Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Not the race card

tonight, i went to Michael's craft store at Airport Way to pick up some dried flowers for a rustic vase i have in my living room. so, when i got to the section i wanted, the thing i wanted was way up on the top shelf. i couldn't reach it. the closest clerk was this lady named Pam ,sitting at the floral "arrangement" desk. she was sitting there, staring into space. i guess from the way she acted, she's must have felt exempt from showing any type of customer service whatsoever. i walked over and asked, "excuse me, would you be able to grab something down from this shelf for me over here?" she did a really obvious sigh---not just any sigh but an abrupt "ughfff" sigh to let me know i was SERIOUSLY disturbing her "floral meditation". in my head, i was like, Oh, no she DIDN'T. she then asked WHAT it was that i needed her to get down, very irritated. come again???
so, long story short, she grudgingly showed me somewhere else in the store where the same item was sitting. "thanks" i told her. if there's one thing i learned in my twenties, it's how to handle situations and people like that. she made no comment back after i thanked her. so, a few minutes later, when i saw another employee (who turned out to be her supervisor) i explained what had just happened. the supervisor stood there and made excuse after excuse for her. 'oh, we all have bad days....she's only human....no one can be 100% all the time...you probably just caught her at a bad time....' yeah, whatever. i replied that i understood that but it's not an excuse for such bad customer service. she ended up finally apologizing for Pam, but only because i pressed the issue after she gave excuses for her. but that wasn't good enough for me, because i could tell she was mentally filing my complaint way in the archives of her brain.. you don't just back up an employee when they are clearly out of line, and the customer is always right. hello, that's Customer Service 101. "oh, um hmmm...okay, and what is YOUR name?" because now, SHE'LL be named also when i talk to the manager.

couple of things: i don't know if i got that treatment from the first employee because of being black or not. it doesn't matter in this case. i mean, PROBABLY, that's just expected. but that's not the point of this post. white, black, red or yellow, that employee was in the wrong. i'm just observing that most likely it was a race factor.
secondly, i wonder if i had been white if her supervisor would have blew it off so nonchalantly. i don't really know.
and thirdly (okay 3 things), now, the supervisor is out of line for making excuses for that. i realize that it's only Michaels craft store and not Nordstrom, but still.

here's the point of my post, which ties in perfectly with one of my previous posts about the way i talk. i'm calling the manager asap tomorrow, and i'm not playing the race card. that gets me nowhere. i mean white people usually never believe it when black people claim that anyways, and just think you're just trying to take advantage somehow. i thought about talking to the manager while i was at the store, right then and there, but why take the risk of them blowing me off too because i'm black ? they need to hear my complaint objectively. i will call the store, in my most professional and diplomatic tone. they WILL think i'm white. i know this because it's happened before. they will apologize, they will take me seriously, and take some kind of action against PAM (i'm not saying she needs to be fired, but she needs a lesson on customer service. if she was just having a bad day, that's got nothing to do with me). over the phone is the only way i'll make a complaint-that way or i'll write a letter. NEVER in person. believe me, i've done it in person, and i know it felt like they never took me seriously.


Pyo said...

Hello there,

First : Season Greetings (is it hos I should say that? dunno...)

Second :
be sure to let us know how your phone call went!
I must say I would have taken it as a race matter, it doesn't happen often, but when it does it's cristal clear, and there's no "bad hair day" excuse for sighing obviously at a consumer, no matter how cheap the shop is. The supervisor knows that too, and in my opinion, he also knows it was about race (hence the lame excuses)

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

fwiw, i've stopped going to michael's because i consistently get bad service & clueless employees, and i'm white.


Anonymous said...

The concept of customer service has been in the toilet for years now. I'm very surprised at what passes for 'service' just about everywhere I go. The rare occasions where people are helpful and give a damn are few and far between.

I think it's just because everything has become a business expense. It's OK for us to suck at A, B and C, as long as D, E and F continue to pay off.

For some amusing examples of how to fix their little red wagon, see www.ask-steve.com , a friend of mine who likes to get what he feels is fair.

skyview satellite said...

When Pam is on the clock, she is representing her boss in exchange for money. If she is being rude, she is still doing her boss' bidding. That she is being paid to be rude is an empirical fact.

I wonder if the supervisor was swatting your complaints away and not taking them seriously because you were saying, "Pam insulted me, Pam disrespected me, Pam treated me poorly." Perhaps you should have spoken to the supervisor as though SHE HERSELF had treated you poorly. "Is this the way you treat all of your customers?" type of thing. Make it about her. It's not good enough for her to apologize for Pam. Pam's irrelevant. SHE HERSELF owes you an apology for treating you poorly.

I hope on your phone call that you hold whoever is on the other end of the line PERSONALLY responsible for your poor experience. It's no gurantee, but I've found the best chance for satisfaction lies in making the very person you are complaining to the subject of your complaint. "YOU are wasting my time, YOU are not taking me seriously, YOU are costing me money" etc., etc.

Aly Cat 121 said...

Well I figure for the $5 or $6 an hour these kids and sometimes adult get paid, I figure I'm just gettin what I pay for. And if I want "service with a smile" and a lil kissing of my azz, then I have to pay for that too. And a chain store like Michael's I'd think their turn over rate was as high as McDonald's or Starbucks or any other chain type of places that works folks to death for less than living wages.

Anonymous said...

TBG, ever think that maybe you obssess a little too much about this whole race thing?

Chris Snethen said...

TBG, ever think that maybe you obssess a little too much about this whole race thing?

An interesting comment. At his press conference announcing his retirement, Thurgood Marshall mentioned there wasn't a city in America where he had to hold his hands up to know he was black. I suspect it's doubly true in Portland. I do my best to treat everyone equal and such, but I know I fall short of that goal on occasion. It's gotta be frustrating.

Curious, TBG, as to your thoughts on the Jack Bog brouhaha.

ian bacardyia said...

That's the problem with being black period (because this is international, trust me). You never really know. Your radar is on but it really could be just you. I try to use 'innocent until proven guilty' philosophy. The girl really could be having a bad hair day, hating her life because of the pennies she’s earning. She could have been in her own world, with her own problems and it wouldn’t have mattered if you were a lil green man from Mars. The race card is like napalm, once you throw it out there, you can not put it back in the deck. You may win the game because of it, but everyone looks at you cross eyed.

Jack Bog brouhaha indeed.......