Standing in line the other day at GNC, the staff person was busying trying to assist four foreign ladies. I couldn’t make out the accent, at first French, no maybe German, was it Russian? Whatever it was there was no distinguishing and I resolved to wait my turn. Starbucks has done an incredible job of grooming me to think that I should receive service in four minutes or less. Once we hit four minutes the customer in front of me should move over as their time has expired. These ladies obviously were not aware of this rule. Maybe this was their first visit to the U.S., I assumed so, considering they were holding boxes of miracle weight loss drugs that are more likely to give you unstoppable diarrhea than help you lose weight.
Eventually I was serviced and able to escape the store, leaving behind the foreigners that were still tormenting the customer service person. Walking home I passed two Starbucks and began to think about why standing in line behind those women was so mentally painful. It was less than ten minutes total time, but I found myself unable to control the frustration. The employee wasn’t the problem, it was the customer that had come into the store not fully prepared to make a purchase, with the knowledge of what they needed or desired fully thought out before entering the shop.
The next day I was stuck behind another out of country visitor as I waited to get my coffee. She was taking her sweet time selecting a pastry from the case, even the barista was annoyed at the amount of time this was taking. This again, made me think about why we get so freaked out by someone not moving at the speed of light. I can’t speak for other countries, but I’m going to take a wild guess that most of them aren’t marketing the same way as companies in the United States. Think back to Macy’s glory days when the policy was, ‘You break it, you buy it.’ Today if you destroy something in a store, the store will apologize to you for placing it in your way and give you a credit for your next visit. The idea that the customer is always right has been placed on steroids, turning most of the nation into service monsters that think their ninety-seven cent purchase should get the same attention as another purchase that costs a thousand dollars.
Is it that other countries are not marketing in this way, or is it that as Americans we are so oblivious to advertising that we believe the words spitting from the television and falling out of electronic billboards? Or are foreigners just better at thinking for themselves?
I don’t have an answer to the question, but realizing I’m another crazy service monster may be the first step in changing bad behavior…or at least learning how to navigate around foreign hotspots.