I was working diligently on a book about customer service (quick note: if anyone has any stories about working in customer service I’d love to hear them. I want to add 20 or so stories to show real world events and, more honestly, fill pages without having to come up with shit myself. There will be no remuneration but, unless you want to remain anonymous, your name will forever be etched in a book that may sell tens of copies. Send your stories to boundandgags at comcast dot net) when a woman entered the building. She was an impeccably dressed individual laden with a notebook, bags and, what looked at first glance, to be a badger slung over her shoulder.
Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a fury purse but the fact I was nonplussed that it could have been a badger proves I’m the right guy to write a book on customer service.
Before she states her desire she first places the badger, sorry, purse down and adjusts it just so. She follows the same procedure with her bag and the notebook. She reaches into the bag, pulls out a pen, clicks it open and closed three times before opening the notebook to a page with the name of the company in perfect script across the top. Under that I can see our address, telephone number, sizes, prices, hours, and information even I didn’t know about the business.
Once she is fully situated she engages me. First she asks for a business card. I hand her one which she takes, inspects, looks at me to make sure I look like a Zell, before placing it on the page, reaching into her bag, pulling out a roll of tape and taping my business card onto the page.
She reverses her actions just as methodically before looking back at me. She states she would like to see the smallest unit we have in the building because, to the best of her estimation, that will fulfill her every storage need. I nod as she begins to systematically gather her belongings beginning with a triple click of her pen.
I stand patiently secure in the knowledge that I’ve accomplished next to nothing in the first three minutes of our transaction. If this had been a normal situation I would have had her out the door by now. I’ve streamlined my patter to such a degree I’ve had people come back into the building because they couldn’t remember if they’d actually been here.
When she’s packed and adjusted I buzz the door for her to open. When the buzz begins she takes a step back and looks at me.
“Could you open the door for me. I don’t touch doors like that.”
I don’t blink as I reach over the counter and throw the door open. Which she allows to swing open and back shut tight. I look at her assuming she doesn’t touch doors like this that swing open. But I don’t ask. I know the information will be forthcoming so I wait.
“I can’t do it that way. Come around and open the door for me?”
I spin towards the office door to do as ordered. The problem is I headed in a different direction than she’d anticipated. She calls my name with an urgency I haven’t heard since that time I pushed a guy to the brink of falling off the top of a parking garage.
I kept moving in my chosen direction and, within two seconds, had the door opened for her. It took her a few extra seconds to filter that I’d done something out of the realm of her expectation. I could see many thoughts and calculations cross her face before she arrived at the conclusion that, even though it wasn’t within her agenda, it did allow for the forward motion she desired.
She walks through the door and I shut it behind her. She turns with a start and, before she can say anything, I assure her I will indeed open the bedeviled door when our transaction reaches that need. Sated for the moment, she follows me towards her potential unit.
I did say she was sated for the moment, didn’t I? Well, cut that in half and you’ll have the actual duration of the satiation. She begins by asking how wide the carts are. The fact that she’s standing in front of one while asking should give her the answer, but, even I know not to point out the fact that it’s as wide as she sees. I know she wants the precise dimension. The problem is, off the top of my head, I have as much hair as I do answer to this question. The good part is I had a feeling she’d have a solution to arrive at her answer.
And, boy, was I right. From her bag she pulled out a measuring tape and measured the length, width and height of the cart. I stood patiently as she neatly placed the measuring tape back into her bag and opened her notebook to document her research. She closes her notebook so I turn to begin our trip down to the unit.
“Could you wait one minute?”
I turn to see that she has now pulled out a camera and is taking pictures of the cart. Now I’m pretty proud of our carts but even I haven’t gone so far as to snap some shots. I resist the urge to get into one of the pictures but I don’t resist the urge to wonder if making forty-four dollars is worth all this.
While waiting for her to pack the camera neatly into its precise spot in the bag I stand there having random thoughts, such as, reliving a conversation my boss and I had earlier about a tenant. My boss said,
“I turned the corner and there he was sucking his thumb. And here’s the weird part. . . “
Here’s the weird part? Man, we’re jaded.
“How wide is the loading door?”
Aww geez. If you want to know exactly what happened, please, go get a check-up because there’s something seriously wrong with you.
Once we gather the data I, once again, turn to trudge to the unit. Once again I commit an act of premature evacuation.
“How far is it to the unit?”
It seems as if I’m in my own version of ‘Groundhog Day’ doesn’t it? The best I can do is give an approximation because I’m sure even her measuring tape won’t stretch from here to the unit. Of course, that answer wasn’t precise enough so she reached into her magical bag and pulled out, no, not the world’s longest measuring tape. She produced a large ball of string which I secured to loading door and she trailed behind to the unit.
The phrase, ‘And here’s the weird part. . .’ keeps rolling around my mind.
We arrive at the unit and she picks a spot on the string which she holds tightly. With her free hand she reaches into the bag, pulls out scissors and snips off the length of string. As it falls to the ground she puts the remainder of the string and scissors into her bag and says,
“Could you collect the string?”
“It will be fine until we finish here. No one’s in the building. Nothing will happen to it.”
I know none of this matters. Do you know why I know that? Because that’s what she told me. So I turned and started to walk to the front to gather the string.
“Pick it up as you go.”
Do. Not. Turn. Around. You’ve. Killed. Over. The. Limit. This. Year.
I lean over, grab the string and carry it with me to the front of the building. While I’m there I checked the office and took a couple of payments. Before heading back I turned the camera on her and she’s standing in front of the unit, hands to her sides, staring. It wasn’t until I arrived to her that I realized she’d been standing there awaiting my return before proceeding with her procedures.
Man, the joy that is my life.
I stand there while she inspects the unit as one would a fine bottle of wine. That analogy was not chosen haphazardly. Oh no, I used it because, just as one would with a fine wine, she sniffed the unit. She explained (I need a shirt that says, ‘No explanation necessary’) she was checking to see if there was any untoward odor in the vicinity. Yeah, okay, fine. Let’s move this parade past the grandstand before the balloons lose their loft.
Once again, she reaches into her bag. This time she pulls out graph paper and begins to map out the dimensions of the unit. I stand there patiently until she begins to pull out little shards of paper that, upon my inspection, represent items she wants to put into this unit.
“Ma’am,” I finally break in. “You can stay here and examine the unit for as long as you’d like, but, I have to get back to the office because, while I’ve been helping you, the phone has rung three times and the customer bell has rung twice.”
“I’ll only be another moment.” She says moving paper boxes around a grid.
“You can take as much time as you’d like. I don’t want to rush you. I have other customers I need to take care of.” I can see my plea has no effect as she continues moving slips of paper around. “I’ll check on you after I take care of some other customers.” I exit leaving her to her own devices.
I get to the front, take care of a few customers and, once I’m no longer needed, they do the right and proper thing and get the hell out of the building. I check the camera and she’s now taking pictures of the unit. An empty, boxy unit. I wonder if she takes pictures of hotel soap while on vacation.
Anticipating her eventual return, I secured open the door so there would be no issues with the dreaded door demons. I sit down to do some paperwork and, I know it’s hard to fathom, but forget about her completely.
Another ten minutes goes by before I hear her enter the office. I get up and before I get to the counter, she begins to go over her notes point by point. I won’t bore you with the list but, trust me, it was exacting. The flash point for her decision laid squarely with one issue.
“The reason I have decided not to store here is your customer service skills are severely lacking.”
While reciting the reasons for this fact she is writing them in her notebook. In red ink. Which, of course, when she was done, clicked three times before putting away.
She goes on for another minute or so listing my flaws. I had to laugh because, even with her copious note taking, she didn’t even come close to listing all my flaws.