Thursday, May 2, 2013
Death of Service Part I
I’ve recently returned from a very eye opening adventure through the Midwest. Now I will admit, I probably live in a bit of a customer service excellence bubble. I grew up in the service industry working my way through college at the local dinner theatre, honing my craft while slinging drinks, paying for school and a wedding with a smile and a wink. I ran an arts studio, reliant on reputation and service and the creation of a community that felt they were making an important contribution to the future and getting a much more cultured day care in dance and music than sitting at a TV. I worked on a cruise ship, the ultimate in indulging every whim of the uber rich. And growing up in cities that were tourist dependent meant even on the worst days, the service was far from adequate. So I will confess that perhaps my expectations for an average, all-American small town community service industry might be skewed but oh my g*d, I don’t think I had any idea of how far we have slid.
I suppose in my brain, having visited every summer the small town of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, I had this sort of nostalgic 1950s fudge and sweet shop, soda jerk, penny candy colored glasses view of the world. So when I rolled into town, famished beyond reckoning, I never expected to be so hindered in my efforts. I had to resort to fast food, something I am vehemently opposed to, but time wasn’t on my side so I pulled into the local DQ to get a blizzard, one of my great weaknesses. I used to always stop and get a blizzard on the way to the beach each summer, sort of my own travel tradition and the only time I actually bought one. So it felt right at the end of this long cross country trek to reward myself with this little vise. I pull into the drive thru and place my order and when I pull up to the window, there is a girl there leaning half on, half out the window, looking ever so much like a victim of some sort of zombie apocalypse. Her dead hand takes my money and returns to me my frozen treat but my companion and I make a pact never to return. Not to be defeated, we journey on to another of our fast food locations to order some actual sustenance. I order a chicken sandwich sans mayonnaise due to my illogical fear of secret sauces of any kind, a victim of early onset urban myth.
“No mayonnaise? So you just want your chicken plain? Without anything?” comes the disembodied voice, the disdain clearly present even through the thick Midwestern tongue. Timidly I ask for barbeque sauce, fearing the retribution on the other end of that machine. We complete our order and start to pull around as we hear, “That’ll be $17.49” We pull up to the window, which does not open, as the angry, bored girl purposefully ignores us, then notices that the coffee pot, which was meant to have held my companion’s fresh cup of coffee is empty. She sighs and starts to empty the grounds. They have not even begun making the coffee yet!! I shift uncomfortably, waiting to address her as to the origins of a $17 fast food order for two and she walks away, presumably to get new coffee grounds and refill the machine. At last, we give up and pull away, hungry but reassured, we will do better at our next location…we do not!