Leftover Rant

I was “let go” from a magazine before I even got started! The Managing Editor hired me to write a column titled Brandt’s Rant and then she left for another job. The new M.E. didn’t see me as a fit for the mag unless I wanted to write about something I have no interest in. And so it goes. I had submitted a couple of previously-approved columns that got shelved. This is the first one:

It was late morning and my friend and I were downtown in search of an early lunch. We aimed for an eatery we’d heard about but hadn’t yet visited. We entered, laughing and chatting. Two men on our side of the counter stopped their conversation and stared at us.

“We’re not open yet” one said.

“Oh, sorry”, I said. “The door was open.”

“Come back in fifteen minutes.”

My friend and I chose somewhere else to eat.

Welcome in right lettering with a dark shop window behind it

While using the self-check-out at a grocery store an employee leaned uncomfortably close to me to make a phone call on the store’s land line. She was clearly on hold, so when I made a mistake I asked her how I could go back on the screen and fix it.

“I don’t know. I’m not from this department.” She turned her back to me.

Restauranteurs, retailers, if you don’t realize you’re in a fight for survival, it’s time to wake up. Sit us down with an ice water and make us feel welcome, or keep the door locked until you’re open. If you’re not from the department where a question is posed, offer to find someone who can answer it. It’s basic, simple courtesy.

My sense of customer service developed as I grew up working in a family business, where I could literally see the difference on the dinner table between sales made and sales lost. The willingness to let people walk away with a bad impression is unacceptable. Don’t assume that these instances involved part-time, low-paid help. In the restaurant, the co-owner gave us the rude brush-off. In the grocery store, the woman was a department manager. Neither one of them gets a pass because of inexperience or not having skin in the game, not that those are worthy reasons, anyway.

Many Londoners are like me; picky about where we spend our discretionary income because we have choices. When I need something, I try hard to find it locally. Only if my local search fails will I go out of market or turn to online retailers. London offers myriad options when it comes to shopping or dining out. Merchants likely have worries and frustrations that I can’t imagine but it boils down to this: I don’t care. When I’m hungry or looking for something and I choose your place to fill that need, that’s all that matters. If your shift got changed or a delivery is late or someone forgot to put a price on the cat food, it’s not part of my transaction and it doesn’t belong there.

In broadcasting, we learn early on to wear a Game Face at show time whether or not we actually feel enthusiastic or even healthy. The host’s moods don’t matter as much as the listener’s experience. Find someone who can answer my question. Prove it matters that I chose your establishment. It’s simple really. Treat customers as if they’re valuable or risk sending them back out into a world full of alternatives.


2 thoughts on “Leftover Rant”

  1. Just today a woman with a young child in her basket rang a bell on a counter looking for assistance. I clearly heard her ring it twice with quite a long pause in between. I was browsing on the other side of the counter. There was an employee stacking shelves in the same department, maybe 15 feet away at most. She ignored the bell. I rode my scooter (bad knees) over and mentioned to the employee that the woman needed assistance. She spoke into a walkey talkey thing that a woman needed assistance and, almost immediately someone appeared. She had to be within hearing distance of the bell ringing also. I was not impressed. The customer had a head scarf on. I am hoping this was not a case of discrimination, but I’m afraid it was. We still have a long way to go 🙁

  2. That’s a message that should have been shared in that magazine. It is truly their loss. Thanks for sharing it here, instead/as well.

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