An open letter to the clerk at CVS

Dear Aaron,

I know your name because I checked the receipt as soon as I left the store. I’m not stalking you, I promise. But I did want to identify you so someone would get credit for what happened at my local CVS pharmacy.

We did not know each other when I shuffled in through the automatic doors, and unfortunately for you, this means that you had no idea that I am the Simon Cowell of customer service.

Simon Cowell

In our initial interaction, this is probably the look I gave you when you asked if I was finding everything alright.

I spent enough years behind a counter and on the phone learning how to create and maintain customer relationships that I can smooth talk almost any grumpy, dissatisfied patron off the cliff of “Take My Business Elsewhere.” Truly, there’s an art behind customer service, whether it’s promoting a new product, up-selling to increase add-ons, and (my personal favorite) recovering a sale when someone in your establishment messed it up and did not take responsibility. There is skill behind every well-timed smile, every carefully rehearsed phrase, every studied response to any situation. A proficient customer service representative is one who treats every customer with individual and personalized attention, respect, and pleasure. He or she is never without grace, charm, and charisma, in spite of how stuff goes down in the break room. Regardless of his or her service level, every representative’s main goal should be to keep the customer feeling pleased, appreciated, welcomed, and most importantly, keep them coming back – and never give them a good reason not to.

Unfortunately, like most arts, the skill and technique behind customer service is lost in our culture of mediocrity and entitlement. Our storefronts are full of representatives who’s sole purpose is to reach the paycheck at the end of the week and will only do the bare minimum to keep the boss happy – not necessarily the customers. We just want them satisfied. Happy is a bonus, not a requirement.

You know who I’m talking about… The representative who offers a cool greeting, politely asks if you found all of your items okay, swiftly and silently bags all of your goods, and hands you your receipt with a flat and emotionless “Thank you for shopping at Happy Campers. Please come again.” All without looking in your eyes or cracking a single smile.

It was this kind of “customer service” that I was expecting when I entered your establishment, Aaron. I was certainly not prepared for what what I got instead.

As I trudged up to your counter, only half-thawed from the frozen weather outside and carrying more cereal and milk than my arms could hold, I’ll admit, I was probably a bit grumpy and formidable. You looked like an average preppy high-schooler who probably only had this job for spending money, but I was no match for you. You looked me straight in the eye, grinned, and said, “Looks like someone needed a basket!”

I half-smiled. Smart aleck kid. Just ring me up.

But oh no. You took on the Customer Service Nazi.

“Okay, your total is $37.86. Do you have a CVS card?”

“No.”

“Okay, well let me just scan this one here to see if I can get any discounts for you… Oh wow! You just saved five whole dollars on your purchase!” *big grin here*

simon-cowell-american-idol-3-320

The Simon Cowell in me got curious right then and there. Sell it to me, kid.

You kept going: “The great thing about this CVS card is that it’s already activated with this purchase! And attached to it is an informational booklet that will help you get it all registered and set up so that we can continue to offer you great discounts in the future. And even if you lose the card, we can just enter your phone number and still save you money. Would you like to keep it?”

You looked me in the eye and offered me the card. You gave me the choice to opt out. Nice move, Skippy.

I accepted the card (I don’t normally).

As my receipt started printing, you were almost bouncing for this next part. “Alright, let’s see if you got any additional bucks you can use in future purchases! OH MY GOSH, from this transaction, you got two CVS dollars that you can use at any time!!! Just bring this receipt right back to save two dollars on your next trip to CVS!” You were so excited, and it was genuine.

15T069.1 colorYou were enjoying your job. You took pleasure in serving a grumpy stranger and your attitude was professional, cheerful, and not overbearing. You saved me SEVEN WHOLE DOLLARS in one swift move, and you did it all with personable charisma.

Yeah, I can guess that maybe there was some ulterior motive behind talking me into accepting the CVS card and promoting the additional CVS dollars, but that’s when the art of customer service truly shines in taking on a challenge, and never letting the customer know you’re trying to reach a tally or quota set by Higher Corporate Powers, because to the customer, you’re doing this exclusively for them. The customer leaves feeling special and appreciated, and she will most CERTAINLY return to use those two dollars!

I was beaming by the time I left. And I was serious when I told you that you should consider becoming a car salesman (you said you’d think about it – with another smile).

Thank you for taking on your craft with sincerity and passion. You, sir, are a beacon of hope for the Simon Cowell’s looking for natural talent and ability to achieve.

Congratulations, Aaron. You’ve advanced to the next round.

Sincerely,

Emma

Is it wrong to eat my mother?

It started out so well…

As I faced the Great Texas Icepocalypse of 2013, I knew I had two options: stay at my own house alone where I would eventually die of boredom and be eaten by a pack of wild, rabid dogs, OR stay with my parents and eat warm meals, watch endless games of football, and spend quality time with my mother. I opted for the latter. And besides, it was only supposed to last a couple of days.

It was going to be the perfect mother-daughter bonding time. I could already smell the buttery cinnamon wafting out of the oven, and hear the fire crackling in the woodstove and the tinkling laugher as we merrily hung the ornaments on the tree together, reminiscing over every cotton ball and popsicle stick ornament from my childhood.

It started out SO well…

Day 1.

I woke up like I was in an Ambien commercial. Refreshed, energized, and practically glowing from warm, restful sleep under an electric blanket. The scent of fresh coffee hit me before my feet hit the cold floor, and as I entered the living room, my mother called to me from the kitchen with a bright and cheerful “Hi there, honey!”

Heaven.

Though the weather outside was frightful, we had a beautiful day. Like the good daughter, I took the dogs out so my mom didn’t have to brave the cold. In return, she made homemade blueberry muffins. We cozied in on the couch, and had deep heart-to-heart discussions about love, faith, and healthy living.

Day 2.

No fresh muffins…

No worries, I ate the remnants from yesterday’s breakfast. Mom and I chatted a bit about the weather. We stayed inside. It was quiet.

The ice had compacted and solidified overnight, so it was clear that my stay with my parents would be a little longer than expected.

We eventually decided to watch a movie. Bridget Jones Diary kept us entertained and laughing for a good 2 hours, and then it was quiet again. Only 6 hours until bedtime… We were confined to the main living area of the house because it was the only one with heat, so we were grateful that we got along so well. Braving the cold, we went outside to take pictures of ice to post on all of our social media and spent the rest of the day scrolling through thousands of other filtered Instagram photos of merry sledders and icicles on rooftops.

Day 3.

We ran out of milk. Our morning greetings were reduced to low grunts.

The ice froze on, but our cheery dispositions slowly melted away over the long hours of confinement. I took a long hot shower for the sake of alone time. Our entertainment consisted of mocking each other.

Day 4.

All attempts at personal hygiene were abandoned. Roads were still impassible. Considered walking the 7 miles to my house. Leftover spaghetti for breakfast. Took turns chasing the cat out of the half-decorated Christmas tree. Sick of the living room. Stopped talking to each other. Spent the evening working on a jigsaw puzzle and bottle of wine. She finished one of them without me.

Day 5. (Today)

Contemplated cannibalism. Tried to chop up the ice on the back porch for fun. Didn’t work, gave up. Battery life on phone back down to 20% after refreshing Facebook 375,284 times. Argued with mom over how to properly scramble an egg.¬†Wondered how long it would take wild, rabid dogs to consume an entire corpse.

The ice is threatening to melt… Kinda.

This has been such a great practice run for NEXT weekend when my mom and I will spend 4 days together in San Antonio for my birthday. We are still excited about the trip (The Hobbit, SeaWorld, and Riverwalk, oh my!), but this time we will be sharing a bedroom… Hilarity ahead…

Stay tuned…