Sunday, March 16, 2008

Finally, Some Service Around Here!

Apparently, I am a lightning-rod for bad customer service.

I will admit, I have expectations when it comes to those in the service industry. My expectations are: I expect good service.

That's it. That's the sum of my expectations.

These days, that's apparently asking too much.

Although N swears the problem comes from living in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, I don't agree. I think customer service everywhere has gone downhill. I know that when we lived in California, I dealt with my fair share of bad service there as well. To this day, I refuse to step into a Hollywood Video because of the treatment I received in a CA store about 7 years ago (no, I won't let it go, thankyouverymuch). But I think that as I get older, as my kids get more difficult to deal with more obnoxious older, and as life continues to add balls to my juggling act, I have become less tolerant of stupidity, especially from those in a customer service position.

Let me preface this by saying I currently work in retail. I am a dog trainer, part-time anyway, and I work at a chain pet store that rhymes with "lets fart". Before I went back to a regular day job, I worked about 30 hours a week in this store. I was not always in the training room; I spent quite a few hours each week on the floor with customers who just didn't understand why choke chains and shock collars don't belong on a 10-week old puppy, or why crating their six month old Lab 10 hours a day might create a problem with excessive energy when he's finally let out. However, I will say that in my 1 1/2 years in this job, I have never - NEVER - had a customer complain about me to my managers. I have never offended anyone to the point of contacting our corporate office. In fact, I have had quite a few customers take the time to tell my managers how helpful I was. I *know* how shitty a day in customer service can be. I *know* that people suck. But I also know that if you choose to work in a customer service position, you have to suck it up, keep a smile on your face, and remember that the stupidcluelessmotherf'ingpos customer is always right. Even when they're not.


I like to think that because of my experience in customer service, I am more understanding toward others in that same position. When I go out to eat and my rare steak is served well-done, I never take it out on the waiter. When I am in Target and my on clearance outfit rings up at regular price, I do not get upset with the cashier. I do, however, expect those people to do their best to fix whatever problem I am experiencing at their establishment. I do not appreciate being given 'the look' and hearing some version of the words, "I don't know how/want/care to help you."

Is that asking so much?

Apparently it is, as I could fill several pages of this blog with bad customer service stories. However, if you remember way back to the title, this entry isn't about bad service (ha! fooled you, didn't I?). It's about that rare, wonderful, lovely moment when you feel like a valued customer, like your business and perhaps even happiness mean something to the sales person standing in front of you.

In Richmond, there is a fabulous children's hair salon called Pigtails and Crewcuts. Now, you may be asking why one would ever have need for a hair salon specifically catering toward kids. I would have asked that myself, prior to having a 2-year old. However, when your child believes down deep in his soul that haircutting is a torture specifically reserved for the Seventh Level of Hell - and said child feels the need to share his belief with the entire world (or at least the locals within a 5-mile radius) - you suddenly grasp the importance of a hair salon that can deal with that perspective.

I took the kids to P&C after a disastrous experience at SuperCuts (let's just say it involved a screaming, sobbing child, sticky lollipop covered in bits of hair, a bitchy stylist, and a crooked hairline that cost $10). Being a stay-at-home mom, it was nice to just pop in mid-week, when the salon was relatively empty. P&C does not take appointments, so if you show up and it's busy, you're just screwed. Luckily, we could easily avoid that problem. Our first visit was excellent; JT had a blast playing with the train table (both before and after his torture session) and Kays loved getting her first mani and pedi. Plus, they got great hair cuts and the price was lower than I had anticipated. It was a good day.


When you are a working mom (or, for those annoying people of you who would argue that all moms work, a mom who works outside the home), it's not so easy to just swing by the salon at 10am on a Tuesday. In fact, when said salon's hours are 9:30 - 5:30, it's pretty much impossible to *ever* swing by during the week. They've got that covered, though, because they are also open during those same hours on Saturdays. It's all good, right? Well, yeah, except when you're a freak with a second job that has you working every Saturday from 9am to 8pm.

Yep. I'm screwed.

Now, I have a husband. And to be completely honest, he's an exceptional person, both as a mate and father. I know that if I asked him, he would pop a few Excedrin and happily take the kids to get their hair cut. But because I am anal retentive, I like to do these things myself. I like being able to make sure JT's cut is short enough to spike up but long enough to lay down flat, that Kays doesn't end up with unwanted bangs, that no one's eyes get poked out with scissors, etc. etc. I know I am anal retentive and I usually deal with it fairly well. It makes me a great admin assistant, a good home decorator, and one day I'm sure I'll be a wonderful PTA fund-raising organizer. However, it makes for bad times when I can't find a way to get the kids to the salon myself.

Shortly before starting my new job, I realized that nature had taken its course and once again the kiddos were looking at the world through hair-obscured eyes. Being a procrastinator, I waited until the last weekday prior to my new employment start date to take the kids in. Being a reading freak, I got lost in my newest Janice Davidson book and lost track of time.

Leaving at 4:55 + a 25 mile drive at rush hour - a salon that closes at 5:30 = bad bad bad.


When I got off the freeway at 5:32 with still another 3 miles to drive, my frustration with myself and traffic and life in general hit the breaking point. But instead of, oh, I don't know, calling my husband and taking it out on him, I had the brilliant idea of calling the store. Gold star for me!

I think a tiny part of me was hoping they'd pick up and tell me that, yes, of course they understood that I was an idiot and yes, of course they'd be happy to stay open late and accommodate my unreasonableness.

Instead, I got the answering machine.

Did I hang up? Oh, no. I did not.

I listened to a voice telling me that their operating hours were "Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 to 5:30, no appointments necessary!" I looked at the clock and felt my blood pressure rise. I heard that beep, and I unloaded.

"Hello, my name is Jenn, and I just wanted to let you know that I really, really love your store. But your hours suck.

"I'm a working mom,
{Not really a lie, I was working p/t}

"and I left work early today so I could bring my kids in.
{A total lie, but I needed to create a better excuse than simply being daft enough to lose track of several hours. Yes, I'm a horrible person.}

"I left work early, but I hit so much traffic that I wasn't able to get to your salon prior to 5:30.
{Not a lie at all. I did hit a lot of traffic. I did!}

"I realize that for most working moms, it wouldn't matter that you guys close at 5:30 because you're also open on Saturdays. Unfortunately for me, I work a second job that takes up my Saturdays. I start work before you open and get off after you close. This leaves me totally screwed. Honestly, I realize that my situation is not your responsibility, and that for 99% of the working world, your Saturday hours cover their needs. But I just wish that you had one night - one night - with extended hours. 6:00? 6:30? Just a suggestion. It would be really great. Anyway, I'm not going to leave my number because this is more just frustration than it is a complaint. Hopefully I'll be able to bring my kids in sometime soon. You've probably already deleted this, but if you haven't, I just wanted to say thanks for listening. Hope I didn't ruin your day. Bye."

{Pause for my collective audience to recover from their attack of 'Holy Shit This Woman is a Piece of Work-itis'.}

And with that, I drove around until I found a random chain hair salon and got the kids their hair cuts (and once again had to fix the crookedness of JT's hairline after we got home).


Later that night, I noticed I had a voice mail message on my cell phone. I had accidentally left my phone in my car while inside with the kids doing the hair thing, so I figured that's when the call came in. I don't think anything of it, just retrieved the message.

"Hello, this is Mr. Owner at Pigtails and Crewcuts.
{Oh. My. God.}

"I just wanted to let you know that I got your message and I'm sorry that we have been unable to accommodate you. I value all of our customers, and I'd really like to help you out. Maybe we can work something out and do a late appointment one night.
{Seriously dying of shame at this point.}

"You definitely did not ruin my day; I am always happy to hear from our customers. Hopefully we can make this work for you. I'm getting ready to leave the store, but I'd really like to talk to you, so please call me on my cell phone, XXX-XXXX. Hope your night gets better. Bye!"

I'm telling you, I damn near fell over. The owner of the store not only listened to my message in its entirety, he *got my number from his Caller ID* just so he could return my call.


Seeing as how I now felt like a total ass, I so was not calling this man back on his cell phone. I wanted to apologize for my message, though, so I figured I would just call the store and leave another message. Coward, thy name is Jenn. I hit up my own Caller ID, figuring since it's now several hours past closing, I'm good to go with this plan.



{Shit! Shit shit shit!!!!}

"Um, hello Mr. Owner? This is Jenn the Cowardly Bitch, I left you a message earlier ... ?"

"Oh, yes, Ms. Freak Of A Customer Who Makes My Job A Living Hell. I'm so glad you called!"


Actually, the conversation went very well. Mr. Owner was at all times professional and courteous, yet still managed to be personable and funny. He even said my message amused him, with my opening statement that used the words "love" and "suck" in the same sentence. I assured him that I realized how ridiculous I had been to leave that message, and that we most definitely did not need special accommodations; I would just unclench and let my husband bring the kids in. All in all, I was extremely impressed with how he handled the situation. By the end, I even felt comfortable enough to give him my last name and my kids' names when he asked for them, to help him remember us when we next came in.

My Saturday work days are numbered, so chances are by the next time haircuts are needed, I'll be able to take the kids in myself. I'm actually looking forward to it; I plan on apologizing in person and then making up for my behavior by buying a bunch of unneeded expensive hair accessories from them.

It'll be fun, I'm sure.

Although now that I think about it, he probably took that personal information and marked us down on the Moronic Pain In The Ass Customers list in permanent black marker. He's probably just waiting for our next visit so he can surreptitiously snap head shots to tack up next to our names on that list.





Hey, if we've gotta take mug shots, at least our hair will look great.


(In all seriousness, I highly recommend P&C. Take a look at their website, because they have locations all over. They rock.)


Julie said...

Nice. I laughed out loud. :)

Anonymous said...

ok seriously - you should be a professional writer. I have no idea how long it might have taken you to write that up but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, smiling away and trying to stop myself from laughing super duper hard to not wake my DH as I read it. DAMN girl - you can write a mean blog. I mean seriously - you have strikethroughs to make your points more clear, you have links to words that show us blogs in other realms (that I have no idea how you get too!) and you have all types of extras! I think you are the best blogger I've ever encountered! Well, except for maybe the one about where I found my long lost love again! But wow! Now if I can just get you a paying gig for this I can be reading a daily blog entry! I am hunting - I will find it - benefits too!