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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The Hungry Stomach

Today, I’m getting the oil in my car changed. You’re jealous, I know. I got here (yes, I’m still here), and they told me it would take about an hour. Which to me translates to hour and a half, minimum, but probably closer to two. Fine. No problem. I brought stuff to do. Like the WIP and some other minor housekeeping items. And I brought my water bottle and a snack. 2 hours? I’m good.

But the car isn’t. Let’s just say it’s going to cost me another $500 or so I hadn’t planned on spending today along with another 2 or so hours I hadn’t planned on sitting here.

While I could easily work on the WIP for a couple of hours, I don’t know if I can do it while I’m hungry. I figured I could make do with some of the snacks around here – like goldfish crackers and the like. Not great but at least it’s food.

However, this lovely couple just walked in and took a seat across from me. And opened lunch.

Sigh.

I shall comfort myself by telling my stomach the food looks gross and probably tastes bad. And my stomach will respond by telling me, “Whatever. I’m hungry.” Which means I won’t get much work done.

So, I’ll try to read a book I found on Amazon. And by try I’ll mean really try. It’s an indie and I like the idea of giving indies a chance, but… Win some, lose some, I guess.

I hate the idea of trashing an inide author, but I just can’t seem to get through it. I’m trying. I mean really trying, but the first few pages of this aren’t great. Not awful, horrible, oh my God how could this happen bad. But, not good. And I can kind of get why a traditional publisher maybe wouldn’t have wanted it.

But, who am I to judge? Really, who are any of us to judge? Judges, maybe. Ok. But, the rest of us? I remember when “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was popular. I started it and almost couldn’t get through the first 70 or so pages. It was just a lot of crazy backstory and set up. Everyone said, “Just get past the first 2 or so chapters and then it’s really great!” And they were right. It was. But, man, those first few chapters were tough.

I learned from that, though. To keep trying and really give a book a chance. So, I’ll try. Since I’ve read through this post and wow, I really need to eat. My muse gets quite cranky when it’s hungry.

The Inspiration Well

I’m very glad I opted not to participate in NaNo this month.

I thought I had a very good plot outline going, then I looked it over and decided I didn’t. I was making some tweaks to it and got stuck, distracted, overwhelmed and uninspired. Among other things. And now, it’s the 17th and I’ve written exactly 0 words. Is there a badge for that?

It doesn’t really bother me in the sense that I wasn’t planning on participating (officially anyway). It does bother me that I’ve been unable to find the right way to fix what’s wrong. I know exactly what’s wrong but can’t find the words or ideas to make it work. And I planned on writing this month and it’s half over and I’ve accomplished nothing, save for irritating myself seeing how little I’ve done.

Which also doesn’t bother me, per se. I know that sometimes it takes me time to find the right idea and work it out so it makes sense. If I ever do get the hang of this writing thing, I know for certain I won’t ever be called a “prolific writer,” the kind that cranks out a book a year. Or every other year. Or every five years, I’m guessing. And I’m OK with that.

What is bothering me is the other thing that’s inspiring me right now: angry letter writing. Actually, angry email writing to be exact, but you get what I mean. There’s an issue I’m trying to deal with and it’s something I’m passionate about and if you read my last post, you probably have some idea how I feel about the whole thing.

I was sitting in the office doing what has become my afternoon ritual of listening to Pandora and beating my head against the desk, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my WIP when an email response finally came in to something I’ve been expecting. I waited two whole weeks for this response. That’s a long time for me to keep my mouth shut when I feel strongly about something.

I took a deep breath and a walk (and by walk I mean into the kitchen to wash the breakfast dishes with a pit stop in the laundry room to switch loads) before I responded. Fortunately (for both of us) the person I’m now dealing with seems friendly and warm and actually willing to listen to my concerns instead of hurl insults (don’t ask). But, I’m still annoyed with the foot dragging and stalling. I needed a few minutes to compose my thoughts and make sure I didn’t come off as utterly obnoxious, given “something else” has come up and now she can’t examine my stuff for another few weeks. (Side note: uh-huh. Sure, you can’t. Whatever.)

So, I’m typing the response, and it took about 30 minutes to compellingly craft a five sentence response that was kind yet firm. And that was about 25 minutes too long, in my estimation. See, my mind kept wandering, I was so inspired by writing this response that I found myself drifting to another project.

This blog post. Sigh.

I found myself composing the paragraphs for this post while I should have been working on those 5 sentences. I kept thinking about all the things I wanted to say and rant about, and how it would be an excellent blog post. It was hard, but I managed to force myself to finish the response first before I came over here to craft his amazing blog post. (I know, it’s nothing special, but I need this right now.)

Well, it’s not the WIP, and it’s not perfect, but I guess it’s something. I know that realistically, as a writer, I can’t wait for the muse to show-up (thought it would be nice if it would show up at 9AM, coffee in hand, ready to go like I am). I have to chase it. Or work without it, But my current frustration isn’t that I’m not inspired to write. I am. I just don’t want to write a bunch of jumbled nonsensical crap that I end up throwing out. I know that’s my specialty, but I’d really like to diversify.

I wonder how these prolific writers manage. How do they crank out a book a year? I know there’s rumors about ghostwriters, but assume they aren’t. How do they do it? How do people work when the muse is AWOL?

Inspiration can come in many forms, I guess. I just wish what so easily inspired this blog post could inspire the WIP. That would be nice. Less frustrating. Or, if something, anything, could easily inspire the WIP. But that doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’m back to beating my head against the desk. It helps. Happy Monday!

It’s Hard to Be a Grown-Up

Long absence, I know. But that’s because I’m a grown-up and have “responsibilities” and such. Things I don’t want to do but have to. Some of them are legally required of me, some of them I just have to do because I’m a grown-up. But, man, it is tough sometimes.

(I know, I know, a lot of what I’m about to say falls into the category of “first world problems” but, due to lack of anything else, that’s what today’s post is all about.)

Like this blog post. I’m sitting here basically not doing it (even though I am) because there are other things I don’t want to do. Like mend a pillow case and paint some shelves. Easy things that will probably take all of about two seconds to do.

Then, there are the harder things, like waiting back on 2 email responses that I really don’t want to deal with. I mean, they are things that need to be dealt with and that’s part of being a grown-up. But I just don’t want to. I realize that if no one else does it, it won’t get done and then I will suffer the consequences, hence my taking the lead on it, but… Yuck. I really hate dealing with stupid stuff. Actually, that’s not true. Sometimes I just hate dealing with stuff. But, that’s part of being a grown-up.

And, I’m not even sure when this grown-up thing happened. I kind of woke up one day and said “How did this happen?” I don’t remember a ceremony marking the occasion. Or getting an official written offer that I accepted. It just kind of happened. Sure, there are some aspects of being a grown-up that are awesome. Like right now, it’s 10 AM and I’m still in my pajamas with no plans to leave them anytime soon and in a few minutes I’ll probably have a mid-morning power boosting snack of coffee and donuts. And, since I don’t work the day job today, I can go outside and play in this beautiful weather (probably the last one for the year).

Play. Like a kid. Only it will be grown-up play which is more like exercise, really. Like riding the bike and cleaning up the yard, checking on the fall/winter crops (OK, last surviving crop) in the garden. Adjusting the Halloween decorations. Which really isn’t play. It’s the grown-up version of play.

And then, oh, yeah, gotta work on the WIP, too. Trying to create a compelling character is rather hard work. I had hoped it would be an easy, natural process. Nope. I’m excellent at creating flat, boring, cardboard characters though. So, there’s that.

OK, enough whining. Off to work and all those other grown-up things I have to do.