Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Remember, It Could Be Your Kid

This morning our kids had a "late start" for school (for those unfamiliar with the term it means that once a month students arrive two hours late while teachers are involved in an in-service of some kind), so I thought I would surprise everyone by purchasing bagels at our favorite bagel place in town. Actually, other than what the grocery stores try to sell as a "bagel," it's the only bagel place in town. I arrived shortly after 7:00 AM.

There were several employees behind the counter, only one other person before me, so I anticipated a speedy purchase so that I could get back home before Claudia needed to leave for an out-of-town trip. After the customary greeting I told the person at the register that I wanted a bagel bunch (which in their parlance means 18 bagels). She gazed at me vacantly, which I assumed to be the nonverbal indicator that I should proceed to tell her which bagels I wanted. So I selected my eighteen bagels, which included at least six different kinds, pausing to ask how many left I had to choose. Not making eye contact with me, she said, "I have the three plain bagels and the three blueberry. What else did you want?" As if I remembered by that point in time, I once again repeated what I thought to have been my order.

She plunked the digital display several more times and asked if I wanted cream cheese. I told her "yes," and identiifed the kinds I wanted to purchase. Since it was the day for me to redeem my "buy ten dozen and get one dozen free" card, I presented that to her. With a befuddled look on her face she evoked the assistance of another nearby employee, who laboriously instructed through the process. "He'll get a better deal if you ring it up as a 'bagel pack' because that comes with two cream cheeses," the one assisting my neophyte cashier instructed. "That's fine," I interrupted, "but I do want eighteen bagels."

"Oh, you don't want the bagel pack?"

"No, I want eighteen bagels, two cream cheeses, and the discount for the twelve free I'm supposed to get. As long as it's eighteen bagles and two cream cheeses, I don't care how you process it."

More dull silence as the duo attempted to figure out my plight. Finally the amount was registered, I paid the price and waited for an interminable time as she took three bagels, one by one, and sliced them in the automatic slicer. After placing the three sliced bagels in the box, she said, "Now what else did you want?" So I had, for the third time, to tell her which bagels I wanted. We proceeded at a snail's pace as she tonged the remaining fifteen bagels one at a time into the slicer.

Finally setting my box of bagels on the counter (with a separate bag for the everything bagels), she said, "There you are." Picking up the bag, I said, "Are my cream cheeses in the bag?" "Yep," she said assuringly.

Not convinced (I have bought too many bagels and cream cheeses over the years to know by the heft), as I walking out the door I looked in the bag to find three lone everything bagels. No cream cheese anything. Turning around and proceeding back to the counter, I said in a brusque tone I do not normally use, "There are no cream cheeses in this bag."

"Oh, really. I thought she [whomever the ubiquitous "she" was I'll never know, unless she was speaking in the third person about herself] put those in there."

"Nope, they're not there."

Turning from me to the refrigerated area she grabbed the cream cheeses, tossed them in a bag with some knives and napkins and apologized.

"That's OK," I said outwardly, while inwardly I was repeating to myself, "Remember, it could be your kid, Bart, behind the counter."

The whole interaction took more than fifteen minutes, which continued to grate on my nerves as my wife called the cell phone within one minute of my pulling into our driveway. I had been gone so long she wondered if everything was OK, and she was needing to leave within five minutes time herself. In an interaction which was limited in length but intense in its volume I lashed out at my spouse for the infractions of a delayed bagel cashier.

Stomping into the house, I opened the bag of cream cheeses to find not the two larger containers I was accustomed to seeing from past purchases, but an array of individual size items that will serve the bill, but made me feel even a little more inconvenienced.

Some days I have to say to myself over and over: "Remember, Bart, it could be your kid, so be nice."


Becky said...

I had to laugh at this because it reminded me of my favorite pastry shoppe (yes, shoppe) owned by a German couple. The morning employee was a little middle-aged woman and every time I'd go I'd say, "I want A, B and 3 C's" and she would inevitably pick A and say, "Anything else?".

Randy said...

This is my calling- to change the world from a customer service stand point. I shake my head because your experience is so consistent with too many persons at too many businesses.