So, I wasn’t really looking to do a follow up to my “…lower the bar” article, but I continue to be experiencing lots of anger, entitlement and just plain craziness. This time, however I’m not talking about people I encounter in the wild, but rather with businesses that I pay money to. Many of my recent encounters as a consumer have been very strange. I’m not exactly sure how to describe this, but it seems like I have to beg some businesses to take my money these days – some actually act like it’s a burden to have to conduct business with me at all. I have multiple companies that are scheduled to do work for/with me and I have to call all of them to remind them and make sure they are still coming – I’m paying them money to do work for me and they don’t want to do it! I’m not kidding. One of the issues is when a company / contractor gets a better paying job, they just dump me to go make more money on the bigger job. This works in the short term, but what they fail to consider is the review I’m going to write about my experience. If they are good, they get a well written, glowing endorsement… if they are bad, they get a fair and honest review. But the encounter I’m going to write about today is more retail related.
Here’s the synopsis: I went to the generic home improvement store and bought some mulch. A service they offer is to have a strong young worker load it into the truck for you. I didn’t have gloves and preferred to not get dirty mulch hands all over my steering wheel, plus I had a couple more stops, so I used the service. The individual showed up and I politely said, “I’ll pull my truck up, but I’m going to leave my cart (with other items in it) here for a minute…ok?” He didn’t acknowledge me and just stared at me, which I thought was odd. I realized he may be deaf (I seriously though he might be) so I kind of made sure he saw me and I repeated what I had just said. He stared at me like he wanted to kill me for some wrong I perpetrated on him or his family in a past life. When I pulled the truck up, I went to put the tailgate down and without losing eye contact with me he bent down and grabbed the mulch bag so hard he just about tore through the packaging. Then he threw the bags, I assume as hard as he could, into the middle of the bed (instead of near the back where I was going to put the gate down to make it easier to unload). He finished loading – not stacking, but randomly throwing bags into the bed, then started talking to a co-worker and I thought… I’m going to be the bigger person here and just say thank you, which I did. Zero acknowledgment except for an up and down look at me like he was sizing me up for an a** kickin’ or something. As I left, I pulled over in the parking lot and called the store and asked to speak with a manager. I told him I wasn’t angry, nor was I looking to get anyone fired or even in trouble, but I wanted to share my experience, and that this might be a learning opportunity for this young person. I also told them that I have a rule – when I perceive I’ve been treated poorly, I take my business elsewhere for a period of time. In this case it would be two weeks for his store.
The manager was understanding and thanked me for calling and for being willing to offer feedback in a constructive way. I’ll paraphrase here, but he basically said that they can’t get workers, and they just need warm bodies. I kind of get it, but that warm body took away business for two weeks, not that they would miss my small contribution to their revenue, but still. Is a warm (and unpleasant) body really better than no body? I don’t know what the back story was here, maybe this young man was having a terrible day, but if he was, it wasn’t because of anything I did. The first time I interacted with him is when he showed up to load my truck, yet I was the recipient of his apparent anger. Maybe he’s just an angry person – I don’t know. The worst part is IM NO LONGER SURPRISED BY THIS KIND OF TREATMENT, and as long as they don’t hurt my family, damage my property or steal from me, I consider it a victory – wow, the bar really has been lowered. I’m not saying the good ol’ days were always great, but something really seems to have changed, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to reverse course any time soon.
I picked this experience to share, but I could have picked from a dozen or more. Sadly, as a consumer I truly have limited recourse, and the way I handle things like this is to speak with my wallet. I typically let a manager know if I received poor service and explain that I won’t be shopping with them for a period of time (for the record, for me to do this, the service has to be really bad). To date, I haven’t had a business tell me not to come back, but I’m anticipating that’s the next domino that is going to fall. Consumers no longer have the advantage with many businesses, especially the behemoths that know you have limited options. I guess it’s just a sign of the times.
If you are wondering, I also go out of my way to recognize good service. The other day my wife had to return a damaged product and the person helping her went above and beyond to make her experience simple, friendly and efficient, so I sent a message to the store’s management. It was pleasantly received… appreciated, and that employee recognized. If you are lucky enough to get great service, definitely let someone know.
I believe if you are treated like a criminal just for walking into a business, you should let someone in management know and consider taking your money and business to a competitor until they change their approach… if enough people do this, maybe things will improve (I’m staying optimistic)… but be careful, and make sure you can live without that particular store, because the way things are going, they may just tell you to not come back.