SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – At a time before the mega-super markets and giant discount department stores put neighborhood mom and pop shops out of business, there was a sales strategy known as Customer Service where the consumer was made to feel not only wanted but rather special. The store owners and employees knew your name and took the time to tell a joke or comment on world events, making you glad to give them your business and want to return again and again. Every little place had its own specialty whether meat or fish or clothing or groceries or deli items rather than having everything under one roof, and though today’s ability to do all your shopping in just one location sounds advantageous, pleasant human interaction and personal identity have suffered as a result.
Instead of the humongous pharmacies that sell everything from electronics to beachwear while prescription items are hidden in the rear, there once were drug and candy stores that had tables in the back where you could hang out to sip a malted and play cards, meet friends, and flirt with the girls. Those were familiar landmarks, places where you went as a kid, grew up, and brought your own children to enjoy the camaraderie in a sort of home away from home.
Not only did the small stores provide a congenial atmosphere but the quality of the merchandise was the best or you wouldn’t have shopped there, and you always got the exact amount of what you wanted, no more and no less. The reason for the great service was that the person waiting on you was the store owner whose life’s investment was at stake, and if it was an employee, he or she still cared or the owner would have fired them on the spot. By contrast, today’s conglomerates are staffed with minimum wage employees or temps who couldn’t care less about your business, and if you don’t come back it’s just one less person to be waited upon. Last week I was at the deli counter of our local super market and asked the attendant for ¼ lb. of seafood salad. He put in an amount that weighed .355 lb. and when I said that was too much he replied that he thought I wanted ¼ lb., to which I pointed out that ¼ lb. is .250. He removed the excess but when I then requested 1 lb. of cole slaw he gave me .750 lb. instead. Again I corrected his mistake and could see the obviously annoyed look on his face as he made the correction. Tough luck fella. Either care about what you’re doing or do something else, you’re hurting business.
You might think that was an isolated incident with just one person, but about a month prior at the same super market I had asked for a ¼ lb. of chicken salad and when I told the clerk that .315 lb. was too much he sarcastically remarked that I must work for the Dept. of Weights and Measures. What these jerks don’t realize is that their incompetence and insolence makes me shop elsewhere, going to Westboro’s super market instead and only going to Shrewsbury’s location in an emergency. I know these bozos don’t care but the store suffers as a consequence, for after all someone does own it.
To be fair, not every employee falls into this category since a guy at Westboro’s deli counter named Roosevelt is always friendly and accommodating, even taking a minute to discuss the latest doings of the Red Sox or Patriots. I always make it a point to stop by and wave even when not needing anything at his section, and am more than happy to patronize that store just because of him. Though it’s virtually a lost art, Customer Service sells.