Minimum Pay, Minimum Work: Why Customer Service is Dying

The house is warm, it stopped raining in the kitchen and I have a new phone.

Several things collided this weekend, culminating in an interesting Monday (part of which I blogged about here). In truth, all of it was nothing and it was a bunch of first world problems. Sometimes, to keep it in perspective, I remind myself that it could be worse. Before I started pursuing this lucrative writing thing, I worked with drug addicts, criminals, and juvenile delinquents. Perspective is everything.

Saturday it started “raining” in my kitchen. Not raining, but water was dripping down from the light fixture over the kitchen table. I contacted the electrician and, turns out it’s no big deal – as in, not a roof leak – and he’ll be by to fix it Monday around 12:00.

Ok. I have plans to get a new phone on Monday but that should give me plenty of time. And by “phone” I mean 2 phones and a tablet that had been ordered 2 weeks ago and I had confirmed they were at the store, waiting for me to come get them.

Except I wake up Monday morning to the cold house and spider infested furnace. Fortunately, the HVAC guy can come by that day, also around 12:00. Perfect.

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Not where rain should come from

I head to the store and it opens right at 10AM. There’s one employee there (the manager). Fortunately, I’m first, and everything is there so this should be an easy transaction. Only, it wasn’t. One of the phones I was told was there, wasn’t. Which isn’t really the manager’s fault, as she hadn’t been the person setting this up. She tried calling and texting the person I was working with repeatedly to find out what happened to the missing phone and he didn’t answer.

The manager offers to go over to another store to get it, but she won’t be able to do it until later but should have it by 12:45. Which is a problem because I don’t know if I can get back to the store that day because of the rainy kitchen and spidery furnace. (Side note: I wonder if it would have snowed in the kitchen if the furnace was out for much longer?)

But, I don’t have a choice. I leave, telling her I’ll be back. I go home, everything is fixed, I improve my fire starting skills and life is decent.

I go back to the store at 1:00, figuring that would be more than enough time for her to go and come back in lunch time traffic. Only, when I get there, it turns out she had just left the store to get the phone. Now I’m really not happy. The staff (there are 3 of them there now, 1 is a new guy. Poor guy. Crappy day to start a new job), try to talk to me but I explain I’m pissed and why I’m pissed and they are smart. They leave me alone.

Thirty minutes later, the manager returns with my phone, apologizes and, truthfully, handles it like a pro. Engaging me in conversation, being genuinely upset at the guy I was working with for screwing this up, screwing her over and not responding to her for 2 hours (I don’t know what he said about the missing phone). She was all impressed that I knew to do an encrypted back up of the phone before coming in. And she made me laugh when she tested the phone to make sure the number ported over by pranking one of her staff. Good times. And, let’s face it, she drove over to another store to get this for me. That’s pretty awesome.

Later in the evening, in the warm and dry house, I started thinking about everything that happened in the store. Not just about my response to it (because, before the haters get started, yes I was pissed that the phone wasn’t there and I have a right to be pissed because they told me it was there and then it wasn’t and I don’t have all day to wait around for a phone) but about the whole thing.

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Apparently, this doubles as a spider hotel

I was told the stuff was there but it wasn’t. That’s poor customer service. I worked retail for years to help me get by and when a customer wants something, you put it on hold, off to the side with a note on it. If there’s a limit on how long you can hold it, you tell them. And if you aren’t allowed to hold things, you mention that before the customer leaves the store.

Then I get there and the manager is on by herself and sort of knows what’s going on but doesn’t and has to call her staff person who doesn’t answer his phone. Not her fault, per se, all though, as a former manager, I kind of feel like you should know what everyone of your staff is up to, especially on their day off (as in “what do I need to know since you aren’t there to make sure the shit doesn’t hit the fan”).

But, again, perspective. How much do these people make? Ten dollars an hour? Twelve? Let’s even say fifteen, though I doubt that very much. Are they hourly? Salaried? Do they get full time hours or are they restricted to part time? Are there any benefits at all? Is the company using predictive software that scheudles hours based on the weather and the probability that X amount of customers will show? Because I gotta tell you, if that’s the case, the software totally blew it that day. No one around here cares that it’s a -20 windchill. Stuff’s gotta get done.

Is it my fault for expecting more? Do I expect too much because I’ve been in that position before and think I would do better? But would I really if I were in that position now? Is it unreasonable to expect more than minimum work for just a minimum wage? I don’t know what the manager makes but she seemed to go above and beyond, all things considered. Why her and no one else? Will she still be like that in 6 months? A year?

Yup, I know, it’s all a bunch of first world problems. And, all things considered, it could be worse. But I find myself asking, shouldn’t we do better? First world problem or not, shouldn’t we be concerned about low pay and what it could lead to? What it seems to be leading to? Shouldn’t we be demanding better for everyone?

Heavy thoughts for a Wednesday. Discuss.

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