It may surprise some of you, given how often I've mentioned retail customer service fails, that I spent a number of years working in retail. Yes, I was a truck unloader for Kohl's. I worked third shift, unloading the truck, opening boxes, and putting clothes on the racks. Generally I didn't have much contact with the customers, given that the store closed by the time I got there. However, during the holidays, when the store was open much later, I spent quality time doing "recovery" which is a fancy word for "clean up the mess the customers made so that other customers don't think we're a pigsty." I spent a lot of time in men's sweaters where customers would, and I watched them do this, unfold a sweater, look at it, and then throw it on the floor. While I was standing less than a foot away FOLDING SWEATERS.
I'm telling you this story to explain that I understand customer service in a retail setting is a painful, thankless job. However, I also know that if your job title includes the words "customer service" then you best be of some kind of service to the customer.
Take my trip to Target earlier today. I have not yet jumped the bandwagon from Walmart to Target like so many people have for a couple reasons: Prices aren't as good, selection isn't anywhere near as good, and Targets aren't open 24 hours a day, which doesn't actually mean that much to me, but I like a store that cares enough about customers to be open whenever the mood to shop strikes me.
We can add one more thing to the list of reasons I don't shop at Target as much as I might. See, when you go to Walmart, you see the Walmart people working. Someone is always unloading something, shelving something, or working a cash register. At Walmart they don't howl, "GOOD MORNING" at you from ten feet away because corporate told them to. They are too busy working and you are too busy shopping for that sort of nonsense. If you pass them in an aisle, they'll ask if you need help, but otherwise, they leave you alone until you get to the check out counter and then they are all business. They don't comment on what you buy (yes, Woodman's checkers, I'm pointing at you. It's called Neuro water. Yes, it works, and you've been selling it since you opened. I would like all Woodman's checkers to STOP STARING AT MY NEURO WATER AND SCAN IT AND PUT IT IN THE DOGGONE BAG) and they don't try to make idle chit chat. They also don't chit chat with their bagger (Again, Woodman's, did I need to know how many people didn't show up to work today and how you feel you should be getting time and half for coming to work on a Saturday?) because most Walmarts have that wheel of bags and the checker bags everything for you.
Target...well let's just say Target's not that efficient...and after today I'm thinking it's because they're too busy paying people to provide NO SERVICE AT ALL.
Here's how this went down: I bought three items. Three. My plan was to be in and out of the store in under fifteen minutes. No cart, no list. I found my three things and, in spite of the very agressive stockers who kept trying to greet me every six feet I walked, I made it to the check out lines. There were three cash registers open. Three. On a Saturday morning.
A side note: Why do big box stores bother having 20 lines for check out when they have no intention of ever opening more than three? Exactly one day a year, Black Friday, do they have all the lanes open. The rest of the time it's three.
Anyway, so I look at the lanes. Lane nine is closest and it looks like the shortest lane, however the checker is an older guy who has checked me out before (that sounds bad) and I know he's not the fastest price gun in the west. Also, the woman he's currently serving seems to be giving him quite a bit of problems because he's struggling to get her order checked out properly. So, knowing this is going to take more time than I'm willing to spend, I take a step toward another line.
That's when it happens:
"Oh, Ma'am, I believe line 9 is your best choice."
You've seen these people at Targets, and I know I've had to deal with them at Sam's Clubs. These people with clip boards who watch the lanes and direct you to the shortest one. At Sam's Club they scan your items so that your check out time will be faster. It's a scan scam, don't let them do it. All that does is lock you into a lane no matter what. Letting them prescan you takes away your choices. Don't do it.
This woman, however, didn't have a scanner. Nope, her job was only to watch the lanes and direct us. Except there just weren't that many people waiting. I mean, yes, the three lanes each had three people in them, but that was it.
But she sounded really sure of herself, so, in spite of my better judgement, I got into lane 9. And stood there for four minutes while Dexter tried to get this one woman on her way. The guy in front of me has been in this lane so long he's doing that "Are you serious about this" dance people do when they're stuck in line.
I'm in this line another couple minutes when the lane watcher radios for help. "Kirsten I need you to come up front please."
So, Lane Watcher can tell people where to go and she can order checkers to come up, but she can't open a cash register herself? I see this as inefficient and stupid. Especially when...
A woman got in line behind me and Lane Checker says, "Oh, Kirsten, it's okay. We don't need help up here."
Really? All three lines just got LONGER. And Dexter is still struggling with this woman. (She has nine items. I don't know what sort of transaction she's trying to do, if she's paying in pennies or what, but she has nine items.) But no, apparently, the lines are longer, and that's okay with Lane Checker.
A couple ladies walk past Lane Checker with items, and they are looking for a lane. I want to wave them off mine. Lane Checker says, "Lane 9 is your best choice."
I want to yell, NO IT ISNT! I'VE BEEN HERE ALMOST TEN MINUTES.
The women say, "No, we're looking for self check."
Lane Checker says, "We don't have that."
Well, Target, you should!
Back to my lanes. Now the guy ahead of me is going through and almost done. I'm next. Whoo hoo! I look at the other two lanes and see that, not only are they empty, but the people who got in those lanes AFTER I GOT IN 9 are long gone.
And then I hear this: "Kirsten, we need you up here after all."
Someone walks up to Lane Checker and asked her something. I didn't see the person, but I like to imagine it's the Bobs from "Office Space" asking her the question we all want to know:
And she says, and I'm not making this up....
"This is my job. This is all I do. I watch the lanes and tell people which ones to go in and then get checkers up here when we need them."
If I hadn't been working with Dexter at this point, trying to get my own order checked out, I would have yelled over the woman behind me, "WELL YOU'RE VERY BAD AT YOUR JOB!"