got on me is seniority, and that's pretty irrelevant in general, but particularily because we are in different departments. She makes sure shelves are stocked and inventory is full. My job is taking care of the customers. While she can certain *ask* me to do (or not do) something, she has no authority to *tell* me anything.

    My actual boss, who is one of our 3 managers and is responsible for my department, is a great guy. I really like working with him. Actually, I like all our managers. They *really* go out of their way to make sure things are good for us employees.

    I hear ya on the equality issue. I spent 10 years at home with the kids, and I consider that an honour and a privilage, and am thankful my husband fully supported this (he comes from a background of two parents working outside the home). I know full well how unequal stay at home parents are treated.

    My take is, if you're going to support one, support both. Otherwise, don't support either. I'm a strong believer in a free enterprise economy, and the less government has to do with what should be parental responsibility, the better.

  3. Kuniochi, I enjoyed your story, and I am glad you are still checking those eggs.

    When I go to the grocery store, I make a point of going through the tills of pleasant cashiers. Once I got caught up in a surly one's till by mistake. She didn't even give me any eye contact or talk to me the whole time. The only words she uttered were to tell me how much I owed her and then not even a please or thank you.

    I handed over the money, went home and called the manager to complain. I have never gone through her till again.

    Anyway, keep smiling. There are too few smilers in this world!

  4. Thanks, Joanne. I'm the same way when I shop. Before I started working there, there was one cashier that I always tried to go through, and now that she's my co-worker, I like her even more. :-D

    We've got some new cashiers right now, and some of them are almost painful to go through. One is a lot like how you described your back experience. She's not actually surly, but she never makes eye contact, never smiles, doesn't talk to the customer unless she has to, and on top of it all, she just doesn't seem to be getting it as far as the job itself. It makes her till sooooooooooooo slow. Unfortunately, they're so desperate for staff, they're stuck with her. She's actually rather nice - when I had a chance to talk to her briefly in the staff room. It just doesn't carry over when she's on the floor. I'm hoping it'll change as she gets used to the job.

    I hadn't had a shift until today, so it wasn't until the end of it that I was finally able to mention it to tonight's manager. When he heard about it, he just shook his head and told me to ignore her. LOL Then he told me I was doing a good job and to keep it up. I think he's already quite familiar with that particular woman's "issues."


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