I’d like to take a moment to discuss customer service, or more specifically, the LACK of it.
Here’s the bottom line: People don’t give a shit anymore. Any maybe they never did before, but at least they were good at faking it.
Horrendous customer service can be found in every facet of our society. From shitty waiters at restaurants who sigh and groan when you ask for clean silver-wear, to the clerks at convenient and grocery stores who can’t even be bothered to utter to the words “thank you” when your transaction is complete. Fuck, I’m even blown away now when someone tells me to “have a nice day.”
Where I’ve seen the worst customer service has been in wedding planning. For some strange reason, florists have become my arch enemies and my new goal in life is to find one that doesn’t suck.
My friends Dan and Liz used Price Chopper for their wedding flowers. I know what you’re thinking, Price Chopper? Yeah, I’ll admit, I was hesitant, too. But after seeing their gorgeous bouquets, corsages, and boutineers, I was impressed and said I’d give them a shot. I booked an appointment to go over some flower ideas.
On January 20th, Liz, my mom, and I went to Price Chopper for the consultation. They sat us at this awkward square card table in the middle of the floral department. Ingrid, our consultant, was an absolute airhead who talked in a high-pitched voice and was definitely on some meds, or should be. She spent the majority of our hour asking us question after question about the wedding. At first the questions were pertinent like Where is the wedding? How many bridesmaids do you have? How many groomsmen? Etc, etc. But then she wanted details that really didn’t seem floral related at all, like What type of material will the girls be wearing? How long are the dresses? Where did they get their dresses from? What about mom? What about Dad? Do you have a flower girl? And what is her name? Ingrid frantically took notes and occasionally muttered “Mmm hmm” or “lovely.” Although I found it strange, I thought it was a good sign and meant she was paying attention.
Then we finally got down to the task at hand – FLOWERS.
Call me crazy, but you would think a florist who specializes in all types of flowers and arrangements might have a book or some photos of their work. NOPE! Ingrid had nothing of the sort. Thankfully I had ripped out some photos from magazines. I told her what I wanted, in the colors I wanted, and she told me she was going to check with her buyer on my request, type up an estimate and get back to me soon.
A month goes by and I hear nothing from Ingy.
I decide to call her up, my patience thinning, and time also running out. I ask for the floral manager. Here’s how the conversation goes:
“Hellloooooo, this is Ingrid,” unmistakable, ditzy voice.
“Hi, Ingrid, this is Amy. I came in over a month ago for a wedding consult and still haven’t gotten an estimate from you.”
Flustered she says, “Oh, well, oh I am terribly sorry. I just—I don’t—My apologies. We have just been so busy with Valentine’s Day and all and I… What did you say your last name was?”
“Oh, huh. I don’t remember you. Are you sure you met with me?”
“Yes, I met with you. It was me, my mom, my friend Liz who also had her flowers done by you last summer…?”
“Nothing is ringing a bell. Are you sure you didn’t work with Christina?”
“YEAH, I’m sure,” I say, super bitchy. “Can you look me up in your system or something?”
“Yes, one moment…OH, Amy, yes, here you are. Looks like your wedding is in April, correct?”
Jesus Christ! You took down every goddamn detail down to the type of underwear I’ll be wearing but you get the date—the most important detail –wrong?
“No, that’s not correct,” I say. “Our wedding is in August.”
“Oh, well you still have plenty of time then! Like I said, we have just been soooo busy with Valentine’s Day and all, but now that’s behind us, we can move forward.”
“I understand that Valentine’s Day is a busy holiday, but I guess I didn’t anticipate having to wait a month for an estimate. Is it ready?”
“No, I’m afraid it’s not. Again, I am terrrribly sorry. I will get it out to you as soon as possible.”
Which apparently means two and half weeks later.
I finally get the estimate in the mail, and what is the first thing I notice? She’s written a note on the top of it that says, Dear Tracy, sorry this took so long. Here is your estimate. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Dear Tracy? Lady, are you out of your fucking mind? Sure enough, the enclosed estimate has my address block with my correct name and address, and then again says Dear Tracy. Attention to detail is not her strong suit. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the entire thing was written in PAPYRUS.
So YEAH. After that awful experience I decide I need a new florist. My friend Matthew tells me he knows a great person at Shaw’s. Cool! He puts me in touch with her and we start texting about ideas.
Which brings us to today.
Last week, feeling stressed about wedding planning, I decided to take today off to tackle wedding stuff. First up, an appointment at Shaw’s to get those pesky flowers figured out! Jenny, Matthew’s friend, tells me any time after 1pm is good for her. Great!
My mom and I go out to lunch and then head over to Shaw’s around 1:15pm. The floral department looks like a tornado struck, with cardboard boxes and flowers all over the place. There’s no one there and there’s a sign that says “For floral needs, please ask a Produce Employee.” I find someone and ask if Jenny is around. He says he’ll send her right over.
Jenny walks over and I introduce myself, eager to get started.
“Oh,” she says, with a bad look on her face. “I guess you didn’t get my text?”
Text? What text? I look at my phone and the last one I have from her is one confirming today’s appointment.
“No…,” I say, not understanding.
“Well, things are just really busy here today because of Easter, and I’m the only person in Produce right now, and I just can’t meet with you today. I’m sorry.”
“Oh,” I say, letting the information sink in. “Jenny, I took today off from work specifically to meet with you and get some of this stuff figured out.”
“I’m sorry,” she says again. “I really wanted to meet with you.” That’s nice.
“Well, what if we came back later on. Do you think it would be less busy then?” I say, trying.
“Um…I don’t know…I don’t think so. Today is just not a good day.”
“OK, what about the weekend?”
“Well, normally I am around on the weekends but this weekend is my birthday, so…” Oh, of course. Your birthday. Wouldn’t want to make you work during that time.
“Besides, I haven’t even heard back from the buyer yet about your flowers. He told me we can get peonies no problem for your shower in June, but probably not for your wedding, and that’s all I’ve heard.” Sweet, so not only are you blowing me off, you’ve now just revealed the month of the shower.
“Well…” I say, not really sure what to do. I turn to my mom and say “Let’s get going.”
A couple things about the whole conversation: Number 1 – if you have to cancel an appointment like that, at least have the goddamn decency to do so over the phone! I am not convinced she even really sent me a text message. Number 2 – If someone makes an appointment & takes the DAY OFF FROM WORK, make it work. Find someone in another department to cover for you, for even 15 minutes.
You know what it all comes down to? My point earlier – people just don’t give a shit anymore. It didn’t matter that I took today off from work, or that we had a scheduled appointment, or any of it. Ingrid and Jenny have no vested interest in my wedding or me. They are just cogs in the retail machine. They work their 30-40 hours a week, do their job OK enough to not get fired, and receive their slightly more than minimum wage salary. And who can expect them to do anything more?
Well, actually I can and here’s why. I worked in customer service for years — as a sales associate, a cashier, and a waitress –and always, always did my best to help. I can’t tell you how many times I dug through cartons of CDs in our backroom, searching for the final copy of whatever hit album a mom wanted to buy her teen at Christmas when our computer indicated we had “1” in stock. Or how many times at the restaurant I searched frantically for birthday candles to add to a slice of cake, even though I had a room full of other customers to tend to, just so I could make someone’s night.
The thing is, I’m not asking Ingrid or Jenny, or anyone for matter to find a CD in a haystack, or sing me Happy Birthday. I just want some goddamn flowers for my goddamn wedding. And I don’t think it should be this much trouble.