Today, was a typical day like any other which meant I had to head to the grocery store. But I would guess that my typical experience at the grocery story, is different from most people. That’s because I was shopping at New Seasons Market, my supermarket of choice. Pardon me for being a bit of a groupie but I have shopped at this store since the first one opened a dozen years ago and I am a complete and total devotee.
I started schmoozing with the check out clerk which is pretty much standard fare when I get to the check out line. We were chatting about whether she’d been with the company when they opened twelve years ago (she’s a newbie only worked for them for the past six years). I mentioned that while I do shop at a few other local stores, my preference is always to shop at New Seasons. Why? It’s definitely not the price because it does tend to cost more than most other stores, however, in exchange for that price you’ll find unbelievable and unparalleled customer service. I’m not just talking about friendly clerks. I am talking about empowered employees that can decide to give you a replacement item to make up for something you might have gotten last week that wasn’t up to your standards without calling in a manager. Employees who are motivated to always work to make the experience of being in their store better no matter what that might mean.
The man behind me piped in that he also liked shopping at the store and it was because the employees were always friendly and helpful. If he needed something he could ask for it and get it, he’d always be greeted with a smile and taken care of. The clerk said that recently a customer had asked, “Do your stores have some kind of a pep rally every morning when they open to get everyone excited?” Of course she answered, “No we don’t.” But I understand why someone might think this. It’s by no accident that this store has not only weathered a recession in the past twelve years but has actually flourished and expanded. The employees don’t seem to think of themselves only as employees but as human beings doing a great job, connected with other people who might become their friends, definitely treating others exactly as they would want to be treated. That’s why people love shopping at New Seasons and that’s why when I stop there on any given day I am likely to run into neighbors, friends and need to leave myself extra time to actually go shopping and frankly that’s how I prefer it. It turns a normal errand of grocery shopping into a connected, fun and uplifting experience.
Just a “typical” day in the life.
P.S. One of the highlights since my book was published was having it carried at NSM stores where friends often snap photos of it on display to send me. Here is one a friend shared when it was displayed on Mother’s Day.
This week has given me several opportunities to think about how I interact with someone while receiving service from them, whether it’s been the Sears repair man or the aesthetician last week or the waitress from a local restaurant.
Last night, my family and I met another family at a local Mexican restaurant we have frequented for years. The food is tasty and the service is usually fast. Yesterday, however, we had an abysmal experience from the get go. The waitress arrived before the second family had shown up so we asked her to return when they had arrived. Twenty five minutes later she returned to take our order. We ordered our food hoping that the food would at least arrive sooner than that. Ten minutes after we ordered, she returned and asked if she could take the order again because she had mixed it up somehow. At this point, my family was beginning to lose it. The four kids were hungry and filling up on chips and salsa (not my idea of a balanced diet). Forty-five minutes later the food arrived after multiple times that she came to tell us it would be out soon. One of the items ordered was not correct but by that point our friend decided he would just eat what he’d been served. To compensate, she offered us free desserts but by then we all felt that it would be better if our drinks were free since no one wanted to wait anymore for anything coming out of the kitchen. When our bills arrived our friends had gotten their alcoholic drinks taken off their bill but our non-alcoholic drinks were still on the bill. (My husband had originally ordered a beer, gotten the wrong one and when he mentioned it to the waitress he’d been told that his request was currently out of stock.)
Look I have waitressed. A lot. At many different kinds of restaurants for all sorts of different people. I know what it’s like to be busy and completely overwhelmed by the tables you have to serve. So I was patient. When she was late to take the order. I was patient. when she mixed up our order and had to come back ten minutes later and take it again. I was patient and appreciative when she offered to take our drinks of the menu. But I was not patient in the end when we received a bill for our meal with the drinks still on it and she couldn’t figure out how to take them off the bill for us at the register. I felt like we had just spent two hours of our lives being told our food would come when it wasn’t really ready and frankly I didn’t feel that our family had received any kind of compensation. In the end, at the register, I was irritated and after five minutes, I just said forget it, just charge me the for the drinks so we can go home. When I asked on Facebook last night what others would do, I received wonderful comments about contacting the GM and letting him know about our experience. People felt that the owners would want to know what happened to a family who regularly frequents the restaurant and had brought new customers as well. The best comment though came today from a friend who reminded me to think about this situation in this way. “Kind deeds are decidedly easier if we’re in a good place, and we’re directing them to someone who is already showing us at least common courtesy. It’s trickier when you are hungry, tired, stressed or dealing with something difficult and if someone is treating us poorly it’s tempting to return the energy. But wouldn’t performing a mitzvah in those conditions be especially meaningful? Would your irritation subside if you knew the waitress, say, just found out she had breast cancer or recently lost a family member?”
Thank goodness, I can feel that I didn’t really act in any way that I am embarrassed about. We even tipped her. I tried to behave in a way that was appropriate and understanding and was only irritated at the very end when it was clear we would receive no compensation from her at all for the experience. I am sure that I would have felt better in the end, if I had walked away thinking, okay well they certainly did compensate us for that experience. I guess it continued to bother me because I just didn’t feel that way.
I’d love to hear from an employer or a restaurant owner. What do you do when a customer has a less than exemplary experience? Do you give away free meals, free drinks or something else? How would you want a customer to handle this situation. Based on the comments on Facebook, I know this situation is not unique so please let me know, so I can share it. Thanks for joining the conversation
Today was an absolutely wonderful day. The weather was gorgeous, the flowers are abundant and I had time today to stop and smell the roses.
205) Visited today with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin.
206) Went to a hardware store to get some supplies. Everyone was helpful from the moment I walked in. I think I had three different people give me incredible service. I asked for the manager at the end of my visit to compliment him and tell him how wonderful it was to shop at the store. He told me they strive for excellent customer service and I told him it showed. I hope people remember to share their compliments and not just criticize others.
207) Donated at the supermarket to Loaves and Fishes, a meals on wheels program for seniors.
I overheard two mitzvahs today too… the first at the grocery store. An older man and his wife were shopping and he was reminding her that there would be a collection this weekend of food for our local food bank through the mail carriers. It made me realize I hadn’t yet gotten my annual donation bag, but could still put some food out. I hate to be sexist but I was so impressed that it was the man reminding the women of this upcoming mitzvah.
Second, at the farmer’s market I overheard a man tell a woman he was passing that she had beautiful eyes, which she did. That got me thinking whether or not it makes a difference who gives a compliment. Some women may feel as if a man is hitting on them when they receive a compliment from him, however, it wouldn’t be taken that way if another women said the same thing. I just felt happy having overheard this man’s compliment to a stranger.
Gave some gifts this week, I think those count as mitzvahs…
197-199) Three teacher appreciation gifts.
200) Gave a book and card to a friend/coworker to thank her for helping me.
201) Gave some items to a friend that I thought she could use.
202) Yesterday, when I was waiting at a store to get something gift wrapped, it was taking a very long time. There was no one there to ring up other people and there was a line forming. I asked the saleswoman if she wanted to help the other customers first before finishing the wrapping. She was grateful and thanked me for being aware of the situation, she said many customers don’t notice something like that. I was grateful she was wrapping the item for me in the first place.
203) Complimented someone on a job well done.