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Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

Thanks for saying thank you

Yesterday I had two customer service experiences that were at the opposite ends of the spectrum. One was negative, nasty, and altogether unpleasant. The other was positive, kind and redeemed my hope in friendly sales staff – at least temporarily.

I have to observe at the outset that overall, I think customer service in Santa Barbara is trending in a very negative direction lately. I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life working behind a counter in a retail store, so I feel like my critiques here are based more on knowing what makes good customer service, as opposed to whining from the credit-card holder’s perspective.

My basic rules for good customer service are these:

  1. You do not have to say hi to me or greet me when I walk in. I am totally OK with being ignored up to the point I want to buy/order something.
  2. Friendly conversation during the transaction is certainly appreciated, but not mandatory.
  3. If you do not say thank you when the purchase is complete, or after I have thanked YOU for selling me clothing/food/something I probably don’t need, I will flip out.

And by flipping out, I mean that I will remember the experience, and I will probably not return to your establishment unless there is simply no alternative.

The primary targets of my ire here are usually younger clerks or counter staff who seem to have taken some kind of vow to do their jobs while being surly and speaking less than five words during the course of the transaction.  The main thing they seem to be missing is this: Your job is going to be way more pleasant if you engage with the public. I know retail is no fun, but sharing a “Hi, how are you, how is your day going?” is going to help, not hurt. The returned greetings and subsequent conversations are going to make you feel better about your job and your life. The day will go faster, and you might even feel like a real human being as a result.

I’m not going to recount the negative experience I had yesterday other than to say that it might be a good idea to avoid a certain major national auto service chain located on the corner of Hollister and Fairview. The staff working there yesterday was universally hostile, and I felt depressed and upset when I left.

On the flip side, after work I stopped by Whole Foods to grab some dinner supplies. As usual, I picked the wrong line (I’m really gifted at this). The wait took a little longer than it should have, maybe five minutes, because there was an issue with the customer ahead of me. But when the time came to pay, the employee (whose name was Bryan) thanked me for my patience and apologized. Instantly I forgot that I was waiting and in a hurry. I thanked Bryan for acknowledging the wait, and we proceeded to have an interesting conversation about customer service in Santa Barbara and how it has been going to the dogs. (Turns out we are both local natives who lament the tragic new absence of bookstores downtown.)

So this is a thank you to Bryan at Whole Foods and all the other SB customer service folks who are swimming upstream against a current of rampant surliness. Just say thank you. That’s all it really takes.

Common Sense

In other words, your common sense is greatly appreciated.


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