$129.40 & not so much as a smile


Version 2

(Just left my local bookstore with a tale to share.)

It is not hard for me to find over $100 worth of books to buy at my local bookstore and today was no different; a newly released business book, a Richard Feynman bio, a couple of magazines, several travel books, and a collection of Faulkner short novels that I should have read back in college.

Like I said it is easy for me to spend money in a bookstore.  What is not so easy for me is to stop looking and to leave the store before I go broke.  But today I found the strength to stop looking and to leave the store.

I enjoyed the view of a wonderful afternoon through the front windows as I headed to the cash registers with $129.40 in new found treasures.  Ahead I noticed that there were two cashiers busy chatting between themselves with no customers in line.  Great.  I would be out the door in a jiffy.  I dutifully stopped at the “Wait here for the next available cashier” sign and waited for a signal to approach.

The two cashiers eventually stopped the conversation and the nearest cashier simply stared in my direction.  I assumed this was the signal for me to approach and I put my stack of books on the counter as I offered a friendly, “Good afternoon.”

Without returning my greeting or offering a comment of her own, the cashier began to scan each of my items.  I thought it a bit strange that this cashier who just moments before was cheerily chatting with a co-worker, did not return my greeting.  As she scanned, I grabbed a store-branded reusable shopping bag from a nearby display and placed it on my stack of books.

She continued her work in silence.

No comment about my selections. No comment on the variety of categories I was purchasing from today. No mention of the breathtaking photos on the covers of the magazine. No mention of the beautiful weather. No comment about the Clark candy bar I snuck in at the last moment. No validation of my purchases.  No inquiry into further service needs. During the entire time it took to her to scan my stack of books, rescanning troublesome UPCs and voiding the item that scanned twice, she said nothing.

With the scanning complete, the cashier took the reusable bag I had just purchased and loaded up my books. With all the items scanned and bagged, she turned to me again and simply looked at me.

Once again, I assumed my next step and offer her payment even though she never told me the amount due.  I handed her my credit card and my id telling her that it was a credit card.  No “thank you” was uttered.

As the card was authorized, I grabbed a pen from the pen cup and prepared to sign the credit slip.  After the authorization, she passed my id and credit card back to me without any utterance.  She then grabbed the receipt from the POS and another pen and skid both across the counter for my signature.  Putting the pen I had just picked up back, I signed the credit slip and gave her the slip and pen back. She then placed my receipt in the bag of books and passed the bag across the counter to me in silence.

Taking the bag, I offered, “Thanks and have a great afternoon” figuring this may elicit some verbal response from her.  Nothing.

As I began my walk home, I felt a bit uncomfortable rewarding the store’s bad service by carrying their store-branded shopping bag for all to see.


Teachable moment

Common courtesy tells us to that when someone greets us we should return the greeting.  Basic customer service skills training tells us that we should try to engage the customer with at least a pleasant greeting.  When a customer choses your store over all others and spends money with you, you should also express some gratitude.

In this case, the cashier chose to violate our social norms and basic customer service standards by not saying so much as a single word during the transaction. She never even smiled. It was as if I was at a self-service checkout but at least at those machine I would gotten some rudimentary computer generated greetings, instructions and thanks.

As I see it, this cashier missed at least ELEVEN key opportunities to engage me.

  • I was never invited to approach the cashiers from the line.
  • My greeting was not returned.
  • She did not ask if I had found everything that I wanted.
  • She missed the opportunity to confirm or reinforce the purchases I made today.
  • She did not check to see if it was okay for her to use the bag I just purchased to bag the books
  • She never told me the amount due.
  • She did not thank me for informing her the card I was using to make the purchase was a credit card and not a debit card.
  • She did not ask for my signature
  • She did not check if I wanted the receipt for my wallet or to place it in the bag
  • She did not thank me for spending $129.40 in her store today and help to pay her wages.
  • She did not return my thank you and farewell.

I understand that perhaps a bookstore attracts a certain type of bookish, introverted and shy person as an employee.  Perhaps she never should have been hired to fulfill a customer facing role in the store.  Maybe she was having a bad day (though the interaction with her co-worker prior to my arrival at the cash wrap was chatty and cheerful.)  Regardless, she should have engaged me in some simple verbal pleasantries and basic verbal instructions to make the transaction go more quickly and more pleasantly.

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