However, I had an experience the other day that motivated me enough to dust the cobwebs off and attempt to find my literary self.
I went to a place of business on Friday 1st April (no April Fool's jokes please) to purchase, along with another item, a 'top up' for my cell phone. If you're from or familiar with St. Kitts it's located near the junction of Frigate Bay and Bird Rock Roads, close to Builders' Paradise.
I thought of getting a fill up too, but decided against it as I was short on time and had just enough fuel to make it through the day. So, I left my car in the little parking lot instead and went into the store.
I said to the cashier, "Can I get a $3.00 top up?"
My exact words. I had a very specific reason for wanting that amount, but thought there would likely be a minimum amount per transaction.
The response from the cashier was "You mean $30.00."
I said "No, I mean $3.00."
She: "You mean $30.00."
Me: "No, I mean THREE DOLLARS."
We repeated this exchange another three times at least, then she asked what number I wanted the top up to be credited to.
I gave her the number and asked the total of the top up and the engine oil I purchased, which she had previously told me was $19.95.
I was confused when she told me my total was $49.95, and said as much, to which she replied yet again "Because you want a top up for $30.00."
At that I exploded "I don't want a top up for no *expletive* $30.00!! I said THREE!!!"
She responded "Mister you ain't got to swear at me, me nuh swear at you!"
I agreed, "Yes, but how many times do I have to tell you I want a top up for THREE dollars?? If I tell you I want $3.00 how can you decide I want $30.00??!!"
To my utter shock, the cashier started cussing ME out.
After a second or two of tongue-tied disbelief I asked again how dare she tell me I want a $30.00 top up when I clearly stated I wanted a THREE dollar top up.
The lady's response to THAT was to shout "I ain' servin you!!"
Thoroughly upset now, I demanded to see her superior.
BUT, for the second time in less than a minute, this person left me absolutely flabbergasted, shouting "I ain' callin no *expletive* manager!!!"
I want to pause here and submit that I have witnessed, indeed been subjected to, rather subpar customer service, even borderline hostility and rudeness.
Never in all my years, though, had I encountered something like this.
First, to be told repeatedly "You mean 'Y'," when I kept clearly stating "No, I want 'X'."
Second, to be cussed out by an employee of an establishment I was patronising. (Yes, I did 'swear at her' first. I believe, though, that many persons would have 'blown up' in some form or other by that point. I had told this person what I required no less than 6 times, only to have her tell me each time that I wanted something else. I still can't get my head around that.)
Third, to be told "I ain't serving you!!"In most places of business, any employee brazen enough to say that to a customer, in such a disrespectful manner, would very quickly find him or herself an ex-employee, regardless of the circumstances.
Fourth, to be told with equal disrespect "I ain't callin no *expletive* manager!!" when a direct request was made.
VERY upset now, I went outside and found some other employees, and again requested the manager. I was told he was 'not here.'
I then asked if there was a number I could reach him at.
At this point one of the two asked what happened, and I related my experience.
To her credit, she looked genuinely concerned, even a bit embarrassed, apologised on behalf of the rude employee, and offered me her phone to call the manager.
When I related to the manager what had transpired, he, too, expressed concern and apology and assured me that 'we take these kinds of things very seriously.'
He explained that he was in town on business at the moment but should be back on site in an hour and would address the event and call me back very soon.
When I hung up, the employee who lent me her phone apologised again and offered to complete my transactions for me. It was she who told me that there was a minimum transaction amount for top ups (as I had suspected) and that that was probably why the rude employee kept insisting that I 'meant $30.00.'
I don't believe I need to point out the shortcomings of that line of reasoning on the rude employee's part, if that indeed were why she kept telling me I 'meant $30.00.'
In the interest of completeness, though, I will.
If a customer asks for a transactional amount that is lower than the minimum permitted, the attendant should politely let the customer know what the minimum balance is, and ask if he/she would like to change the amount he/she is requesting.
(I must interject here that while waiting for the lady to return I learned that this was not the first time this rude employee had behaved in such a manner towards a customer. This newfound knowledge was corroborated by a gentleman to whom I later related that morning's happenings. No sooner had I said 'an employee at so and so cuss me off' than he described her 'to a T' and said he and numerous others had had similar experiences with this person. Shocking.)
The nice lady (that's what I'll call her now) came back with my purchases, and apologised yet again.
It was she who asked for my details so they could call me back, not the manager.
I gave her my number and she assured me the manager would call me back that day.
I said "I hope so," thanked her for her assistance, and left.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about the entire episode was that as I left I could STILL hear the rude employee ranting and carrying on, VERY loudly.
Her behaviour during the exchange was one thing, but to continue to shout and cuss so loudly a good 5/10 minutes after the fact suggested a complete lack of fear of accountability of any sort.
Fast forward to Tuesday 5th April.
I call the manager, as he has not yet called me.
I identify myself by name and purposely say only "I thought I would have heard from you by now."
"...who is this?"
The gentleman does not even remember my name, which lends support to my belief that he did not take the encounter seriously at all.
I remind him of my experience on Friday and he now remembers... "Oh, yes, yes, right... I was actually hoping you would have calmed down a bit by now..."
I would have been mildly shocked at that if I had any 'expectations' left at this point. A rather lame excuse, in my opinion, for not calling back a very upset customer.
He says he spoke to the employee in question and tells me that the employee said she told me they have a minimum balance for top up transactions.
I told him she did no such thing; her exact words were "You mean $30.00." and she kept repeating that.
"[sic]...right, right, well, you know, she's been with us for a long time so I'm really surprised she didn't tell you there was a minimum balance... she said you swore at her, and we do try to shield our employees from abuse... so she could refuse to serve you... labour laws... she said she did NOT swear at you... it's basically your word against hers..."
I listen with growing disbelief.
It seems to me that the manager is deflecting blame from his unbelievably rude and unprofessional employee and trying to make ME the bad guy!
Well, I have had enough.
I say "You know what, thank you for your time," and hang up.
A few minutes later, I remember that I had not brought up the subject of her refusal to fetch the manager when asked, and called the gentleman back.
It went directly to voicemail.
I penned this soliloquy not because of any personal feelings of effrontery I have from this encounter.
Had that been the case, this piece would likely have been posted within minutes after said encounter.
Instead I waited five days for the manager to contact me.
When he did not, I contacted him only to find he did not even remember my name.
That would lead one to believe the employee had not been disciplined in any way, either.
He certainly gave no indication that she had been.
I believe it is high time we consumers stop allowing people whose very livelihoods depend on our continued patronage to show us such wanton disrespect and disregard. I have heard every excuse imaginable for this happenstance, from 'Das how he/she is' to 'Das how it always been from since I small.'
Another thing I have often heard, usually in concert, is 'Das why Kittitians cyaan get nowhey,' - referencing these types of behaviours as both cause and effect of our perceived socio-economic struggles.
Forget the business reasons.
Forget the fact that in any other free market society on earth this person would likely have immediately lost her job for engaging in a shouting match with a customer.
Let's think about SURVIVAL.
If we cannot be courteous and respectful to our own in our professional capacities, what hope have we of competing in what is rapidly becoming a literally global marketplace?
If, with an economy largely dependent on tourism and services, we can't understand the nuances of the relationship between service personnel and customer at it’s' most fundamental, how are we going to survive?
Two last points.
1. I must give kudos to the 'nice lady', who was more professional, and displayed more concern for the customer, in my opinion, than either her rude counterpart or the manager, and call on management to give her a raise. She tactfully defused a combustible situation, and I would bet a whole sack of grafted mangoes she did not receive so much as a 'Thank you.'
2. The nice lady's efforts notwithstanding, this place of 'service' has seen the last of me.
Apparently my business is not worth enough to them to warrant either respect from some attendants or a simple callback from the manager.
So, I will take said business elsewhere.
Gillard's gas station on the West Basseterre Bypass Road is a little more out of my way than the one that just lost me as a customer, but in sharp contrast, their attendants greet you with a smile and thank you when you leave.
I'll take that over being cussed out any day.