"Adam, the only human being in human history besides Eve to have no childhood memories, still screwed up abysmally when left to his own devices." -- Anon.
Earlier this week I found myself standing in the checkout line of my favorite supermarket waiting patiently for the sole male cashier on duty to effectively, efficiently, and courteously serve the five customers ahead of me. I had successfully managed to locate all the items on my own shopping list and was proud of the minimal amount of time it had taken me to navigate my way through the store's crowded aisles.
It was noon hour and of course the rush of shoppers swooped down on the waiting line with their own one or two essential items. There was no express line open per se and so these harried customers had to form a line behind me in the 15-items-or-less queue. The shoppers ahead of me had loaded carts and there was no relief in sight.
At times like these it is a good idea to read any and all magazines and tabloids in one's immediate vicinity to not only pass the time more constructively but also to mitigate the fact that the service will be slower than normal. The reading exercise also helps you catch up on the most recent celebrity gossip and keeps you in the loop about the latest medical breakthroughs and health tips.
As I stood there patiently reading a magazine I heard a female customer behind me complaining about the shabby customer service the store was offering this day. She needed only three items today ( coffee, one bunch of bananas, and a bottled water) and told me that she had an important appointment to get to but that this delay would cause her to be late for it. She seemed distraught and overly anxious about her current plight. I wanted to help her but did not know what to do.
I noticed that the bunch of bananas she had selected had no UPC code showing and so asked her if she would mind showing me how to use one of the self serve checkout terminals. At least this would be a temporary but positive diversion for her. She readily agreed and I then joined her at the station as she explained the process of cashiering one's own groceries.
As she explained to me how to perform this procedure she told me that one of the female cashiers at this grocery outlet had recently treated her in a disrespectful manner. She explained that she was a long term customer at this store and had a loyalty card which offered her reward points for the dollar value of the purchases she made. This was the source of her current dismay.
She added that a while ago she was waiting in line behind a young male shopper who did not have a loyalty card. He had made a hefty $200 purchase of groceries and would be entitled to receive a substantial number of loyalty points. Since he had no such card he asked her if she would like to accept the points for him. She agreed, thanked him and eagerly handed her card to the cashier.
The cashier flatly informed her that this would go against store policy and added if she did not like this then she could take her business elsewhere. The woman said she was upset by the blatant refusal. Other cashiers at the same outlet allowed her to use her card to obtain points from other shoppers.
I then asked her if she had reported this allegedly rude clerk to store management. She had reported the incident but then refused to name the offending clerk because she did not want to get the woman in trouble with the boss. The cashier had served her a number of times before and she was a seasoned employee at the store. At times she preferred to use the self serve machines because they "were less rude than the human cashiers".
After she had finished her transaction at the terminal and scooped up her change she seemed much more calmed, relaxed and focused. She then asked me if she could assist me with my own grocery order at this self check station. I thanked her for her kind offer but then added I needed to pick up a few more items.
She exited the store in a more cheerful frame of mind. She still believed that she had been wronged by the check out clerk. The store associate had done her job and was following company policy. The woman firmly believed she had the right to obtain the points for herself. She still frequented this store location even though she felt ambivalent and critical about the store's policy.
Sometimes doing your job and maintaining company policy offends those folks your are trying to serve. It is a fine line and company goodwill and customer relationships often suffer minor bruises due to misunderstandings.