Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll returns with a fruitful question: CUSTOMER SERVICE: An Oxymoron, or What? She writes:

So, I’m sitting at home in my Dusty Little Village after having returned from shooting in a nearby Dusty Bigger Village. I got a new Sig Sauer .45 with almost no kick. Just chillin’ and enjoying an adult beverage as dinner was bubbling happily away in the oven, not feeling at all like Cranky Caitlyn the Curmudgeon Grrrll, when my cellphone rings with a blocked number.

Now, first of all, the cellphone is supposedly on a “Don’t Call” List. Which works as well as one-size-fits-all panty hose. Then, the caller calls me by my given name which, it may surprise you to know, is not Ammo. “Susan?” he asks. Like we’re buddies. So that was his first mistake. The second mistake was announcing that this was a “courtesy” call to tell me that my business had been approved for a $250,000 loan. Color me surprised! Not only did I not apply for a loan, even for $2.50, but more curiously, I do not have a business. “Hmm….this must be a definition of ‘courtesy’ with which I am not familiar,” I said before disconnecting. I miss the ability to slam down the receiver. Whatever the scam was, it must work or they wouldn’t do it.

However, for balance in all things, I must report that the other night out to dinner Mr. Ammo Grrrll and I had a very pleasant customer service experience.

The Ak-Chin Casino has a lovely upscale restaurant called The Range which features excellent food and even better service. When we asked for some minor item to be brought to our table (probably more butter if I know me), the server actually said, “My pleasure.” It was her pleasure to serve us, imagine that!! Most of the time young servers, who are clearly trying to be accommodating in their fashion, say “No problem” when presented with a minor request. Now I really hate to sound like a jerk, but here’s the thing: when I ask you to do the job I am paying for, I want you to do the little task I have requested even if it IS a “problem.”

“My pleasure” just sounds so much better. The server was not a young person. And, our appreciation was expressed robustly in the traditional manner.

The worst customer service event of my life happened to me in New Jersey. I had been hired by New Jersey Gas and Electric Company to entertain at a big company event. I flew in from our wintering rental condo on a hellacious flight in a snowstorm. The employee sent to pick me up from the airport had been assigned a company car in which the last person driving it had clearly not had a shower in a long long time and was on Day Six of his Five-Day-Deodorant Pad. My escort was mortified.

She dropped me off at my Hilton and promised to have a different car in which to fetch me for the event. After inhaling at last, I got in a long line for check-in. The woman on duty had big hair, bubble gum, and a sour look that conveyed “I hate my job in general and you in particular.” She found my reservation and asked, “How were you planning to pay for this?”

“Oh,” I replied, smiling and handing her the embossed stationery my client had sent me in advance. “Here’s the letter from New Jersey Gas & Electric asking you to bill it to their account. That number right there.”

And SHE said: “Anyone could write this letter.”

It takes quite a lot to render me speechless, but I was too flummoxed for a minute to utter a word. And then I said, “Here’s my VISA. Please just charge it to that until we get this straightened out, but are you calling me a liar in front of all these people? And are you suggesting that if I were a scam artist trying to cadge one night’s free hotel room out of someone in February that I would fly from San Diego to NEWARK???”

Miss Congeniality continued to chew gum, radiating hate for all humanity, and the line behind me exuded extreme annoyance with ME (The Lying Con Artist) for holding up the line, rather than any kind of support. I have pretty much stayed out of New Jersey since.

Balance in all things once again: In Columbus, MS, speaking at a women’s college there, I had the morning free to go for a walk around the lovely town. I stopped in to a local coffee emporium, got coffee and asked for bottled water to go. The young lady at the counter was not particularly welcoming, a little curt, nothing terrible, as she informed me they didn’t have bottled water. And a gentleman two people behind me in line, ran down the street after me and said, “I did not care for the way she spoke to you and I mean to tell her mother when I see her in church. Heavens, what must you think of our town! Please come over to my clothing store. We keep bottled water in our break room.”

He introduced me to all his salesclerks, two black ladies and two white ladies, gave me the water he promised me and sent me on my way, “old friends who’ve just met” (to quote a Muppet lyric). OK, after selling me a skirt, a sweater, and a blouse, but still…

I was a Yankee raised to be terrified of The South. But I love its friendliness and charm. And also the fact that black and white people know each other as people. For another thing, you can get grits for breakfast in the South. In the Deep South, I was happily surprised to find that you get grits whether you order them or not. And what has surprised YOU, friends, good and bad, in the realm of customer service?