I paid for something at a check out counter awhile back and noticed, as I was scanning the receipt, that I'd been charged twice for a single item. I pointed it out the cashier and she told me "I can't do nothing about that. You gotta take it to Customer Service." "I don't want to bring anything back," I pointed out. But I don't want to pay for it twice, either." "My bad. You gotta go to customer service." "But it's your mistake—and from the looks of it, I'm going to be in the customer service line for 20 minutes!" "I SAID 'my bad'", she snapped. "That doesn't fix the problem, and it's YOUR FAULT." This little 16 year-old with a bad weave and worse attitude inspected her long acrylics, sucked her teeth and shoved my merchandise at me. "What's your name?" I asked. She thrust out her barely-there chest. The name tag on her red shirt said "Treasure." (Not her real name, but close. I'm granting her anonymity just in case she's cleaned up her act by now.) So I went to the Custmore Service line, did indeed wait for 20 minutes (not such a bad thing—gave my blood pressure a chance to go back to normal) and told the manager what happened. He shrugged. "Do you want to bring all this back?" "Noooo…I want to take home what I bought and I want a refund for what I was overcharged. And I want you to tell your Treasure that, contrary to all appearances, she's in the Service Industry. Which means you have to be at least civil to people or they will take their business elsewhere." He nodded. "Okay. No problem." This was a couple months before the market crashed, and if there's a silver lining to the economy tanking, it's the fact that a number of people in the service industry have wised up to the fact that "customer" and "service" do and should go together in the same sentence. And generally, they're much happier to see you in stores, whether it's the chain drug store or a snooty boutique. Maybe Treasure is even more responsible to the people who are paying her salary, who knows? Slightly cooled down, I took my refund, gathered up my bags and thanked the manager for listening—even though I was pretty certain he wouldn't be bothered talking to Treasure anytime soon. "Oh, no problem," he assured me. Of course it was still a problem—for me, at least. But I decided to save the "'you're welcome' would work better" speech for another day. Karen Grigsby Bates is a correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Trainnig For Modern Times (Doubleday).
is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).