The Invisible Customer
Do you ever feel like the invisible customer? I do. I buy the items I want or need and the sales staff will talk amongst themselves about school, or some work subject that is important to them. It seems they rarely pay any attention to me, the customer, their reason for living. Okay, that’s a little exaggerated, maybe their reason for having a job?
Recently, I visited a local Sporting Goods Store. I wanted to get some cold weather running gear. Have you ever priced that stuff? It’s expensive. I found some items I wanted and it was so expensive, I had to put some of it back, but I still spent $120.90. The sales clerk handed me my receipt and check. Then, he turned to join in the conversation of his co-workers. He couldn’t wait to talk to them. I walked away muttering to myself. “When I spend one hundred and twenty dollars, the least you can do is say thank you.” I’m not given to muttering, but I really felt better for doing it. If I was a constant mutterer I could see the sales clerks recoiling in fear, but I swear I acted perfectly normal until I got the snub at the cash register.
I’ve asked myself, how can I NOT be invisible to them? Maybe apply some garish makeup and talk like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard? “I’m ready…to… check… out…now.” Then make a slow descent to the register while waving my hands like Norma. I could tell them, the running clothes are for my dead chimp and he needs a proper burial suit.
Or possibly, I could wear a memorable outfit? Years ago, I made a clown costume. I loaned it to my sister when she, as a convenient store manager had a grand reopening. Her boss took it upon herself to borrow the costume for other store openings. When I got the costume back, it had layers of white face make-up all over it and the once exuberant pom poms in the front were flat and ruined. I called her and complained. She said, “My understanding is that costume just sits in your basement gathering dust.”
“An absolutely true statement,” I said. “I don’t come home from a day at work and change into my clown costume to lounge around the house while I wash the dishes.”
But since then, I often think maybe I should come home and change into my clown costume. I could go shopping at the local Sporting Goods Store. While acting perfectly normal, I can try out the treadmill or ask them to get down a child size bike for me. I could buy a water bottle and pretend to throw it on the sales staff while doubling over in exaggerated belly laughs. I could go shoe shopping and ask if they have a size twenty-two.
What can I do to get the sales staff to pay attention? I don’t want that fake stuff either…”It’s a great day at Shop and Save, where you buy items at a seventy percent mark-up but we claim you get fabulous savings.”
I also don’t need the clerks to comment on my purchases. Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of vegetables. For some reason, the cashiers comment on this. “I would love to eat that many fruits and vegetables, but I get diarrhea.” Thanks, for sharing.
This happens so often, I’ve taken to calling it the vegetable confessional. I try to offer absolution. “Eat three carrot sticks before you go to bed and we’ll call it good.”
When Christopher Reeve was first paralyzed, I bought a copy of People Magazine. They had his picture on the front. The cashier grabs the magazine and starts flipping through it. Already, I’m offended. Maybe I hadn’t actually purchased it yet, but that magazine was mine. What if I had been a germ-a-phobe? What if she had a cold and sat sniffing through each article and picture? Is it too much to ask, that they don’t touch my stuff? It may not technically be my stuff, quite yet, but I don’t want it after someone else peruses it right in front of my very own eyes.
Then she said, “Well, he’s not Superman anymore.”
My only reaction was stunned silence. My jaw dropped open and I stared straight ahead. She knew I was upset and apologized profusely. I paid and walked away without looking at her, which wasn’t intentional, I was just plain shocked.
The caveat to the Sporting Goods story happened later. The manager called me and said their register was short $120.90, the exact sum of my purchase. The clerk had been so distracted, he handed me my check, which he wasn’t supposed to do. I certainly didn’t know that. Some stores do hand you back your check. I told the manager all about my experience. He apologized, and requested I mail the check back to them, or bring it in. Since, I am an honest person, I did bring it back. They gave me twenty-five percent off my next purchase and thanked me for my honesty.
I told the manager, I’m just asking for a reasonable amount of customer service. I think it’s reasonable to wait two minutes until the customer leaves the store, before they start talking about their homework. And, I think it’s reasonable for a cashier to say thank you, when I spend my hard earned money.