Saturday, January 28, 2012

What ever happened to customer service?

This week's  blog is going to be completely off topic. I probably shouldn't be posting something like this here, but I am going to anyway. The topic is just too important.

I am only 35 years old, but I remember being a kid and going shopping with my dad. I remember the butcher at the local grocery who wrapped your order in brown paper and the cashier who punched in item costs by hand -- no prepackaged meat or bar code scanners. But most of all, I remember how nice everyone was to each other. If you were in store, the associates were happy you were there and went out of their way to help you.

I have noticed a dramatic change in this over the past 10 years or so in the way customers are treated. Instead of businesses being grateful that a person has chosen to spend their hard-earned money with them, the customer is treated like a burden, like a complete pain in the arse.

Yes, I know some people can be irritating to deal with. I worked retail pharmacy for years and had to learn to smile, take a deep breath, and count to ten in my head before responding to someone who was particularly nasty. I have had my fair share of people bitching and moaning just to get a manager to give them something free to shut up.  Those people exist, no doubt about it, but they represent only a small fraction of consumers.

To be honest, though, I don't think "those" people have anything to do with the way customer service has gone downhill. I think it has to do with lack of respect for consumers and the hiring of  employees who feel their job is beneath them, who are more concerned with what they're going to be doing with their friends later than the quality of the job they are performing. 

I can't begin to count the times I've had a cashier texting or talking on their phone while ringing up my purchases.  Or how many times I've had to hunt down an associate to help me get an item down from a top shelf, all the while giving me that "Oh my god, are you serious?!" glare.

I work hard for what money I earn and will not spend it with an establishment that mistreats me or acts in a poor a manner. I have been pondering how to deal with such a situation and it is with that in mind that I write this post tonight. There is a certain store with which I will never, ever do business again. Ever. 

Back on November 27, 2011 I met my Dad and sister in Columbia, S.C.  We were going to spend the day together -- do a little shopping, have lunch, and see the Body Works Vital exhibit at the State Museum.  Columbia is the middle point for us as we each live two hours away from the city.

My sister suffers from horrible migraines, so I was thrilled that she was making the trip. When we were planning our meeting time, she expressed a desire to go to the mall so she could buy some stuff at her favorite store -- Forever 21.

When I get there with my children, my sister is standing outside, visibly upset. She tells me that she was denied a purchase in the store. We proceed to go in and she shows me three shirts she was going to buy, each were on a marked down rack. One of the shirts rang up full price and the stupid bitch cashier all but accused my sister of changing the price on the tag. We pointed out that all the tags were written in the same ink and the girl just rolled her eyes, twitched her neck, and goes, "Well, we are not selling it for that price. SOMEONE changed the price, trying to shoplift."

There were other customers in the store and here we are being talking down to and accused of being shoplifters by a snotty, 19-year-old bitch. I was PISSED. 

 I asked for the distract manager's number but she REFUSED to give it to me. She told me to "call back tomorrow and talk to Matilda." I asked if she was the manger of the store and she said no, then told me to try Sara. Huh? Then why the hell are you telling me to ask for this Mitilda?

So, I call the store the next morning. Manager Sara proceeds to feed me a line about how the shirt was mistakenly marked down.  I pointed out that it's illegal to advertise a product for one price then mark it up on the consumer. It's not the customer's fault that someone effed up. So I ask, again, for a district manager. Sara, too, REFUSED to give it to me. She wouldn't give me a corporate number either.

So, I hit the internet and find the number for the corporate office in California. That number, in case you ever need it, is (213) 741-5100.   I explain the situation to the operator and that I was in search of a district manager's number. The operator was shocked and told me to call Kelly at (919) 208-1372

So, I call Kelly and tell her the whole story.  She is all horrified and complaining about how the Columbia, S.C. is the worst store in her area and that she was going to speak with Sara at the store and they were going to get to the bottom of it and they'll call me back. Yadda, yadda, yadda. That was November 28, 2011.

I sent a text to Kelly in mid December "reminding" her and she said she was working on it, that she was just bogged down with the holidays.  Bullshit. They think that I'll just give up if they give me the run around long enough.  Well, I've given them two months. I'm calling the corporate office on Monday.

And based on the massive amounts of complaints I've seen online, this is par for the course for Forever 21. They have lost at least three customers in this debacle.

And it's not over by a long shot.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm captivated by you baby like a fireworks show ...

I love that line from Taylor Swift's "Sparks Fly."  It summerizes how many of us view the early stages of attraction. Now, I've been with my husband for over 11 years and am still absolutely head-over-heels for him. But I remember those days during our first year when he could do no wrong, when everything about him made my heart flutter and my breath catch... when I was totally captivated by the essence of him. Those are moments we live for, moments we love to experience first hand of through the eyes of another.

Love, love, love!

Yes, I'm obviously one of those women who love a good love story be them fiction or real life. There's just something about the whole chemical response to love, longing, lust, turmoil, and happy endings. And, based on the full theater of females at both the "Beauty and the Beast" and "Breaking Dawn" showings yesterday, I am not alone.

Seriously, the theaters were full both times. How many of us spent $12 per ticket and a good $30 at the concession stand to take our kids see a movie that we have on DVD at home? And how many Twilight fans have honestly NOT seen "Breaking Dawn" yet seeing how the movie opened back in Novemer?

But none of that matters, much to the chargin of our boyfriends and husbands. We'll go again and again and again. We want to be a part of the story, even if just as a bystander. We want to experience the magic of Belle falling in love with the Beast and getting her happily ever after. We want to watch as Bella marries Edward and struggles to bring his child into the world. We want to experience their hardships -- Belle escaping Gaston or Bella struggling with her feelings for Jacob. We want to experince their joys, their passions, their tears, their fears.

We seek out forms of enteratainment to fullfill that desire -- books, movies, songs, and plays. We lose ourselves in these stories despite the snide comments about them from our loved ones. My husband, for instance, never fails to make fun of my obession with love stories or football (read: Tim Tebow) when he gets the chance.

Classic example: Last night, as you already know, I went with some girlfriends to see "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" ... again. (I love me some Jacob Black!) Well, stupid me, didn't realize that I was going to miss the first half of the Broncos/Pats game. My dear hubby made sure to keep my up-to-date with texts about my man Tebow. 

Being an Eagles fan, he takes great pleasure in other NFL teams losing. And, being a Tebow hater (blasphemy!), he was no doubt chuckling as he sent each score update last night. I finally told him to stop watching the game because he was jinxing them. You can see his response, which was the icing on his hater cake.

That is honestly how he sees stories like Twilight. He thinks they are porn for women. Something to which I just close my eyes and shake my head. 

I digress, though. The point of this blog is about my love for love. 

I began conceiving the Harbinger in the Mist trilogy while living in the swampy, live oak rich town of Walterboro, S.C. In certain areas, Colleton County is timeless, romantic.  The idea of ghosts, angels, and demons walking beside us, interacting with us intrigues me. And, in such a history-rich area, the story seemed as real and possible as the lives of the people waking down Main Street.

I could see vividly Lindsey's predicament, Eli's infatuation, and the twins unending mirth. I could feel the instant attraction, the budding love affair, and the inevitable separation of Eli and Lindsey. I began jotting down pieces of their story in a Dollar Store notebook that I carried with me everywhere. I poured over Gustav Davidson's "A Dictionary of Angels: including the fallen angels" at the local library. I checked it out so many times that the libarian once asked why I didn't buy a used copy off Amazon.

Those notes eventually took the form of a 45,000 word story and steadily grew over a two year period.  I have finished the first two books and am doing research for the third. This brings me great joy because the story, like everything else in life, is constantly evolving.

Lindsey's story has grown to include a second love interest and a conflict with her best friend. Her mother's past troubles her and she spends a lot of time pondering right verses wrong. She doesn't always think clearly or do the right thing. Sometimes you just want to slap her.

But that's what I like about a love story -- something that makes me passionate about the characters.

As I start writing book three, I hope that my readers feel the same way about the characters as I do, that they want to scream at them, applaud them, to hug them. I hope they feel bursts of emotion and flutterings of the heart. I hope that you are utterly captivated by them and their affairs.

And isn't that what a good story is all about?