Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where Customer Service Goes to Die

For those of you who live outside the NYC area, Duane Reade is our biggest pharmacy with over 250 locations. The logo pictured about is their new one, after undergoing major renovations in many of their stores because they were notorious for being dirty, smelly, generally unpleasant places. Not all the stores in the chain have undergone the renovation however, of course including the two closest to my apartment. Now it seems those renovations have stopped altogether because the company was recently purchased by Walgreens so they are in limbo while deciding whether to change all the store names or not.

I mention this not because I like to lecture on the business models American pharmacies, but because I experienced something yesterday at Duane Reade that is becoming all-too common in stores everywhere. First allow me to disclose my shopping list in bullet form...

  • 2 bottles of Sprite Zero
  • 1 Lean Cuisine
  • Degree Arctic deodorant
Quite an exciting and eclectic mix of good, indeed.

I went to the register to pay only to realize that only one register was open and there are about 8-10 people in line waiting. The manager was at another register counting money, not looking up to see that they could use some help up front. The girl behind the register was taking her sweet time and I noticed that she didn't greet anyone with a "hello" or "how are you?" or anything at all for that matter. She also didn't bother with "thank you" either, but she did manage to check her nails in between virtually every item she scanned.

(Do girls nails change often throughout the day? If I'm missing something here, please let me know.)

In the interest of common good, I decided to try a little experiment. When it was finally my turn I wouldn't say a word unless spoken to. This goes against my general policy of trying to be a half-way decent human being, but I wanted to give it to go. Needless to say, like she had done to everyone else, she didn't say greet me, thank me or anything. I think I made it slightly weirder by staring at her throughout the scanning, but fortunately she never even picked up her eyes to look at me.

I know these jobs suck. I worked for a summer as a stock-boy/cashier at a pharmacy in a mall many years ago. I've worked plenty of crappy jobs that I never discuss with anyone and would rather forget. But I see this general state of customer service getting worse and worse, especially in this city. I'm not even sure why it bothers me so much, it's not like I wanted to date her, but I guess a little human connection throughout the day is good for everyone. Duane Reade's are notoriously bad at this, and I'm curious what other stores in your neck of the woods are equally as bad.

As for me, I'm gonna try to do more of my pharmaceutical shopping at the local CVS, which also has rather unpleasant people behind the counter, but also has a few self-checkout machines, and I find those computers rather pleasant.

And perhaps date-worthy...


Steve in CA said...

Good customer service is under-emphasized these days. Don't you love it when after patronizing a store, you politely say "Thank you", and they say "You're welcome", as though they did you a favor by selling you he Sprite Zero? The manager pretends to have a genetic mutation depriving him of peripheral vision, so that tells you he doesn't give a crap. It is so easy, and so second nature, to be polite to people - friendly, even -but they don't bother. I saw a piece where management at 7-11 noticed a particular store was selling much more coffee than other stores, so they went to see how they were making it there. They made it the same as every other store, though. The difference was that the lady taking the money was friendly, knew the customers names, their children, etc.

Nice entry, Dave. These apathetic ungracious kids waiting to go on break and send texts bug the shit out of me too!

Brett said...

As an Asst.Manager at a GameStop (don't let that flash you back, Dave) there is nothing I hate more than apathetic customers. I'll take the out and out rude/mean ones first because I'll assume they're having a bad day or something. When they just don't bother to say hello or thank you or even acknowledge that I wasn't put on this Earth to sell them a video game, that's what seriously pisses me off.

Even before working retail I'd talk to the people like they are - wait for it - PEOPLE. Go figure.

Waiters, tho. Man, they're worthless.
(Just kidding!)

Barry said...

Oh, Dave, don't hold out any hope when Walgreens takes over. The customer service people at Walgreens make those who toil at the DMV seem like gregarious party planners in comparison.

Michael said...

The Duane Reade on 86th and 1st is especially horrible. The layout (while out of the hands of the employees) also leaves much to be desired. Took me 10 minutes to find batteries before I broke my cardinal rule and asked for help...

Hal said...

I swear that no Duane Reade I was ever in when I lived in New York ever had air conditioning, which made an already hideous shopping experience even more delightful when New York was 98 in the shade and as humid as Panama City. But Brett has a point about customers. My favorites are the ones whose transactions take twice as long because they can't put down their cell phones long enough to pay attention when the cashier is waiting for them to pay up. These people are always directly in front of me in line, of course.