Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What with the Economy

Every so often, I find myself on a field trip, where I can observe the business of strangers without being obvious. I heart these times because it's how I meet my characters and it's why I am never, ever, bored.

My favorite: long lines. Because oh, the things you can see while not reaching the places you’re trying to go. And, “what with the economy,” that little sentence fragment which is now the explanation for everything, I’ve noticed two things about customers and customer service. The first is that, with the exception of all things Verizon, customer service has improved everywhere. The second is that because we’re a coveted bunch now, customer behavior has worsened right along with it. It’s not pretty to see what happens to people when they think they deserve to be tolerated, even when they’re being a (bad word here).

And do I have an example? Of course I do, because this is the What-You-Missed-While-You-Were-Texting-Behind-Me-In-Line blog. You're welcome.

I braved the snow last week to go out for my lunch. I stood in line at a deli holding my Sandwich Special! with chips, soda and cookie for 5.95. I was fourth and it was taking forever, what with the economy, and, lottery tickets for sale at the check-outs. The man in front of me told the cashier to add up his order again because she did it wrong. While she checked her math, and three more people joined the line, he waited, annoyed, and asked why there was a difference in price for a chef salad over one with chicken or tuna or whatever. This pricing system was flawed, he pointed out, because it meant she had to remember the price when it would be easier to have one sticker for all salads.

“Right?” he said.
“I guess,” she said.

She gave him his total which was no different from the first, while the owner of the deli looked over at the line and frowned. When it was my turn, she sighed, and punched in the order. She told me the amount and I told her she was wrong and would she please add it up again. It took a second, but then she looked at me and laughed out loud.

Maybe the guy in front of me just lost his job as a person in charge of adding things up, and hasn’t figured out a more appropriate outlet for his anger. Or maybe the person behind the counter is grateful enough to be employed that she has figured out an appropriate response to a (bad word here).

What with the economy, both could be true.

So if you yourself have been a (bad word here) go anywhere (but Verizon) at quarter past twelve in the afternoon and stand in line. You’ll get your chance to make up for it.