Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Customer is Always....Never....Oh, Forget It

OK, now full disclosure - my parents had their own store ("Weintraub's" -  I know, catchy name), and sold meat, fish, and chicken to the denizens of Baltimore for many decades.  I grew up with parents who had a butcher shop. That meant that:

  • We NEVER had a vacation because (HORRORS!!!) you could not leave the customers to go to another butcher shop - they may never come back!
  • I thought everyone's mother had fish scales in her hair, like mine did.
  • I thought everyone's underwear had sawdust in it, because didn't everyone's mom do laundry in the back of the store, and isn't the floor of the store always covered in sawdust?
  • I knew what sawdust was before I could talk, since you had to put it on the floor of the store for safety reasons (parts of meat and chicken can make for slippery walking).
  • I still remember vividly the smell and sight of my mother holding a fresh chicken over the flame to sear off the last of the feathers.
  • I hated Tuesdays, which was when the slaughterhouse delivered a cow's head so that my parents could take the brain out (delicacy! Gross!)
  • Before Rosh Hashana and Pesach we three girls helped with order delivery, and our parents were so bone tired by the time the holiday came around that they could hardly move.
  • My father's car always, always, always, smelled like fish.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY.....I grew up knowing that the customer is always right, and it is the job of the merchant to make the customer happy, to provide excellent service above and beyond.

Then we moved to Israel. 

Here are some choice customer service moments from the past 18 months:

  • Go to purchase a hose in the hardware store.  Merchant stands there and stares at me.  I tell him what I want.  I point to what I want.  He says he doesn't have it.
  • Air conditioning guys come to my house, make a HUGE mess, smile, and leave.
  • Dry cleaner - says the clothes that have been there for 2 weeks aren't ready yet.
  • Cashier in home improvement store, who looks like she is still recovering from last Thursday night's drinking binge, is too lazy to give me a bag to put my purchases in.
  • Cashiers who glare at you when you don't want the "bargain" that is advertised at the cash register - like why don't you want the car smelly thing that you hang on the mirror for only 5 shekel?  It's 5 shekel!  Buy it!
  • Movers who criticized my furniture - your furniture is too big, why did you bring it to this small country?
  • Government ministry workers who speak rapid Hebrew, even though you asked for them to speak to you in English, and hang up (yes, it's true) when you ask them to speak more slowly.
  • Stores that close up at random times on random days.  

And so on, and so on.

Needless to say, I'm horrified each time because for me customer service is defined as doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy because: 1) you want them to come back, and 2) it's the right thing to do, people.

You know you're getting used to this when, the one time that you happen upon someone who is actually nice and helpful, you feel so grateful you practically kiss them.  And when you start laughing the minute you walk out the door because you can't wait to record this in your blog.


  1. LOL!
    I thought that was dandruff in Mommy's hair!

  2. This is the Best...
    My olah chadashah friend sees an American product at the supermarket, she's so excited. Goes to the kupah, it doesn't scan. No price is marked. Cashier calls the manager over, my friend says "How much does this cost?" Manager says, "There is no price, you can't buy it." And they threw it under the counter. Yes, this actually happened. My friend was dumbfounded.
    Contrast that to what happened to me in the states a week later: I was in Macy's, found a dress I wanted to buy. No tags. At all. Of course there was none of the same dress in other sizes or anything like that. I take it to the cashier, she asks me if there was anything even remotely similar in the area where I found it. We go to look together. Nope. So she picks up a random dress of the same brand, which was marked down to $50, scans it and gives me the dress I want, and tells me "It's not your fault the dress has no tags". Score!

  3. This was a perfect read for me today. This morning I went to a store and there was a sign that they were out with a phone number. So I called and was told they would be back in 5 to 10 minutes. 12 minutes later I gave up and left. 45 minutes later they guy called me back to yell at me for having such chutzpah as he came back to the store for me and I wasn't there waiting for him. Did he honestly think that after that phone call that I would give him my business??? Good to remember that the customer is never right. Sigh.