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Rudeness reigns

April 22, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
I'm at a loss to understand why local businesses pay their employees to be rude to customers. Lately, it seems like the whole world needs a lesson from Miss Manners.

Give me the small mom-and-pop hardware stores over the big box home improvement places any day. I stood in line for over 10 minutes at one of those gigantic stores the other night with a cart full of bulky merchandise and a 2-year-old, who was surprisingly patient, thank God! The only human-run register open was manned by a rookie cashier who was trying to figure out how to refund a customer for two boxes of tile that she overcharged her -- a transaction, I might add, that should have been handled at the refund counter. If the wait wasn't bad enough, when I asked the customer service clerk if another register could be opened, she didn't look up from her paperwork and said, "The self-checkouts are the only other registers open."

After I finally got through with the human cashier and my wallet was $113 lighter, I very calmly registered my complaint with the manager who had mysteriously appeared just as I was leaving. He said he would "take care of" the grossly misnamed "customer service" clerk. As I was leaving, I heard that very clerk bark out that she could take the next person in line. I couldn't clamp my mouth shut before I turned to her and said, "Oh, NOW you open up! That's really nice." She just stared blankly.

On the other hand, at any one of the small hardware stores throughout the Ohio Valley, I am guaranteed prompt and friendly service at the register as well as in the aisles -- where I often have questions about which kind of paint or weed killer or nails to buy. If only these stores had longer hours -- hours that are more friendly to the two-career, 9-to-5 family -- I would shop at them more frequently!

Examples abound of poor customer service in the Ohio Valley. A co-worker said employees at a local fast food drive-thru neglected to turn off their microphones and were heard making fun of her car. A mother of an autistic 7-year-old boy said a grocery cashier rolled her eyes at her because her son was throwing a tantrum in line. Or how about the cashiers who don't even greet you when you're checking out? Another co-worker said she had a cashier the other day who didn't say a word or make eye contact through the entire transaction.

Businesses whose employees deal directly with the public need to invest in teaching employees to be respectful and helpful, if not cheerful, with customers -- and then insist that they do so. Managers should monitor their employees unobtrusively to see just how they are doing. And for decency's sake -- not to mention your bottom line -- if you witness rudeness, reprimand the employee and keep monitoring them. I say, three strikes and you're out!


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