Thursday , July 18 2024
If you want my business, try the novel idea of actually conducting one.

Reverse Culture Shock: Customer Service in the U.S. is Ridiculous

I am an American citizen who spent the last 10 years living overseas with my Marine Corps spouse, who recently retired and went to work for the federal government. I frequently visited friends and family in the States during that time. The Internet’s images and articles kept me in touch and up to date with news, culture, and business. And while a picture is worth a thousand words, it does nothing for the other senses.

Reverse culture shock hit me with a number of things, including, but not limited to: a deluge of pick-up trucks that never get used as trucks and think they rate more than one lane and parking space; wait staff who have been instructed to ask me how my food is 10 times in 30 minutes; more mattress stores than I could shake a stick at; and the idea that one must “work toward” the privilege of patronizing every business – from grocery stores, gift shops, and medical facilities to restaurants, legal services, and the aforementioned mattress stores. Why the hell would I want to be a “preferred customer” at a mattress store? How badly made is your product that you expect I’ll be replacing it any time soon?

customer-serviceI’m beyond bothered; I’m offended by business after business treating me like an orphaned waif who won the lottery when I stumbled into their establishment where I have the “opportunity” to “collect” whatever their equivalent is of gold stars – and when I have enough of them, I get to pay money for a product or service I was already there to purchase.

The most obnoxious thing sent down from on-corporate-high to minimum-wage employees to utter is the word “earn.” Fuck you, corporations behind retailers, salons, grocery stores, pharmacies, and services of every kind. I don’t “earn” the privilege of spending my money at your place of business. You earn my money. The reward is not mine, it’s yours.

If you want my business, try the novel idea of actually conducting one:

1) Offer a product and/or service at a competitive price – and then stop! At most, this means having one regular price, a sale price, and a clearance price. At restaurants this should translate into a regular price and daily specials. None of this should mean the vile exchange that is getting a slightly-less-than-outrageous price in exchange for as much personal information as you can squeeze out of someone in three minutes.

Stop requiring customers to jump through hoops to get the “best” price, which we all know was artificially inflated in the first damn place, but only if I have a little card on my key ring for you to scan – from which you’ll determine how much more junk you’ll send to my email, phone, or mail box. This crap of having to opt out of providing our emails, phone numbers, and home addresses for whatever program to get “awards,” “rewards,” and “member only prices” is just that: crap. You send out “eco-friendly” product ads printed on paper, for fuck’s sake!

And for the love of god, stop making “harass the living shit out of paying customers” part of every employee’s duty. You never have paid them enough and you know you never will pay them enough to put up with the likes of my elderly father or my belligerent aunt telling them to “go to hell” when they are required to repeatedly cite the “benefits” of being an “awards member.” Just stop it.

Try being your own customers for just one day. Pretend you don’t want to be a member and see for yourself what you are putting your customers through – and see how your employees are treated when some of those customers are less than civil about it. Better yet, sign up for your grocery store “program” online, print out or acquire your member coupons with your phone, go to the store and pay for your stuff using the self-checkout lane because none of the full-service registers are open “this time of day.” At no point did you come face-to-face with anyone in your own company. How “valued” and “preferred” do you feel now?

Sure, there are those for whom all this is paradise – because you made your system of acquisition so damned complicated that when anything goes awry (as it is wont to do given your shoddy, profit-focused-only setup), the last thing any employee and customer want to do is deal with each other. No smiles, no greetings, no fostering of a business relationship, and no loyalty – thus, no reason to return to one business over another. It all boils down to who is offering the most contrived “lowest” prices and the least human interaction – that day.

And as long as you’re insisting on smartphone-based coupons that can be scanned at the register, dig deep in your corporate money lair and open another line just for these kinds of customers. You know who I’m talking about (employees sure as hell do): The “wait until I’m at the register to find the coupon on my phone” is the new “writing a check.” The rest of us want to beat those people over the head.

2) Give your employees a clear-cut job description, a decent wage, and benefits – to include company stock – so they give a shit about working for you so they’ll in turn give a shit about the customer walking through the door. Customer service is a two-way street and the blame for any decline sits squarely in the laps of corporations who a) have come to define employees as low-paid, do-everything, ass-kissing droids, and who b) insist every customer is right. They’re not! Some of them are rancid excuses for human beings who think their 20% off coupon entitles them to be 100% less polite, civil and reasonable.

It’s ridiculous that I, as a customer, have to witness an 18-year-old cashier being verbally assaulted by a 35-year-old “valued patron” because she insists the coupon she spent five minutes looking for on her phone should be accepted even though it’s clearly expired. And instead of a boss who insists his employees be treated with some measure of dignity, the whole incident is intercepted by a 40-year-old managerial boot-licking sycophant who piles on the 18-year-old to placate the stupid tramp you call an “esteemed customer.” And when I, the “not bearing 4,000 gold stars” person in line behind her tells the dumb bitch to back the hell off her fellow man, I’m the one told to “leave the premises.” Which I do – and I take my money, with which I was willing to pay full price for your product/service, with me.

If you think this is an isolated incident, try reading the comments from “disgruntled customers” who “complain to corporate” every time their asshole doesn’t get a thorough cleaning from whatever employee didn’t greet them on bended knee the second they walked in the door. I’ve been in this country nine months and have seen this happen at a variety of businesses in several states several dozen times.

Without exception, every business that allows its customers to treat its employees like shit has a manager who also treats the employees like shit – and was specifically instructed to do so by corporate cowards who couldn’t deal with their own customers to save their own lives. Customer service hasn’t declined; it has evolved to deal with the consequences of corporations and their managers convincing employees they’re “lucky” to get 15 hours a paycheck, while telling customers they deserve to be treated like royalty even as they act like pigs at a trough.

Outstanding job, corporations. You’ve managed to take something as creative, innovative, and prosperous as capitalism and turned it into a clusterfuck of dick-shaped products and colonoscopy-sized services you shove up the asses of your employees, make customers “earn” the privilege of buying–- and reward the biggest assholes of all with the title of “valued patron.”

Go U.S.A.!

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.

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