Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Customer is always Invisible at Bill's

Sometimes it seems you go through a period where everything around you seems to break down around the same time. This is the kind of summer we have had at our house. First it was the kitchen appliances which we replaced and the new dishwasher is still not working. The repair guy who was supposed to show up today, got into an accident or some such B.S. and so now my new dishwasher that was meant to replace the old poorly working one is yet to perform for me the way it should. Then, two days ago the motor on our pool pump went kaput and my husband had to take it off and bring it to a place called Bill's Electric - Motors and Pumps. The good news is that Bill's is close by and could turn around the repair within 2 days. The not so good news is that since Bill's closes at 5 pm daily, I was elected to go pick up the "good as new" motor as my husband could not get there in time as his work day ends a little later. "No problem, I'll pick it up," I said. No stranger to running these types of errands, it never occurred to me that my trip to Bill's would elicit such an emotional response that I felt compelled to share my experience in my blog with you dear readers. Allow me to preface the story with the fact that I had just finished a 90 minute power-walk before heading over to see Bill - so I may have been a little sweaty, but not offensive in any way (I had used deodorant earlier in the day). So, I walk into the strange land that is Bill's Electric, not the kind of place any woman in her right mind would ever CHOOSE to pop into, but I had a mission and it was a simple one. Walk in the door, ask if the motor is ready, pay the bill, take the motor and leave. Anybody could do this - am I right? First thing I notice is the absence of anyone at what looks sort of like a reception counter. I disregard that fact and look over toward the workshop where I see two men, both mid-40's sitting behind counters working on motors. As I stand there, well within view of both of them, I wait until I figure one of them will eventually look up and make eye contact with me. Both are immersed in their work, but I'm thinking at some point they have just got to look at me or speak to me. Nada. I wait. To my right, there are two Asian men, seemingly customers, speaking Chinese, huddled face to face, heads bent in unison studying a little metal fan that looks like it came from the interior of some sort of air conditioning unit or something - what do I know? They won't be any help I can tell, so I ignore them. Five minutes pass and no one has yet to greet me, ask what I want, nothing. So now, I'm getting impatient. I start to wander about the front of the shop and find a door partially open, leading into an office. Aahh, this must be where "Bill" lives. I peak my head in the door and sure enough, a man at a computer (Bill? - maybe) sits working. "Excuse me, can you help me?" I ask. He looks over at me and says, "Is there no one out there?" "Well, yes there is, but I've been standing here for a while now looking like an idiot and no one has even said hello, let alone help me." Reluctantly he gets up and comes out of the office and as he does this, I explain why I am here hoping he will serve me. But no, that would be too simple. It becomes obvious that this is not his job, as he beckons to the two mute guys over working on their very important projects to retrieve the motor I have come for and prepare my bill. Finally, I think - we're getting somewhere. As I did not drop the motor off, I have no idea what to expect in terms of which one of the many motors lining the shelves adorned with customer name tags is mine. Mr. Mute pulls one off the shelf without a name tag and I say, "Are you sure that's mine?" He sort of grunts something I cannot discern and heads to the reception counter to prepare my bill. Maybe, I start to think, Bill has actually hired a bunch of mute repairmen and any minute now, someone is going to jump up and say I am on Candid Camera or I have just been punked or some bloody thing - cause this whole scenario is getting more and more bizarre by the minute. Just as I am quite convinced this is the case, Mr. Mute asks me in a very monotone voice, "How do you want to pay?" Not, "That will be $295 plus GST ma'am." No, I had to ask him how much it was. Apparently, Bill's guys are not only socially handicapped, but they have zero customer service skills to boot. I started to wonder if they were on some sort of day outing from a local prison or something. I have never seen or sensed such a void of emotion or simple courtesy as I have here at Bill's Electric and by now I am very certain it is not just me and my sweaty armpits. The next customer who walks in is already sighing and looking at me like I could possibly be of some help and all I want to do is go running out of there with my motor under my arm, never to return. I walk over to the table where my motor sits and realize I may need something to carry it with. Mr. Mute then notices I am a woman and says, "Ya need something to carry it in?" Suddenly overwhelmed by his sudden burst of generosity, I agree, I might indeed need something - a box perhaps. He goes to fetch a box, places the motor inside and to my surprise starts to head to the door to put it in my car. This is of course done wordlessly, yet efficiently and I thank Mr. Mute as he silently walks back into the shop. Had he just done me a favour? I'll never know for sure. It begs the question - does Bill have a monopoly in the area? He must - otherwise he could never get away with such poor customer service. Aahh well, as long as the damn thing works, all will be forgiven. But it better damn well work!

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