Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Customer Service Series I

Dedicated to all those who do take pride in their work. Thank you!

We are in a recession, no newsflash. It's been hanging around for a while now. And that means less jobs, and more jobless. So I have a bone to pick with management, particularly in the service industries, but this bone goes much deeper.

The service industry, the people who serve, waitstaff, check-out liners, baggers, cleaning staff, babysitters, au pairs, nannies, hairdressers, well you get it. Due to unions and tips, they generally make a pretty good dollar per hour ratio. And I believe usually they are worth every penny. But there have been those few, that seem to hate their job, or have a chip on their shoulder. I used to be in the service industry, well maybe I still am, and I got irritated every once in a while with my job or my duties too. But lately I've noticed more and more of this "I hate my job and I'm taking out on the customer" phenomenon. This should not be happening in a recession!

A recession is a time to cleanse. Managers should be looking at their staff and cutting the unhappy ones, the ones who feel this job is above them, or if they are affecting others in a negative way, whatever their issue is with work. With so many out-of-workers looking for jobs, the ones who have them, no matter what they are, should be thanking the customer, not rolling their eyes at him.

Case in point One: I was shopping at Toys-R-Us a few weeks back and I could not find the dvd's I was searching for. I looked up, down, and all around and missed them somehow. A check out "dude" was sitting in his seat, yes, they give them seats now, doing nothing productive for the store. He was texting his friends and smiling to himself when I, the customer, interrupted him. "Excuse me," I said. "I can't seem to find the leapster dvd's." Without looking up at me, and pointing in the direction of the DVD racks, he said, "They're over there."

I waited a minute to see if that was all I was going to get out of this apathetic teenager and when nothing more came I said, "Excuse me. Would you mind not being such an asshole. Get up out of your chair and find them for me, please? You are on the clock, right?"

His young head snapped up at me then, out of his texting world. "Um, yes, Ma'am," He stuttered. "Sorry. I mean, they're right over here." He walked me over to the dvd's, picked up a leapster dvd and handed it to me.

"Thanks," I said.
"Sorry again." He walked away, heading back to his seat.
I took a few moments to look over the dvd's, smiling to myself.

Yes, I was once a teen, and of course I hated sitting around, waiting for customers or waiting on them, but I was respectful. Or at least I remember it that way. No matter what the job, whether I was scooping up elephant dung, or checking out customers in the grocery line, I was on good behavior when the customer or patron stood in front of me. I made small talk. I smiled. I payed attention. I told them to have a nice day.

After I chose my dvd's I stood in his line to check out in. I did feel a little bit guilty about calling him an asshole, so I decided to apologize, but give some advice.

"Hi again," I said.
"Hi Ma'am." He scanned my items.
"Just wanted to say sorry for the asshole remark, but I am the customer."
"That's all right." His face blotched red. "I should have helped you out."
I signed the receipt. "Thanks," I said.
"Have a good day." He smiled.
I smiled back.

Case in Point number Two:
I stood in Target's check out line a few weeks back, with a friend of mine and our two three-year-olds in tow. The little guys were playing with their new toys, and very happy about them. The check out man was not a happy guy. He did not greet us. He did not smile at our kids. He did not ask if we needed help to the car (my friend was 8 1/2 months pregnant). Instead, he scanned our items, lazily dropping them behind him or into bags without a care to whether he damaged them or not. He seemed irritated that we had bought many things or had chose his line. So irritated in fact, that my girlfriend and I exchanged glances a few times about his unfriendliness.

After our items were haphazardly packaged, this unhappy check out man proceeded to hurry around his counter, pushing our two boys out of his way. I caught him doing this out of the corner of my eye and asked, "Did you just push my kids?"

He said, "Yes, but I only moved them. I'm in a hurry."
I said, "Um, you may be in a hurry but you do not put your hands on my kids."
At this point people were staring, including other check out people, yet no one had called a manager. So I asked the next check out person to please call a manager.

A manager showed up and asked us what had happened. When I said he pushed our kids out of his way because he was in a hurry, he got really upset and said, "She's acting like I'm a child molester, I am not a child molester!"

At this, the manager put his head in his hand and I said, "That's kind of weird him saying that, right?" I mean, who says that to anyone, especially a mother with kids.

The manager assured me that he would talk with him in the back. And I said that I think that having this man work around kids was not a good idea. I even wrote a note to corporate Target about the incident.

But I was just at Target and he is still working there, checking out. I avoided his line!

Why would Target keep him on? And why does Toys-r-Us have workers ignoring customers?
There are so many people out of work, these two could be easily replaced with people who appreciate an income.

I believe that during a recession, customer service should go up, way up. There should be more smiles, more how can I help yous. There should be happier check out people, more thorough cleaning people, more attentive wait staff.

It's time to cut the fat people! Customers, especially now, deserve respect from the businesses they buy from. There are many places I can go to buy the toys Toys-r-us sells and to purchase the products Target stocks their shelves with, heck the Internet makes it all too easy for them to lose my business. If you have been ignored, wronged, or treated badly by a service individual, I say it's time to shop elsewhere.

Maybe it's the managers. Maybe a lack of caring about the customer mirrors the managers lack of caring. Could this go all the way to the top? Sure seems like it with all the money borrowing of our tax dollars and still the over paying of their staff. So if you or your significant other is a manager, if you have the power to fire the unhappy, do it. Prove to the customer that you care about us. Show you care about how we are treated. Hire positive people. They're out there searching for a job. You'll be doing us all a favor if you hire them and lose the losers.

You and I have the power to be treated with respect. Demand it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Finding Your YOUth Series II

This blog dedicated to everyone who has wondered - what am I going to be when I grow up?

I think I may have had more jobs than anyone I know. I have changed my mind so many times as a teenager then young adult and now even as I am on the hump of my thirties. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

But I'm getting closer, narrowing it down to a few careers that I am excited about, in love with and even dream about. I am a writer. I have always been a writer. I know this now looking back at all the jobs I have had and realizing that I had the most fun at them when I was either writing something about them, for them or editing the writing already produced on them.

My first published article was about being a junior firefighter. I loved doing that job, but writing about it gave me a greater thrill. I wrote an article in college about the elephants at the Pittsburgh zoo. I enjoyed working with them, but writing about my experience brought me greater joy. So yes, I am a writer.

Knowing this, I went back to school, when my first child was six months old, to earn a degree in creative writing. Still trudging away at that degree six years later, but it's worth it and it keeps me writing.

I write because I love to write. The question to you is what do you love to do? And if it's not what you are doing right now, how can you rectify that? Or do you even want to?

Change is scary. Although I love change, it makes me nervous too. But I look at it this way. I have this one life and I want to experience things, many things, as many things as I can. And I will write about them, share them with my family, my friends, anyone who will read. And I don't know why. Isn't that funny. I know I'm supposed to be a writer and I don't know why. But I do know it was there when I was very young.

I loved to read. And as soon as I could write, I wrote stories. I made up tales and shared them with my younger siblings. I excelled in English classes, Speech classes and Writing classes along with loving Art classes. Any class that allowed me to be creative, I devoured. But alas I did not follow my young dreams. Peer pressure, uninterested parents, lack of a school counselor and my own doubts led me down many paths that never did I truly enjoy.

It wasn't until I had my first child that my old dreams came back to me. As I read to him so many boring picture books I started to believe that I could write better stories than they. I pulled out my year books, searching through them for character ideas and found much more. I saw myself in speech club, and art club. Memories flashed in my mind of creating, of writing, of stories. It came back to me, my dream. I knew, well remembered, what I was supposed to be when I grew up.

So what are you supposed to be? Have you even thought about it in the past ten years? Once our YOUth slips past us many of us forget our dreams. Or we forget how to dream. But what did you dream about when you were a child? Or what did you love to do? If you can't remember, ask your Mom, Dad, Siblings, cousins, or old friends. Someone is bound to say something like, "Wow, you really loved to draw back then." Or "I remember you arguing everything, you always had to be right."

If you really loved to draw, or you argued every point, or if you were fascinated with building things, what does that say about you? Are you in those fields or as far away from them as you could possibly get? Do you still have an interest there?

In any case, you might find a new hobby in that old dream. Take a drawing class, a speech class or a class in creating with clay. Finding that old you, that young you, the you excited about what you could do, will in fact energize yourself and help you recapture your YOUth.

So what do I want to be when I grow up? Well, I will be a writer. I will write books, stories, articles. I will send my thoughts and ideas out into the world in the hopes that they reach someone. I hope they inspire someone. I hope to inspire you.

I say if there is a tickle. Something pops into your head. A dream. An idea that won't go away, chase after it. Catch it if you can. Play with it. Learn more about it. And then share it with the world. Experience something new for yourself and for all of us.

Ask yourself - What do you want to be when you grow up? And I hope for you, and for us all, you answer it.