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Posts Tagged coffee

The law of order

I was in Starbucks a week or two ago, and people in line ahead of me gave me an idea for a mini post.  First someone said to the woman at the register, “Yeah, gimme a grande (insert something with four additional adjectives here).”  As I was contemplating how much I disliked the “gimme” command, the next person stepped up.  “Let me have a (insert more obnoxious adjectives).”  I didn’t like that either.  “What do I normally say when ordering?” I wondered.

I thought about the options.  I think I probably go for some kind of permission-seeking question like, “Can I have the (something unobnoxious because I’m a purist when it comes to coffee) please?” It doesn’t totally make sense since the answer is going to be “Yes” almost all the time.  It’s still nice to give the barista the illusion of power in our relationship though, I guess. I surveyed the other options, and I think I settled on the one that was most me: “I’d like the (blank) please.”  A statement, still polite, and with the conditional “would like” in there, it still opens the door for potential disappointment.  And…I’ve officially over-thought this.  I need more coffee.

Quick final sidenote: I have several go-to lines I use when attempting to be humorous.  One is, “That was my nickname in high school.”  Works really well in many scenarios, so I like trotting that one out from time to time.  I mention it now because I got one of my best reactions to that line in that same Starbucks recently.  You see, a new co-worker of mine ordered a “skinny vanilla latte.”  What was I supposed to do?

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The customer’s sometimes right

My co-worker Rob (who reads this blog, so watch what you say) sometimes handles things a little differently than I do.  I hear him arguing with people on the phone from time to time, and he likes using phrases like, “Wait wait wait, let me get this straight,” “Hold on, let me make sure I understand what you’re saying here,” and a very sarcastic, “Thanks, you’ve been a great help.”  He now knows that I’m listening when he starts getting that tone, so he said something specifically for me while arguing with someone on the phone last week: “Hold on hold on, are you in customer service?  Then how ’bout you try SERVICING THE CUSTOMER?!”  He knew I’d like that one, and he was right.  That little exchange leads me to two recent incidents involving customer service and people actually servicing the customer…whether they should’ve or not.

In December, my parents bought a two-seater wagon for our adorable twins.  They weren’t yet a year old at the time, so I didn’t open it to try putting it together for months.  When I did, the box appeared to be missing the giant (and very necessary) handle that pushes or pulls the wagon when the kids are in it.  I’m historically bad at seeing things when they’re right in front of my face, so I went back to the box two more times over the next couple of weeks to confirm that it was really missing.  Once assured that I wasn’t situationaly blind, I went to the website of the company that makes the wagon.

The site had an online form for customer service requests, including a space specifically for missing parts.  I wrote a nice email and made sure to mention how we couldn’t wait to use their great product.  They replied the next day with an email saying that if the product was under warranty, they’d send me a replacement one.  I asked my lovely wife about that and she said, “Your parents bought it from Amazon, so I’ll just contact them and see if they can help us.”  After a lengthy online chat with Amazon’s customer service department, we were set.  The only way it could work was for us to send back the whole wagon (on their dime, nicely) and get a new, complete box in return.   That seemed fair enough (since they didn’t carry replacement parts for everything sold on their site), and we went about the process.  As expected, a brand new wagon came in the mail with all of the necessary pieces.  What I didn’t expect was a separate box on another day addressed to me.  I opened it up and found a long plastic handle.  “Per email inquiry,” said the note inside from the wagon company.  My first thought was, “Well that was nice of them!”  Then I thought about it a little longer and had two more thoughts.  First, “They said it needed to be under warranty and I never wrote them back at all.  They took that to mean…it was?”  Second, “Why couldn’t they just tell me that they were sending me a new handle so we wouldn’t have to do the whole Amazon process and have me lug a big box into a UPS Store for no reason?”  Despite those questions, it was refreshing to see a company try to do right by their customers.

The thing about that story as compared to the next one is that I actually deserved the assistance I received.  I can’t say the same for the main character of this next tale.

That same co-worker Rob and I went to the Coffee Bean right near our office a little while ago.  I’m normally a pretty good eavesdropper, but I had missed a lot of the conversation between a customer and an employee, both women in their early 20s.  There was something about an iced drink melting and the employee eventually (but begrudgingly) saying she would remake the drink but “only this one time.”  After we walked out, Rob asked me if I’d heard the conversation.  “Kinda,” I said.  “My best guess from contextual clues was that they called her name to say her iced drink was ready, but she didn’t come in and get it for ten minutes.  Then she complained that it was melted.”  “Oh no,” Rob said, “You missed the best part of the whole thing.”  He went on to recap the whole story (which he’d paid close attention to instead of whatever I’d been saying to him at the time).  The employee made the iced drink, called the customer’s name, and the customer picked it up before sitting down at a table with her friends.  Ten minutes later, she went up to complain that it had melted.  Why had it melted?  Because she sat there holding it for ten minutes outside while talking with her friends instead of, ya know, drinking the damn thing.  It’s the exact equivalent of someone ordering a hot coffee, waiting until it got cold, and then complaining that s/he wanted a new one made because it’s supposed to be hot.  It’s that ridiculous, and yet the employee knew that the end result should always be having a happy customer, so she did her job.

I can’t help but wonder what I would do in those customer service positions when faced with the same situations.  When I think about it honestly, I end up being more of an asshole in both scenarios.  If the wagon owner never replied to say that it was indeed under warranty, I would never think to just go ahead and send the handle anyway.  And if I were that Coffee Bean employee, I would definitely have thrown in some more sarcastic lines about how “actually drinking your drink is where most of the enjoyment comes from.”  One thing is for sure: I would’ve enjoyed hearing Rob play the Coffee Bean employee role.  “Hold on, let me get this straight…”

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The P’s needs

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bottle“Having kids will teach you new things about yourself” is a sentence that established parents might trot out when talking to new ones.  While that’s obviously a true statement, I don’t think this is what they had in mind:

While holding one of my kids, it’s often a delicate balance.   Regardless of what’s specifically going on, there are many situations in which their needs come right smack up against mine. I’ve gotten very good at putting the kids and their needs ahead of my own, but there’s one part I’m still finding to be difficult.  Let’s set the scene:

Maybe he’s eating and the bottle has to remain just so, or she’s falling asleep and any movement or derivation from an existing movement would change her progress.  I’m sitting there (also wanting them to complete those actions) when something happens. Let’s say I have to pee.  No matter, I use an old trick Mike Honcho taught me and tell myself, “I’m not supposed to” right now, and then take care of it at a better time.  It might be a sudden urge to blow my nose.  No problem; I’ve sat there mouth-breathing and pushed that desire to the back of my mind.  “I can do that later too,” I tell myself.  The same is true but more difficult with an itch on my face.  I’ll try making weird faces in hopes that I can somehow cause one piece of skin to rub up against the offending spot, but if it doesn’t work, I’m pretty good (not perfect) at focusing on something else until I don’t feel the need to scratch anymore.  To a lesser extent, it’s difficult for me to watch my hot coffee sitting there, cooling in front of me instead of getting in my belly.  “Drink me,” it says, “You love me.”  “I do love you,” I say back telepathically, “but we’ll hang out a little later, ok?”

I could have guessed all of those things and my reactions to them, but being a parent in that situation has taught me a new thing about myself: I can’t stand seeing the blinking red light on my Blackberry that tells me I have a new message waiting without wanting to check it immediately.  I didn’t know I had this problem, but now it’s clear. The same thing is true if I hear it buzz on the coffee table in front of me or elswhere in the house. I have to hope to forget about it (which surprisingly happens on occasion because of the craziness).  If it’s right in front of me though, I have to admit, I’ve repositioned an almost-sleeping baby just to push a button or two on my phone.  I don’t really get it.  I mean, if I were specifically waiting to hear from someone via email or text, that would be one thing.  But more often than not, I see that Amazon recommends new books for me or Ticketmaster has a list of summer concerts to tell me about.  It’s almost never something time-sensitive or important, but that flashing red light is a like a reminder or alarm that goes off every second saying, “You have something waiting for you!  You have something waiting for you!  You have something waiting for you!”  It doesn’t speak to me like coffee does though, because that would be fucked up.

You might be thinking, “Why not put your phone on silent so you don’t know if anything’s come in until after you’re done with the feeding/putting them to bed?”  It’s a good question, but the light still flashes when it’s silent.  In fact, it’s even worse on silent because then I play the whole, “Well maybe something came in and I don’t know because it didn’t buzz,” which leads to me looking at my phone much more often than I (or anyone) should.  The best idea is for me to have it on silent and out of my sight – and more importantly – my reach.  The only problem with that is that I know I’m unreachable during those times, and that makes me feel just a little unsettled (like a child being jostled around while his father gets another email about chicken specials from a local restaurant).  I’m managing this addiction pretty well so far, and I think acknowledging it is a good step.  That said, I didn’t see it coming and I have my kids to thank for shedding light on this issue for me.

Oh, and I’ve learned something else.  After seeing my parents’ reactions this past week, I’m pretty sure that being visibly startled by an unexpected yet forceful poop is genetic.

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