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The word “free” sends many of us into a tailspin. I hear “free” and I go for it even if it is the vegan turkey at the Trader Joe’s tasting table (it was terrible, don’t do it). So, when I heard Starbucks was doing a buy one get one free special over the next few days, I had to go. When I got there, I saw no poster advertising the special, and I heard no one else inquire about it. Still I plucked up the courage to ask, the cashier seemed a bit confused but she nodded her head and turned her focus to the cash register. She began to ask me a question when the barista at the espresso machines interrupted with a barrage of complaints about the way the drink cups were marked.

Now, I don’t like poor customer service. I don’t like it one little bit. I smiled at the barista who was making my drink. No smile was returned. I commented, “I don’t believe that’s my drink.” Her response? “I don’t care.” Followed by a string of further insults. This barista was not what you might call pleasant. I would not have wanted to meet her in a dark alley somewhere because I’m certain she would have knifed me, stolen my wallet, kicked me until I was lying on the ground, and then spat in my face. I promise you I’m not exaggerating. Well, maybe just a little.

The cashier was so embarrassed and flabbergasted by the barista’s behavior that she gave me a discount. The barista was so annoyed that she left and stopped making the drinks.

While I was certainly shocked at the behavior of this woman, I felt pretty sad. She was mistreating her coworkers and she obviously hated her job.

This tale of poor customer service reminded me of another one from several years ago. While shopping at Macy’s, my mother found a pair of shoes on the sale rack. To prevent theft or to promote interaction with the sales staff, Macy’s only places one shoe of each pair on the rack. My mum tracked down a sales rep and asked him to find the matching pair. The sales rep disappeared into the back only to return a few minutes later with still only one shoe in hand.

“Ma’am, there is no matching shoe,” he stated.

“Pardon?” my mother asked politely.

“There’s no matching shoe.”

“Oh, well, surely there must be one somewhere. Why else would this shoe be on the rack?”

“You see, ma’am, it’s a mix and match sale.”

Pardon?”

“Yes, ma’am. You see, just pick any two shoes and that’s your pair.”

Shocked at the ridiculousness of this statement, my mother said, “May I please see your manager?”

“Certainly, ma’am.”

My mom watched as the young sales associate walked over to the equally young manager, conferred with the manager, and then walked with the manager back to my mom.

The manager spoke up, “Hello, ma’am, yes, today we are having a mix and match sale.”

Frustrated and flabbergasted my mom threw up her arms and left. While she lodged no official complaint, Macy’s had made our list. Poor customer service is simply unacceptable.

As we move into a crazy season of shopping, I know there will be many, many  future incidents of poor customer service, but I do hope there will be even more incidents of smiling faces and holiday cheer.

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