Thursday, December 21, 2006

But Enough About the Bad Customers, Let’s Talk About the Good

I’m afraid that my bad customer rant yesterday came off too ranty. Customers, especially customers this time of year, are usually pretty nice. Some even exceed all expectations of coolness, so don’t go feeling sorry for me.

Well, not true. Feel free to laugh at me.

The other day I was selling two copies of Culture Warrior to a customer and I started to say Happy Holidays. The “happy” had just cleared my mouth when it occurred to me that “oh shit, an O’Reilly reader is going to want to hear Merry Christmas,” but I’d spent the last few hours ringing and all I could get out was “Happy…Merry?”

He looked at me for a few seconds and said in a very correct tone, “Or Merry Christmas.”

Unable to get the right words out I just finally told him to have a nice day. I’m such a dork.

What zonks me out this time of year is not the customers, or even the running around, it’s the long periods of time when I stand in one place not moving. Give me a customer with a list and an obstacle course to run around any day instead of three or four hours of standing still and ringing. A long enough rush and I lose all ability to retain a hold on credit cards and speak more than two words in a row, which, oddly enough, are the same symptoms of Caffeine no Havus (something that often strikes those who just refuse to wake up in time).

Yesterday I was suffering from Caffeine no Havus. I’d chosen to befriend my snooze alarm instead of getting out of bed on time, and I was paying for it after I opened. Not only did I have a hard time counting money (if I sleep really deeply the night before it takes me a long time to wake up), but I couldn’t process more than a thought or two at once. After I’d fumbled her credit card and asked her something really inane (like do you want a book for your bag?), the customer I was helping (who did a really good job of hiding her laughter) asked me if I’d gotten enough sleep.

“Sleep wasn’t the problem,” I told her, “I just haven’t had any coffee.”

“Are you giving it up?” she asked, which prompted me to tell my tale of woe and snooze alarm love—something she completely understood—and how the line at Starbucks caused the dreaded co-disease coffee interruptus.

“I’ll get some coffee when a coworker gets here.” Only I think we both knew that I wouldn’t because suddenly there were people in the mall and who wanted help. Neither of us said this out loud though, and she left with her book.

And that could have been that, just a good conversation with a customer where we both laughed—an example of any such conversation I have with the multitudes of good customers that come through my door every day.

But then she came back twenty minutes later with a Venti house coffee with cream and every single type of sugar and sugar substitute in one of those little cardboard carriers, all of which she gave to me.

I almost cried. Swear to God that I got so choked up and Caffeine overwhelmed that I’m not sure I said a proper thank you, or if I should have offered to pay her back or what. I really don’t remember and I can’t say that I’ll even recognize her face again, which kills me.I can, however, immortalize this customer on the internet for any and all to read.

So thank you, customer. Thank you so much. You made my day, and may you have a very Happy Merry.

I’ll pay the coffee forward to the next droopy-eyed victim of Caffeine no Havus I see.


Anonymous said...

I think I would have cried. That is one fabulous customer.

You're right about there being far more good customers than bad; I think we just tend to remember the bad ones more. :( I always let them stick in my craw way longer then I should have.

RandomRanter said...

That is so amazing!

Beth said...

So there you go - one fabulous customer made up for all those terrible ones. (Well, maybe 1/2 of those terrible ones.)
Christmas/human spirit at its finest...

Anonymous said...

Sniff, I'm inspired. Maybe everyone reading this should go out today and do something equally kind. What a great post, chick.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people are just lovely. Thanks for sharing that story. And for reminding me that I need coffee because my head is about to slam into my keyboard. Merry Christmas!

Diane P said...

When my daughter and I visited 2 bookstores yesterday, we were very careful to be kind to the booksellers.You were right and the booksellers were standing behind the counters for a long time. On the other hand at this time of year standing behind the counters is good for the bottom line.

Every one seemed to be in the holiday spirit tho the drivers seemed to have too much spirit-nasty.

Lisa Hunter said...

What a lovely story! I'm sure the coffee was meant to be a gift, so don't stress about offering to pay.

Anonymous said...

Your wonderful customer is a great example of the *true* spirit of Christmas. We have many wonderful regular customers who have been bringing us lots of goodies to munch on during our hectic, stressed-out times, and that certainly helps too.

Racy Li said...

That is SUCH a great story!

Simon Haynes said...

I like to think that for every mean-spirited, arrogant and downright nasty human being on this planet there's a charitable person who would do something thoughtful like this. Sometimes I wonder at the ratio but it's always nice to hear a good story.
(Sometimes I also whether there's a quick 'n' painless way to remove all the pricks and make the world a special, caring place - but everyone has an off day and we could end up with an uninhabited planet.)

ebbye said...

I have had bad days like that and then someone pops in with a coffee or smarties and make my day!

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, tears in my eyes.

quiche said...

What a wonderful thing to do. I'm sure she understood and this gesture shows how much customers appreciate all that you do, whether or not they let you know.

Anonymous said...

Awww! What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing--and inspiring the rest of us shoppers to do the same.

Clark Adams said...

Good customer relationships are always catalyzed by the way you treat your customers. It's best if you would handle data and maybe a membership card system to confirm their identity. Also, you can't make your products and service mediocre. You have to set high standards for your product so that your current customers and the possible customers would not hesitate to buy stuff from you.

I suggest using a data management system. I heard that it can help with customer relationships management and it's integrated in some kind of accreditation management system, too.