Here it is August 29 and I don’t feel so celebratory. I’m going to ask for more days tacked on to my birthday month. I’m sure to be allowed maybe ten more. Who do I ask, you say? Why, me, of course, and my answer is, “Yessireeeeee!”

Just a few minutes ago, I settled on the couch in The Cellar for a nap. Dave and I are headed to the Towne Centre Theatre to see The Odd Couple–Female Version. The play starts at 8:00 o’clock and anyone who knows me also knows that’s pretty close to my bedtime. My cell phone rang just about the time I dozed, Wal-Mart calling. Even though no one from Wal-Mart has ever called my cell phone before, I answered because that’s where all my parents medical prescriptions are maintained and filled.

2014-08-28 18.26.46“Is this Diana?” the man asked. “Diana,” he said, not “Mrs. Blair’s daughter.”

When I answered yes, he said he was the store manager and that he understood I had a customer service issue on Day 27 of my birthday month. (Okay, he didn’t say that, exactly. He said August 27.)

I did. I had a customer service issue at Wal-Mart two days ago.

Mom and I made the weekly shopping trip two days early. We had to get dressed that morning, anyway, for her annual eye exam, and since we were out already and she had her shopping list with her, I suggested it might be helpful if we just trotted right on down to Wal-Mart. She also needed to drop off a printed prescription, another selling point for Wednesday shopping instead of Friday.

I congratulated myself when Mom was so agreeable. (My sweet mother is always agreeable.) Friday would be the only day this week, and well into next, that nothing would be on the calendar…well, until we met friends for early dinner and then checked out the Neil Simon play. And not having daytime demands would mean I could prepare for the play by, you guessed it, taking a nap.

We reviewed Mom’s list once inside. “It’s not written very well,” she said.

It wasn’t, but I read through quickly and she confirmed item by item. She said she would take care of anything in the pharmacy. I suggested if she had time, and she felt like it, she might wander over to produce to check out the nectarines. We’ve been lamenting the end of the peach season. “Good idea.”

She handed me a $1-off-two coupon from her purse. “And then two boxes of Cheerios.” she said, “I wrote down the two kinds.” I saw the circle around Multi-Grain Cheerios. She had scribbled “Multi-Grain Cinnamon Apple Burst Cinnamon” between the pictures of different varieties and the expiration date.

She called my cell phone to say that she had parked herself and her Rollator walker named Dolly at the front of the store, the basket loaded with nutrition drinks and vitamins and prescriptions tucked inside the top of her Laurel Burch bag.

“Well,” she added, “I can’t find my credit card so you’ll have to check this stuff out, too. I don’t know what happened to it.”

“When did you last use it?”

“I don’t know. I can’t think right now.”

“Don’t worry yet. I’ll look for it when I get up front.” I said I’d be less than fifteen more minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, I was staring at Cheerios, all kinds of Cheerios. I went across each shelf three times and called Mom. “There’s no Multi-Grain Cinnamon Apple Burst Cinnamon,” I said. In fact, I’d already confirmed that there was nothing there with either Cinnamon or Apple in the name.

“Okay,” she answered.

I waited for a few moments. “Mom, what do you want instead of the Cinnamon Apple Cinnamon Burst?”

“Oh! Well, just get me some frosted ones.”

I found them easily and looked at the list. “Cherries. Now I just need the cherries.” I wheeled through the produce and grabbed a bag of sweet cherries.

I keep Mom’s items in the front of the cart, so I always check out her order before mine. It seems easier to spot my mistakes if I do hers first. Sometimes keeping items separate becomes difficult. This week, I discovered my $11.48 bag of chicken in her bags after I’d paid. I looked at the receipt again before I handed it to her.

“Oh, dear Lord, Mom, I have bought you $14.39 worth of cherries.”

“Cherries? I didn’t have cherries on the list.”

I handed her the list since the checker had started to scan my groceries.

“Ohhhhh,” she said, “that says ‘Cheerios’. I sure hope you’re in the mood to eat some cherries because I already have a big bag in the frig.”

When Andre, who was new, started to move my stuff across the scanner, my four nectarines rang up at $1.68 each. I’m surprised I happened to notice. I remarked, “Andre, I do believe those nectarines rang up at ‘each’ instead of ‘per pound’.” It took a few minutes before Andre realized what I was so exercised about, and then he tried everything but he could not force the $1.68 per pound. He called for help.

A blonde woman, younger than I (isn’t everybody?), sauntered down that space in front of the check-out counters (I never know what to call that) and after hearing the problem from Andre, told him that the price for the nectarines was
“1.68 a pound, not 1.68 apiece.” He shyly told her yes, he knew that, but that he could only get them to register at 1.68 each. After she tried to ring them up, she said she would take them over to the produce department to “get them straightened out” and, if she wasn’t back by the time he was finished with my groceries, he should “suspend the order.”

He nodded, and before she made it to the watermelons in the front of the green groceries, Andre checked the last item.

“She said I should suspend your order, okay?”

“Yes, I understand. I’ll just wait over here.” I sat on the edge of the next station’s bag carousel.

“What are we waiting for?” Mom asked from her perch across the aisle. I got up to get closer to her to explain.

Andre started on the order behind me, a large one. I saw Carol coming with a plastic sack just after the first item crossed the scanner. She laid the nectarines beside the register and said, “Just give me a couple minutes and then you can scan them.” Then she left in the opposite direction. I figured there was another computer over there somewhere.

I interrupted Andre in something like a loud whisper. “Am I going to have to wait through that whole order?”

He turned quickly. “No, no, I’m just getting these first three things…”

Carol stepped into the front aisle and called out, “It’s okay, now.”

Andre turned in two circles. “Where are the nectarines? What happened to the nectarines?”

I pointed. “They’re right there. She put them right there.”

Andre turned to his new customer. “Do you mind if I just get these….”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“No problem,” the man said.

Andre entered the code for yellow nectarines and got the number we were looking for. I took the fruit from his hand. “Where’s my produce bag? She took my produce bag.”

Mom perked up. “She put it beside your purse, right there on the buggy.”

“Oh, sorry,” I said–to no one. “Oh, wait, I haven’t paid for these groceries.”

***

“Can we go now?” Mom asked.

“Yes, we can leave. Do you realize that woman never said one word to me? I’m not even sure she made eye contact.”

A clerk from Customer Service stood just to our right in the hall.

I stopped. “May I please speak to the store manager?”

“You want to see the manager? Okay.” She hurried to a door inside the department and knocked. The door opened and then closed. The clerk came toward me. A different front end manager or assistant manager appeared from the left. The clerk spoke immediately to the new woman. “Can you tell Carol that somebody is here and needs to see a manager?” That’s when I first knew Carol’s name. 

“Who is Carol?” I asked.

“She’s the lady coming from the produce department, right there.” The clerk nodded Carol’s direction.

“Well, she’s the person I was about to complain about,” I said.

The new woman said with a smile, “Well, that won’t do. Here, you just wait in here and I’ll get you the manager.” She wanted me to step into the Customer Service department.

“No,” I said, “I’m not waiting.”

But when I saw that Carol was almost in front of me, I told the new woman, “It’s okay. You just stay right here. I’ll tell Carol myself.”

Mom rolled Dolly around me toward the door. Looked to me like she was moving pretty fast. She was making a getaway, but she stopped in front of the vision department.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Carol asked.

“When a customer has a problem, and you have to come out and fix it for them, you really need to say something to the customer. Say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I wish this hadn’t happened’ or ‘I hope your day improves after this…Something.”

New Woman nodded in affirmation. “I know that’s right,” she said.

“Oh, I am so sorry,” Carol said. “I really am sorry.”

“Did you notice that you never even spoke to me?”

“I’m sorry. I just wasn’t thinking.”

“Well, I was thinking.”

“See, what happened was those nectarines were in the computer wrong, and to fix that, I have to….”

“I don’t care about that,” I said. “I understand computer problems. I am a little surprised that no one else has complained and it’s almost one o’clock–but my problem is that you needed to apologize. When you have to fix something like this, you represent the store. The checker was doing everything he could, and he apologized, but nothing ever came from you. He needed to hear support from you, too.” I noticed that the customer service clerk was gone. “And the next thing is, I asked to see the store manager. Where was he and why wouldn’t he come out of that office? You see what just happened here?”

“Yes, yes, I do. I am so, so sorry.” Carol took both my hands. “I hope you’ll come back.”

“We okay now? We okay?” New Woman asked. She patted both our shoulders, mine and Carol’s.

“We’re fine,” I said. “Truly, we are fine.”

“I hope we are,” Carol said.

New woman added just as I turned to leave, “You will come back, won’t you?”

“You know, I hate it but I will. I have to. But if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t.”

“Oh, no-o-o-o-o,” they answered together.

I laughed and waved. “Thanks for listening.”

***

About an hour later, Dave said, “You know those nectarines you bought? One of them has a huge soft spot on it. I put it by the sink. Somebody needs to eat it right away.”

When he left the room, I said, “Gimme the damn thing.” I washed it and cut the soft spot out. I finished it in four bites and still dribbled it all over my clean shirt. And then I went downstairs and wrote an email to Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas. I made sure to identify the store manager as the latest target of my wrath. After all, Carol and I had everything worked out.

***

So Mike Conley explained to me that he was promoted to this Wal-Mart store just seven weeks ago, that he’s been in management with Wal-Mart for eighteen years, and that he has a reputation for good customer service. He wanted to know when I was in the store and, after a couple of questions, he assured me that the door the customer service clerk knocked on was the door to the accounting office.

“This is no excuse for what you went through, but if you were leaving the store at 12:30, I was at lunch. I wasn’t in my office, but I was not in the accounting office, either.”

Mike Conley asked me to tell him my story. I ended the saga by saying, “If I could, I’d shop at Publix and pay more for my groceries. It’s obvious that they train their employees to take care of customers. Maybe Wal-Mart ought to contract Publix for training.”

He chuckled at that one. “Might not be a bad idea.”

He thanked me several times and wound down our conversation with, “Now what I would like to do is to visit with you sometime when you’re in the store and have a few minutes.”

So I’m going to have coffee with Mike Conley pretty soon. Right now, I’m going to go get a nectarine and then get ready for The Female Odd Couple. I hear it’s funny.

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