CUSTOMER service is another fault line in our anxiety about a changing world.
Somehow we’ve maintained a belief that people’s livelihood defines something not just about economic well-being but of our relationship to our community as well.
So, despite the surly checkout chick being a virtual staple of American (our?) culture, we have held onto the notion that the encounter with someone behind the counter mattered.
So there I was at a large supermarket chain, with an item bought at the customer service desk.
I just needed to pay and I was on my way. Swipe the card and wait for the prompts. Nothing happening. What to do?
She gives an instruction that seems to suggest something is on the screen. It isn’t. I ask again. Same response. It may as well be a foreign language. The prompt she speaks of is not there.
I ask again. Same response. Now I realise nothing will change here unless I am the agent of change. I assert that it’s not there. Finally she resets the screen.
It was all my fault, naturally. Pressed the wrong button at the start, apparently. Leave somewhat angry, slightly humiliated.
Okay, so I put that down to experience. Bad experience. I was reading a recent restaurant review where the reviewer had been to the same place twice.
One bad experience. One really good. I’d copped the bad one. Still, not entirely sure I’ll revisit that place in a hurry.
Hence my experience in Busselton was the good one, albeit a couple of hours down the road from the CBD.
First, breakfast at a popular coffee shop and it looked a bit daunting. Big bunch of industrial-strength blokes got in the queue before us.
Grabbed a seat, expecting a long wait. Nothing doing. A bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings worked like a Steve Jobs computer device to make a short macchiato of all comers on a busy Sunday morning.
Every job done politely, with a smile. All looked like local kids. What is going on here? I felt obliged to tell the manager of their excellent work (If you ever want to feel a sense of power, ask a young shop employee for a comment form).
At the stand outside the DVD shop, a pleasant young woman came outside to ask if any assistance was required. Inside the shop, she politely asked if she should get the DVDs I wanted while we browsed.
There is something in the water down there other than incredibly tasty, fresh fish (and the occasional white pointer).