Terry Marotta: Standards of service

Terry Marotta

It seems the customer isn’t always right. I guess I didn’t get the memo.

I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked to hear the woman behind the counter in that gift-and-novelty shop essentially browbeating the polite and gentle lady who stood before her.

I had been browsing in there when I overheard this lady speaking to the woman behind the counter. She was seeking help with an item newly purchased and now broken, but when this boss lady made her answer while raising her voice to do it I could hardly believe my ears.

“Everything’s Final Sale,” she said flatly. 

“Oh! But I-”

“Read the sign. ‘No Returns,” the owner went on.

“Well, but I just bought it a week ago and I only wore it once and-“ 

“No returns, get it? That means you can’t bring it back.”

“It’s, it’s … it’s just that I’ve gotten such nice jewelry here over the years I thought maybe…”

“Final Sale. Not my problem.”

“I see,” said the customer sadly. “I guess I was hoping something could be done.”

At last! I thought. She’d been able to get out at least one full sentence.

“Something can be done,” said the Gorgon behind the counter.

“Yes?” said the customer in hopeful tones.

 “You can shop somewhere else.”

So the poor thing gathered up her broken necklace and exited the store – at which point the sour owner actually turned to her two assistants in full view of four other customers, rolled her eyes and went “Sheesh!”

It’s been nearly a month since I witnessed this scene and yet it still comes back to me, trailing with it a second scene from a 1980s movie set it in 1950s America.

In this scene a car pulls into a filling station and four men in crisp caps and uniforms dash out and begin enthusiastically polishing it and what a big laugh that got from the audience!

And was that laughter even a little bit rueful? 

I don’t remember it that way. 

What I remember is that in some subtle fashion we in the audience were being invited to feel superior to those saps from the old days; were being not so subtly urged to find it ‘quaint’ that anyone should offer service of that sort.

And yet at the filling station where I buy gas, someone always washes my windshield front and back. Maybe you could say he’s just killing time while the tank fills but what about his associates, the one, or two, or three other individuals working there who wave or even stroll over to my car to ask how I’m doing?

It seems to me that the owner Nick and his employees continue to uphold a standard in a way precious few do these days - which is probably why I have been trading there for more than 30 years - and why I will never again set foot in the Gorgon’s shop, however bright and sparkly her wares.

Write to Terry at terrymarotta@verizon.net or c/o Ravenscroft Press P.O. Box 270 Winchester MA 01980. Go to her blog Exit Only day for fresh-every-day tales of life in these United States at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com.