One of the things that has delighted and frustrated me in equal measure is the standard of service you receive here in shops etc. It’s one of two things; either staff are incredibly helpful, genuinely friendly and accommodating (which I like a lot) or they have a bloody attitude problem and just can’t be arsed with you. And this just drives me nuts. I know Carol thinks I can get all argumentative at times but when I receive poor service I have to take issue with people. It’s who I am.

For example we hadn’t been here long and took the boys to meet their mum and dad in town for lunch and had a look around Grand Central Station. Afterwards Sarah wanted to buy the boys some new Converse boots so we went to a nearby Footlocker store. First up it took like 10 minutes before anyone came over to help then Sarah said she was looking to buy some trainers for the boys (which is a bit of a ticket time I can tell you) and asked if the assistant could measure the boys feet. There was a lot of tutting as the chap mumbling something about not knowing where the measuring device was. Well could you possibly find it,  Sarah asked politely.  He went off and we never saw him for another 10 minutes until I went to look for him only to find him serving another customer! What happened in your search for the measuring device, I asked. Oh I couldn’t find it.  So you just frig off and  serve someone else? He shrugged. I went off to find the manager and explained what the idiot assistant had done and asked if she could get us someone who could actually find the tool and serve us properly. We got another assistant who was a little more helpful and did a job of measuring the boys feet on an adult device and estimated their foot sizes. Sarah wasn’t happy to buy shoes that might not be really well-fitted and they had a poor range anyway so we thanked her and left, frustrated. This was a major  store in expensive midtown and you’d expect a top retail organisation to employ their best staff there but they just didn’t seem to give a frig.

Later the same day we went into a super trainer store in Harlem – they have shrines dedicated to the trainer here – and a young girl in the busy shop sorted out the measuring and found exactly the Converse boots that Sarah wanted for the boys.  The girl was fun and sassy and incredibly good with the boys. She was great and had earned herself a decent commission no doubt – well deserved I might add.  It’s really not hard to be good at service if you have the right attitude.

Then this week I had two poor experiences at our local food store, the Best Market on FreddyDouglass Bvd…

Now it’s a store I really like and I go there every week day believe it or not. The food is fresh and there’s a great selection with an in-store bakery,  well-stocked deli counter, sushi bar, fish market, smoked meat lunch bar and a major beer store. I wouldn’t say the prices are cheap but they’re comparable to online ordering. And most of the staff are very nice. But the other day I was at the till, the bill came to 23 dollars and 89 cents. I knew I had 25 dollars on me and so didn’t need to use my card. The girl on the till was yaddering away to her mate on the next till in that loud way they do and she presented me with my receipt and 11 cents in change. I’m sorry you owe me another dollar I said. Er no sir she said you have the right change. No I don’t, I gave you 25 dollars so you owe me another dollar. No you gave me 24 dollars sir. I didn’t and I’m not happy I replied. You were too busy chatting away and you made a mistake. It happens but can I have my correct change please? Well she said the only way to resolve this is to do a reconciliation. Ok what does that entail?  Well you’ll have to wait here till the book-keeper arrives which could take 2-3 hours and he’ll tot up the cash in the till versus goods receipt and if the till is a dollar up then you can have your dollar back. What? I’m sorry sir but you seems to be making a lot of fuss over a single dollar. Really? I replied. It’s not the amount, it’s the principle here; you’ve made a mistake and I’ve been short-changed. Well there’s nothing I can do about it she concluded helpfully.  You keep the dollar and add it to your profits I just said and walked out.

Then yesterday morning I was in again – you can see I’m not a man to hold a grudge.  Ian had given me a promotional offer he’d printed off at work. It was a 2 for 1 lunch deal at the smoked-wood bar. According to the image and blurb  you could get a pulled pork sandwich or two pieces of southern fried chicken and get another free. Well Carol and I quite like the pulled pork, not usually at lunch but hey.  I queued up for about 15 minutes and then asked the guy for the sandwich deal and gave him the paperwork. He had a heavy Hispanic accent so it was a little difficult to catch all he was saying but he had a bit of an issue and went off to discuss with a colleague before returning. He gave me the paper back and said you can’t have a sandwich you have to have a meal. What’s the difference?  Well a meal you get in a box and can have up to three big sides of mac cheese, collared greens, corn etc. I don’t really want all that I explained just give me the pork and a bun as it shows on the promotion. You have to have a meal sir he said – maybe you should take it up with the manager. Sigh.

I didn’t really want to get into a big thing over this but the attitude thing was getting to me a bit so I went and asked at the desk for the manager who took 15 minutes to come over by which time I was starting to fume. I told him I had a couple of issues – firstly about the dollar incident from the previous day. He agreed instantly that the girl was in the wrong and should have just given me the dollar. He offered me a refund ticket for yesterday’s shopping which was fine. Then I showed him the leaflet with the offer and said I’m confused because it shows a pulled pork sandwich or two chicken pieces with an offer of a free second one but the guy on the counter says I have to have a full meal which I don’t really want.  Just the meat in a bun is fine. Surely that’s better for you that I have less? Well it’s head office sir they always make mistakes on the imagery. You have to buy a meal to get a second one free. Umm ok but I have to say that in the UK if you show something in advertising you have to honour it otherwise it’s deemed misleading and not fair practice. If there’s something Americans just love it’s being told that’s another country does things better. Ha!

He was ok though I thought and I said look I understand. I’m amazed but I’ll go and get the humongous meal and throw the mushy stuff away. So I went back to the counter and after another 20 minute wait eventually got Hector’s attention again. So you want two pulled pork sandwiches sir he asked. Er …I thought you said I couldn’t have that. That’s right, you’re going to have to buy them. Eh? No you misunderstand, I’ve spoken to the manager and he agrees the offer is confusing but I have to order the meal or nothing so I’ve come back for the offer if that’s OK (I was going to add …with the police but resisted). Then he just turned to me and said you British are so difficult as you cannot make up your mind what you want. So do you want it or not? Excuse me, I’m the bloody customer here and I’ve been twotted around with enough today. I haven’t changed my mind about what I want but you know what, I have made up my mind that I’m going to but my lunch elsewhere. Keep the pork and the bun and the collared greens and I stormed off to pay for what I had in the basket. Frigging attitude.

He nearly got my indignant speech about you may think us vacillating and  inconsistent but we British fought two World Wars both times emerging victorious and in the process saved civilisation. We created the largest Empire the world has ever known and gave it back to the home nations peacefully in most cases. We’ve given the world some of the most amazing  things  like the computer, steam power, penicillin, television, Concorde and led the world in the development of the Industrial Revolution, a much-respected monarchy and produced some of the greatest literature, the greatest dramatist, wonderful art, the greatest bands and actors, some brilliant architects, gardeners and fine historic buildings and institutions. Not least we have produced some world-famous sportspeople like Stanley Mathews, George Best, Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Fred Perry, Lewis Hamilton, Sir Stephen Redgrave, Sir Ian Botham and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson. We’ve won two World Cups and delivered the greatest Olympics Games the world has seen. And what I ask, has Puerto Rico done for the world aside from a bit part in West Side Story?

But I didn’t because it would have sounded all imperious and probably racist and I’m not that I hope.

Fuming I left the store before realising I’d forgotten to buy some light beers for Carol. Damn. I wasn’t going to go back inside so went to the next deli I passed and bought some Coronas in there. I added the bag to the handle on the back of the stroller along with the small shopping bag. I hadn’t gone 100 yards when the hook on the stroller just collapsed dropping the shopping smashing half the bottles in the process and splattering me in beer. Sigh.

I got home, Noah for the first time in 3 days was asleep but the hallway was full of workmen junk again (the downstairs flat is now having a new system installed). Sigh. I got the stroller with Noah still in it and the shopping over the crap and just I was heading up the stairs a huge drill sound came out from inside the downstairs flat and startled Noah awake. FFS. The Gods of Fun were having a hootenanny with me again.

Carol was upstairs and asked me how the shopping had gone………

15 minutes later she wished she’d never asked. Apparently I’ve turned into my dad. Always with the drama…..even on a simple shopping trip

FBP (aka Bob Leonard)


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