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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 23, 2008 at 4:05 PM

A shopper’s rights

Wise up

I believe that the Puget Sound region needs a shoppers’ revolution against poor customer service. I’m sure that President-elect Barack Obama won’t mind my saying, “Yes we can [demand customer service].”

Very soon after moving here from the upper Midwest in 1984, my wife and I sensed a dire need for an upgrade in customer service in the stores we visited.

In the ensuing 24-year period, I’ve not been heartened in the least. Most offensive are those companies whose TV and print ads promise “warm and friendly employees” and totally fail to deliver on that promise.

One medium-sized chain of grocery stores has consistently proved infuriating, no matter which of their stores I have visited.

When our four children were still living at home, I was the primary grocery shopper. At least twice I left full grocery carts and exited one of their stores in disgust. Would it have been asking too much to have at least one employee make eye contact and give me a friendly “Hello, sir”?

I despise being treated as an aggravation or a “thing” rather than as a human being who is offering to contribute to the paycheck of everyone in that store.

I agree that it is possible to overly attempt to engage retail customers. Many shoppers feel uncomfortable being approached so often that they feel stalked and pressured rather than simply greeted warmly.

Please, retailers, simply allow your employees to show genuine human warmth, and don’t ask them to fulfill some kind of measurable formula for customer contact. That is also insincere and offensive, easily sensed and not appreciated.

I work in a customer-service capacity on the Eastside. And I believe that my customers would attest that I practice what I preach. My goal is to treat every store guest with dignity. I’m amazed that customers are so pleased by the service I give them. It’s simply the way business should be transacted.

During this difficult time for many retail businesses, warm, caring associates are absolutely vital to store after store hanging on until the economy improves. Retailers, please either upgrade your training or rotate your staff to ensure a positive shopping experience for your increasingly precious clientele.

We, as shoppers, need to make our voices heard. If a company has a Web site with a “contact us” link, use it. If the company has comment cards, fill them out and send them in. If a store or a specific employee or department has served you well, let the company know that, too.

We need not, with our “power of the ever-scarcer dollar” settle for cold, inefficient service from the stores we choose to patronize. More open forums might put spotlights on offending stores and companies. Even more letters like this one might put employers and their employees on notice: “Change is coming in the retail world. We will no longer support businesses whose employees treat us customers indifferently, rudely, or coldly.”

— Dave Ryynanen, Edmonds

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