I think poor customer services brings out passive-aggressive tendencies in me. I am not a violent person. I am reasonably calm and easy going. Not a lot frustrates me, but a case of poor customer service affects me in ways that I am ashamed to say, make me feel as if it is no longer me that inhabits my skin but some stranger on an evil bent. I may not act out physically or resort with a verbal tirade, but trust me, in my head I am exacting revenge, serving a dish cold that none but me is aware of.
Poor customer service that irritates me and makes my brain explode with bile is when an employee displays a blatant lack of concern for the customer. The contempt doesn’t have to be directed towards me to make me mad, if I see that lack of respect displayed to anyone by an employee that just doesn’t care, my brain fires up dark corners that seldom see the light of day.
In the electronics department of a department store I am familiar with there is an employee that I have been avoiding for years. I don’t know him and my opinion is solely based on what I have observed over the years he has worked there. It appears he wishes to be anywhere else then where he is while working there. Now this is true with many people and their jobs but on his face it seems to show. Ask him a question and he answers with a sigh, like he can’t believe we would dare interrupt his work with questions to answered about the products he is responsible for. He sighs again and starts into answering the asked question, eyes seeming to say he also can’t believe how incredibly stupid we are for not knowing the answers to our own questions in the first place. Secretly, I am glad for the days when I shop electronics that coincide with his shifts off.
Recently our scheduling conflicted and as I stood at the empty checkout counter waiting for a sale’s associate to assist me in obtaining a 16 gig flash drive off the shelf, he was the one who appeared from that secret place sales associates appear from when they are not at the checkout. I explained what I needed. He grabbed the magic key and headed for the flash drive aisle at a fast pace without really looking to see if I was following him. Stepping into his path, an outport couple, judging from their accents, likely buying a specific electronic item for the very first time from the way they were trying to decipher the contents listed on the side of the large box, wanted assistance. The lady asked him if this product came with the special cord for connection. The employee, without slowing his step, curtly replied that he had no idea and stepped around her. I followed with my head down, afraid to make eye contact with the couple, feeling guilty by association for the rudeness I had just witnessed. I then had to move faster in order to catch up with the sales associate now turning down the flash drive aisle ahead of me.
There he unlocked the last 16 gig flash drive from the shelf and stood looking at the product in his hand. Lost in deep thought as he stared at the 16 gig flash drive for longer then felt normal. Then he suddenly turned the package over and began staring at the back, unblinking and unmoving. He then surprisingly snapped back to reality and gave me the finger-his pinky. “16 gigs of memory,” he spoke, eyes still glued to the small package, his pinky finger mere inches from my face. He sighed, “All that memory in a drive smaller then my pinky.” I didn’t say anything in response because I was too busy trying not to look at his pinky finger so close in my face, fearful if I did it would make me look cross-eyed.
He started back towards the cash register and as we rounded the corner he said to me over his shoulder, “They sent the Apollo to the moon on a computer smaller then a Commodore 64 and now you can get 16 gigs of memory on a flash drive.” I just nodded but he wasn’t looking as he sped up to pass the couple still trying to figure out if the large box with the specific electronic device inside also came with the special cord of connection. He couldn’t find time to talk to them but he did have time to share with me historical lessons on the 41 year old moon landing. I just wanted my 16 gig flash drive and be out of the store.
Sliding in behind the counter, the trivia-filled sales associate began punching his code into the register and while looking at the screen he again started sharing with me family secrets. “16 gigs of memory,” he sighed, “when my brother brought home his first computer 20 years ago, it weighed over 50 pounds and it took four of us with a hand cart to get all the components into the house.” I nodded and faked an interested smile. He was busy running the soon to be mine-hopefully-16 gig flash drive through the scanner. I didn’t want to say anything to encourage more tales from his family tree and distract him from transacting my purchase.
He took my cash and dropped the 16 gig flash drive into a white plastic bag and was about to slide the receipt in with it when he unexpectedly paused again, his chin on his chest, staring down into the open bag in his hands. I reached out for my purchase but he failed to notice me stretching across the counter for my 16 gig flash drive in the white plastic bag, inches beyond the reach of my longing fingertips. He looked like a man trying to figure something out only to find the answer just out of reach. Finally giving up, he shook his head and with his slow tired voice, sighed and said, “16 gigs of memory. Where will technology be when my four year old niece grows up?” He then went on to answer his own question. “They’ll probably have time machines by then.”
He stood there with my 16 gig flash drive in his hands daydreaming about the future and I couldn’t take it anymore.
With the best deadpan look on my face and the most serious tone my voice could muster I spoke in a slow quiet monotone. “I am working on one in my basement. All I need to finish my time machine is a 16 gig flash drive.” There was no smile on my face, no chuckle in my voice, no hint of levity in my word.
The sales associate slowly looked up into my face and as his eyes locked on mine his face paled and there was a look I have never seen on him before, terror. I can be a frightening sight at times but I never inspired terror before.
He thrust his arm straight out towards me with the 16 gig flash drive in the white plastic bag dangling from a trembling hand, trying to stuff the receipt into the bag with the other, while at the same time backing away from me. I managed to snatch my brand new 16 gig flash drive from the retreating sales associate before he vanished, wide-eyed, back to that secret place that sales associates vanish too when not at the cash register.
I headed for the door past the outport couple who had cornered a sales associate in ladies underwear enquiring of her whether the large box containing a specific electronics device also came with the special cord of connection.
I had purchased my 16 gig flash drive to store my comic book collection on, not to build a time machine. But if I did ever have the chance to avail myself of a time travel device there are four trips I have planned back in time, and the destination of every one is that very same electronics department.
My first trip would be in 1990 when the shelves are filled with discs that are actually floppy. Finding the younger version of that very same sales associate I would tell him I am looking for 16 gigs of memory on a device smaller then his little finger. I imagine his ridicule before returning to record bin to sort the long play records being discounted to make room for cassette tapes.
The next stop in my journey to the past would be five years later in 1995 where I would seek out that sales associate and ask him for a data storage unit that has 16 gigs of memory, 250,000 times larger then what was used to land the Apollo on the lunar surface. I imagine his scoffing before turning his back on me to stock the shelves with the latest VHS copies of Braveheart.
The year 2000 would be my next destination, and finding him I would explain, “I want a 16 gig storage device that is small enough to slip in my pocket and not weigh 50 pounds and need four people with a hand cart to get it into the house like it was a decade ago.” I imagine his annoyance as he gets back to stocking the latest shipment of Sympatico dial-up modem installation kits.
Then the final stop on my travels in the past would be five years prior to now, 2005. Finding my target I’d ask, “Do you have a 16 gig flash drive?” He would explain that 256 megs are the largest they have in stock but they will be releasing a 512 megabyte flash drive in a few months. I would thank him and as I would turn to leave say, “Technology changes so fast, I am sure if you had a niece born next year, by the time she is four, people would be building time machines in their basements.” Then I’d take a step away, stop, turn back to him and make eye contact before adding, “Provided they had a 16 gig flash drive.”
I can just imagine, if I really had the chance to play with time like that, what that sales associate’s reaction would be on the day when I show up finally get my 16 gig flash drive and he comes to recognizes me. He would probably react like…
Hmmm? Now that I think of it.
…just like he did today.