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…

Appreciating the Differences

Coffee-and-milk-coffee-909061_1024_768Let’s just say you’re arguing with someone that you love and it’s just taking them forever to realize that you’re right.

And in the midst of talking about it… she will say her point of view so succinctly with some clever metaphor that’s dear to your heart, and suddenly, you get it. It makes perfect sense.

After a little awkward silence, you realize you’re so inside her point of view, you completely forgot what you were arguing about… You have to ask.

“Excuse me, can you remind me what I was…?”

“Yeah. You said that I was…” and she’ll describe the whole thing back to you.

And you go “Oh, huh. Wow.”

And it’s sort of one of those figure ground things, and it switches and you can see it again…

I mean, you had drawn your conclusions! You had collected the data, connected the dots, you’d seen the picture emerge, you were certain.

Same dots, same data. Just draw the lines differently, different picture.

Wow, never would have thought of that!

– David Wilcox, Singer/Songwriter

Why is it that we are so bent on forcing others to agree with our perspective? Think the way I think. Hear the way I hear. Speak the way I speak. Love the way I love. Our motives are so often focused on fixing others to be more like ourselves so that we feel comfortable, accepted, and wanted.

But ultimately, I think we want to fix others so we feel right. Correct. Justified.

I guess I could preach at you the sermon you’ve heard over and over to love people for who they are, not who you want them to be. Stop trying to fix everyone. Learn how to communicate on their level, love in ways they can receive, be there for THEM, yadda yadda yadda, you know all of this.

So… why do so many people have such a hard time with just letting others be different from them? There’s little to no room for being okay with the fact that other people think, process, and just act differently than you do.

Maybe it’s just me… but lately I’ve had quite a few discussions with friends about their frustrations with communicating with the people they love most, and I hear both sides. One side is angry, saying “You’re refusing to communicate with me in on my terms,” and the other side is crying out in anguish, “You won’t let me communicate with you on my terms!”

What would happen if you learned to understand and accept that the person across from you is a different person? She thinks differently, she processes differently, she expresses herself differently, and she loves differently than you do. This is what makes her unique. This is what makes her valuable. You want to learn how to be a better friend to her? Try being okay with the fact that SHE IS NOT YOU.

And more often than not, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about learning who the other person is, and celebrating it!

So when you’re in the middle of that conflict with someone that you love, stop. Just stop. If it’s real love that exists between you, you should both be able to step back and understand that the other person is not trying to hurt you or be malicious. Love doesn’t scream “I’m not okay, and it’s YOUR fault! If you would just do X, Y, and Z, things would be so much better!” (Or on the opposite side of the same coin: “You’re not okay, and it’s YOUR fault! Tell me what’s wrong – in my language and timing, so I can understand you – so I can tell you how to fix yourself!”)

Love says “This is what I’m feeling. How did this make you feel? What can I do to make this right?” (And again, opposite side of the same coin: “I can see you’re not okay. Would you like to talk about it? You don’t have to, and I won’t make you. I love you, and I’m here for you.”)

I’m either rambling or ranting at this point… I guess my point is, just be willing to look at the dots again and see a different picture. Appreciate the differences.

Confessions of an Extroverted Ambivert

meeting-mindsLast night I faced a tragedy. I was home, alone, by myself, with no one around me. Solitary. Single. Unaccompanied. Companionless. And I was facing 3 more nights of the exact same thing.

I thought I was going to die.

It was one of those nights when I was so lonely that I must have refreshed my Facebook feed every thirty seconds, CRAVING a new, enlightening post that I could like, or maybe even comment on! Now, ordinarily, I warmly accept a night such as this because they are few and far between. A few hours to veg out by myself are the perfect fix for my achiever soul. But when I have 4 nights in a row of unexpected alone time, it feels as if by the time I emerge again back into society I’ll have culture shock.

I stumbled across a page on BuzzFeed last night called “25 Frustrating Things About Being an Extrovert.” I forwarded the page to my mother (one of the two introverts in my extrovert family), who has no sympathy for my agony, in hopes that she might get a glimpse of why I need social interaction!

But sometimes I wonder if I’m not a true extrovert as the standard definition and stereotype goes. I think introverts stereotype extroverts as much as vice versa, and we are often seen as people who need to hog the microphone and the spotlight. In my case, that’s far from true. I love being around people but sometimes have nothing to say.

So, I did what I always do and took a personality quiz. Turns out, I’m an extroverted ambivert. Here are my confessions.

1. I charge up by being surrounded by people. This does not mean I always need to be the center of attention. (But honestly, when it happens I don’t mind it. :D)

2. The more to take in, the better I feel. Lights, sound, activity? Sign me up!

3. I am not a talker. More often than not, I prefer listening to talking and I get energy from hearing other people’s thoughts, opinions and ideas.

4. A full schedule makes me feel loved, needed, and appreciated, but when I don’t have enough time to shut down and sleep I feel stretched and overwhelmed.

5. I only need one evening to myself every 2-3 weeks (usually no more than 4-5 hours total) to wind down and rest.

6. I love telling stories and public speaking not because I enjoy talking, but because I enjoy feedback and responses from my “audience.” The words of affirmation as a response to something I said/did is much more fueling than my words/actions themselves.

7. When I am upset, talking to one person isn’t enough. I need to share with at least 3 people at separate times.

8. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not as well-read as some of my introverted friends, but I can’t spare the time needed to read because…. well… it would take time out of being WITH that friend!

9. Yes, I talk with my hands. It’s more for my benefit than my listener’s. Drawing pictures with my hands helps me express what I’m thinking more clearly.

10. I prefer a focused, balanced conversation with one person at a time than a group discussion. My get-to-know-you skills are diminished when I have to compete for your attention with several other people (especially if you are an introvert).

So don’t be surprised if you find me at a party but I’m quiet and reserved. I’m having a great time, but sometimes it’s nice to be surrounded by people and activity and say nothing at all. 🙂

 

I am Emma. Hear me roar.

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I am not very good at starting things.

Probably because I am a perfectionist. I’m the type of person who hates trying new things because I’m afraid of not doing it right the first time. Empty journals fill a couple shelves of my bookcase due to my self-imposed idea that the opening entry should have fascinating, breath-taking, multi-million-dollar-movie-opening-line quality.

However, due to a desire to express, a drive to achieve, a dedication to better myself, and a little bit of peer pressure, I’ve finally bit the bullet and started this blog (after a month or two of trying to come up with just the right blog name. Hence, the name.)

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I never understood it when people would tell me that they spent their college years “discovering who they were.” As a teenager, I couldn’t figure out how one didn’t know one’s identity. It seemed like a pretty easy thing to know.

“I am Emma. I am female, prone to emotional outbreaks and clumsiness. Hide your cereal and milk. My hobbies are X, Y, and Z. Do not ask me to repeat this message.”

Although now that I am 21 and halfway through a bachelor’s degree, I totally understand.

I found online personality tests.

Suddenly, the answers were all there! Why am I this way? What are my strengths? My weaknesses? My relationship tendencies? All of these questions (and more) were answered right on my computer screen. And alarmingly, every time I took a test, the results were always pretty accurate.

Apparently, I am a Type A. My Myers-Briggs type is ESTJ. My strengths in leadership are Individualization, Strategic, Competition, Includer, and Activator (go here for the full list of strengths and their descriptions).

I can’t get enough! I love to study personalities, and not just my own. After I discovered my Myers-Briggs type, I had all of my coworkers and boss take the exam too, just so I could analyze how they operate.

At the end of the day though, I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’m the only me there is, and that’s more than enough for this world to handle.