Not So Good With Kids

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I was texting with my sister this week and she sent me a message about how she started laughing hysterically after seeing a baby in a restaurant.  I should probably preface this by saying that we’ve always joked about how awkward I am with children and like to joke that I’m going to have my sister raise my children until they can talk because I don’t know how to communicate with them if they can’t say what they need.

 

Whenever I see a baby I always end up making eye contact with them and then feel super uncomfortable because they stare, and then I stare, and then we’re just staring and thinking about how weird the other is.  If I cross paths with a dog I always smile and say hi, but if I see a baby I freeze.  I think that maybe some of the tension between me and babies comes from how similar we can be.

 

For instance, at work the other day (I work in a bakery) I was envying the smell of the popcorn being made across the way from me.  It smelled so good and actually made my stomach rumble.  I’m over here practically salivating like Pavlov’s dogs and look to see a little girl sitting in a cart, clutching a bag of popcorn as big as she is, and laying on it like a pillow.  She was smiling so big and looked so happy that you wouldn’t question that it was the best day of her life.

 

I couldn’t help but smile and think “you smug bastard” all at the same time.  I was jealous but also knew that, if I was honest, I would do the exact same thing if I had a bag of popcorn to cradle.

 

Because our store is all about customer service, we’ve been told many times that we must always greet the customer, say hi and ask if there is anything we can do to help them.  So, I temporarily overcome my natural instinct to become invisible, and always try to make eye contact and say hi.  Everything goes fine when the customer has proper social cues and goes about their business, but when the customer is a parent with a kid in the cart, I know there’s only one way this interaction can go.

 

I’ll smile and say hi to the parent, then see below my eye level a little human looking at me.  Sometimes they smile, but mostly they stare and then of course I stare and then we’re just staring and I can’t help but think that I don’t want to be the first one to break the staring contest but then realize that the parent is probably noticing that I’m staring at their kid and try to discreetly go about my business while trying to nonchalantly win the staring contest.  Sometimes I make faces when the parents aren’t looking so the kid blinks.  Usually they look at me horrified.

 

One of the suggestions our store manager made about “above and beyond customer service” was

“If you see a little kid crying, imagine how great it would feel to them if you walk over and hand them a cookie to make them feel better”.

I was just like, do you know how awkward I would make that situation?  Flustered, I’d jab a cookie at them and be like “um, here’s a cookie” and then probably stand there uneasily and hope that the parent wouldn’t be mad that this weirdo was giving their kid a cookie that they may or not even be able to have.

 

One mom and her daughter asked me to write “Happy Birthday Nanno” on a cake for them.  When I brought it back, the mom showed the little girl and said excitedly, “Look how pretty!”  I looked at the girl and said (I thought sweetly) “Is it your birthday?!”  The girl looked at me like I had just suggested that she eat her own poop and the mom said slowly, “No, it’s her grandma’s birthday”.  “Oh, ok.  Have a good birthday!” I said and then quickly walked away.

Why?

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What’s the worst (or best) experience you’ve had as a customer?

I stumbled across this prompt on The Daily Post, and can’t help but feel the irony of the location I’m posting this from. The way that my morning ride situation works out, I usually end up sitting in Starbucks for about an hour every day before heading to work myself. Sometimes the employees are friendly, but (in my mind anyways) I’ve gotten this idea that they kind of hate me because I’m here almost every day but do not necessarily buy something every day. I always use their bathroom though!

I’m not sure if it’s reasonable or not to feel like I have to buy something just because I’m sitting in Starbucks and using their Wi-Fi. I used to tell myself this is the city; people hang out places like this all the time. Being that I try to consciously keep track of days when I do or don’t spend money and what I spend money on, I choose not to get something all the time. I’ve noticed all the regulars (which I don’t include myself in because the baristas don’t know me by name or know my drink order) by now and how friendly their relationship with the employees is. I have to wonder if they genuinely like these regulars as people or just maintain good relationships because it brings business back.

Usually I try to do my best to walk in to Starbucks unnoticed but sometimes, on those days that I decide to buy a treat on my way out the door, I feel like the barista is very pointedly asking “Nothing to drink with that?” I have to wonder how much of this perceived hostility is in my head and how much of it actually exists. Why is it that I can not let things like that bother me?

I recently started working in a bakery and had an experience the other day that made me ask myself why customers choose to handle some situations the way they do. There was a man looking through the bagel selection while my manager and I were behind the counter. I was asking her a question about the cakes I had to decorate and the man suddenly stands up, bagel in hand, displaying the bagel to us like we’ve never seen one before.

“You see this?” he asks us. “Who makes these?”

Awkward pause.

“You should take a picture of this for whoever makes these so they know what this kind of bagel is supposed to look like.”

“I’m here every day and sometimes when I come in there are hardly any seeds on top” he continues.

My manager informs him: “The overnight lady is good, but she is usually off two days a week so when she isn’t here they aren’t the same. I recently had to fire some one because they weren’t cutting it so don’t worry, I am working on it.”

“Well it’s too bad they can’t be like this every day. This one right here” he says, thrusting the bagel out again, “is perfect. So keep a picture of it so you know what it’s supposed to look like”.

“Okay sir” my manager replies.

After the man walked away my manager rolled her eyes to me; I had been standing there awkwardly listening to the whole conversation, not sure what role I was supposed to play in the situation.

“Oh my God. I hate those people sometimes.”

“Of all the ways to approach that, that was certainly an interesting way to have that conversation” I laughed.

I try to be as accommodating as possible, knowing that customers’ business is what keeps me employed, but sometimes I just can’t believe how customer-employee interactions go. Sometimes my coworkers are the ones being difficult and unaccommodating, and sometimes the customers are making absurd requests. It’s one of the joys of customer relations. I guess that’s why I feel more self-conscious about my mornings in Starbucks now that I work in a customer service field too. I know how annoying it can be when people just hang out or make a nuisance of themselves at my job, but Starbucks culture is more centered around hanging out in the store than the culture of a bakery in a grocery store is (in my opinion). So, if you have to handle a disgruntled employee today, I apologize. But, as customers, we can all do a little more to be accommodating of employees trying to help us. I’m still pretty new to my job and there’s nothing I appreciate more than a little patience while I try to problem solve.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/daily-prompt-service/

A great customer service story:
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/09/18/this-story-of-a-19-year-old-dairy-queen-employee-standing-up-for-a-blind-man-will-touch-your-heart/