Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Awkward New Year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, I'm going to a New Year's Eve party. My sweet friend invited me. I probably could have taken the initiative to make plans with a little more specificity, but that would require me to be, like, social, and stuff.

Hi. I'm awkward.

There are people in this world who seem to meld seamlessly into other people's lives. Friends, relatives, co-workers - they have a stable network of people who do stuff together and stick around for years. Platonic and romantic relationships move at a comfortable and natural pace.

Those people are like unicorns.

I have friends and relatives and co-workers who love me. They have stuck around for years. I know this. But melding seamlessly? Don't make me laugh. I was born with a giant shoehorn attached to my body. Doctors were baffled.

So I'm going to this New Year's Eve party with a very good friend. And I know many of the people who will be there. I have known them for years. YEARS. I like them very much! I'm 63 percent certain they like me, too!

It doesn't matter. I guarantee I will spend a measurable amount of time casting about for things to say and worrying about what to do with my hands. Hello, everyone, get out your inhalers! I am here to mess up your pleasant social encounter and make everyone feel like they're 14 and talking to their high school crush.


Wish me luck. And happy new year, everyone! I hope all your unicorn dreams come true!

Monday, December 22, 2014

I fail at Christmas, but my mom wins at life

Monday, December 22, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, with Emerson being sick for two weeks straight, plus commencement and a host of other events, as well, I'm really behind on my shopping. I call my mother for some guidance.

"Mom, are dad's clubs hybrids, or does he have wood?" I blurt.


"I don't know. I would guess the traditional kind," she answered.

"Okay. Apparently that matters when sizing covers for the head," I reply.


"Oh, lord," she said. "Well, if they don't fit, we can always exchange it later if you buy it somewhere kind of universal?"

"I was going to run by Academy Sports. Or do you have Dick's up there?"

At that, I couldn't take it anymore and I burst into wide-mouthed, hysterical cackles.

"What's so funny?" my mother asked.

"I just ... I just asked if you had Dick's up there!" I half-shrieked, and put my head down on my desk, convulsed with choking, sobbing laughter. I could just about hear my mother's lips purse.

"Well... I haven't seen one in a while," my mother replied.


That was the sound of my head exploding.

My mother wins at life.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dear Wal-Mart - oh, nevermind.

Friday, December 19, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone on planet Earth that I had a less-than-stellar experience at Wal-Mart. But I'm not writing about it because I'm angry. It wasn't a big deal. I'm writing because it looks like a customer service success, but it's actually a failure of philosophy.

The scenario

I went into Wal-Mart to buy approximately 18 bajillion eggs for holiday baking - and another $3 charging cable for my phone, because I keep breaking them. I've been through four of them in six months. I got mad skillz, y'all.

Coincidentally, I had a coupon for a free package of Chicken of the Sea flavored salmon. Now, one of the last things I need is for someone else to prepare $1.15 worth of salmon, shred it, throw some lemon pepper on it, slather it with preservatives and give it to me in a foil packet. Minus the preservatives, I could have made my own salmon at home, for the same price, using less time and frustration than it took me to go to Wal-Mart to get a package of it.

But.... I had a coupon. For FREE.

So I scanned it and my other items at the number 44 self-checkout register and then scanned the coupon. The cost of the item came off, I dropped the receipt into the receipt slot, and pressed "pay now." I swiped my card, put in my PIN number, and waited for my receipt.


And then it charged my card, printed the receipt, and didn't return my coupon.

First of all, the item totally matched the coupon. Second of all, what if I didn't want the item unless the coupon was valid? What if the item I picked up was a mistake that I no longer wanted?

Now, this was only $1.15. I'm not about to pitch a fit over that. So I turned with a smile and caught the eye of the lone CSR manning the self-checkout. I can only imagine what a special hell that job is.

She did not smile back. Before I could even ask her for help, she snapped, without looking me in the eye: "If it's something that has to be taken off the receipt, I can't do that."

My smile tensed. "May I explain the issue?"

"Go ahead."

I did.

"Well, if you want a refund, you have to go to customer service."

"No, I don't really care about a $1 refund. I was just hoping someone might take note of the issue the machine is experiencing and perhaps put in a repair ticket."

She glared at me: "Well, I can't do that."

I kept smiling and kept my voice even and calm: "Well... who can?"

She sighed and motioned over another employee. I explained again.

"You have to go to customer service," the new employee said.

"THAT'S what I TOLD her," the original CSR snapped, angrily making change for another customer.

The customer eyed me as though I was causing a problem. Y'all, I really wasn't. I wasn't angry, or even irritated. I was just like, "Oh, oopsy, someone might want to fix that." But after being treated like a boil on her ass, I was beginning to get pissed off. I am not entirely certain that my attempt to continue smiling and remaining calm didn't look terrifyingly like a serial killer's expression. But I tried.

"So they can fix the machine? And how will they be able to scan the coupon?" I asked.

The new rep side-stepped, "Oh, they'll send someone over to get it out of the machine."

"Okay, thank you. Have a nice day," I said, and resisted giving the side-eye to the original CSR.

I walked to customer service, where there was - miraculously - no line. I explained again that the register was malfunctioning, and the very sweet CSR asked to see my receipt. I showed her, she punched a few buttons, the register popped open, and she handed me $1.15. Which I never asked for.

"There you go. Have a nice day," she said. "We're sorry you had a problem today."

"Um, well, thank you. But the register...? Is someone going to fix it? It might keep charging people incorrectly."

She stared at me blankly.

Mentally, I gave up. I smiled and gathered my things.

"Thank you. Happy holidays," I said.

"You, too," she smiled back.

So, that's a long story. But I wanted to illustrate some failures of customer service in this scenario.

No. 1: Don't 'anticipate the customer's needs' so much that you ignore what they say.

Yes, many of the issues you respond to will be repeats. But not every customer is the same. Listen to them as though you have never before heard what they are saying. Three people in this scenario failed to respond to my attempt to solve a customer service problem. All of them assumed I was just really intent on getting $1.15. I can assure you that salmon was going to get eaten. It was fine. I just wanted to make sure that the issue with the register was noted for future customers.

No. 2: The answer is never "I can't do that."

Customers understand that people's responsibilities are often compartmentalized. But saying "I can't do that" or "I don't know" should never be the terminal response from a customer service representative. A correct response is, "I'm not authorized to do that, but let me get/point you to/give you the number for/transfer you to the person who is." Or, "I don't know, but I'll find out. Just a moment."

No. 3: Treat people with courtesy.

I don't expect to make a new best friend in the checkout line. And it's okay if you're not delighted to see me. Really. Truth be told, I'm not always delighted to see people, in general. People are where the problems are. But for the love of all that is holy, don't treat me like I am the bane of your existence, and an idiot to boot.

No. 4: The CSR is not always right.

Now, I was not a jerk, but I have Resting Bitch Face that can look like I'm irritated if I'm not actively smiling. Generally speaking, I'm an intelligent, polite, functional adult (well... an intelligence-adjacent, well-mannered-but-sometimes-clueless, and fooling-people-most-of-the-time adult). But it's possible I'm in the midst of a gross misunderstanding. Like most people, I will take responsibility for my mistake and you can make fun of me in the break room later - probably while I'm simultaneously texting my sister to lament about what an ass I just made of myself.

No. 4: The customer is not always right.

The original CSR I dealt with had a clear grasp of this. The customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is an entitled asshole. But assuming the worst about someone, being snappy, and failing to engage in basic interpersonal communication signals - like eye contact - only makes those people worse and the rest of  us hurt and confused. If you focus on the problem, and how to fix it, you can depersonalize the issue and calm down the jerk in front of you. I worked in food and beverage for many years, and I know that sometimes people are just looking for any slight - no matter how small - to get discounts or free food. But most people are good and kind and want to do the right thing and have a good experience. Don't overlook us.

The horrible people don't just make your job harder; they make EVERYONE'S jobs harder. We're all in this together. Us against the entitled assholes. Let's win this.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Conversation with IT Services

Thursday, December 11, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I had been experiencing computer issues for a week. I was at my wits' end. Not only was my tower down in IT being repaired because the wackadoodle broke and rendered the doohickey TOTALLY useless (those wackadoodles... geez), but the loaner computer they gave me couldn't maintain a network connection. Not great when everything we do is web-based. I called IT services, which has been outsourced to a company that is not local.

Some background: We have to log into a network profile, which then allows us to access our hard drive. (Or something. Don't make me get specific and technical, or I will force you to write a press release, which I will then edit with a red Sharpie.)

IT: "How may I help you?"

Me: "Yes, I'm having trouble maintaining a connection to the network. I can't consistently get emails, send emails, check voice mails, or anything. Can you help me?"

IT: "Let me get your name and location, and I'll see if I can get in touch with the network guys." 

Me: "Okay." (I relay my information.)

IT: "Alright, I'll call you back."

Me: "Thank you."

Some time passes, during which I try to pull my voice mails, and can't. 

Then the phone rings again.

Me: "This is Stacey."

IT: "Yes, it's IT again. I've just talked to the network guys, and they confirm that there is a network issue on campus."

Me: "...."

IT: "..."

Me: "Okay, so... yeah, that's kind of why I called. Did they relay any other information to you?"

IT: "They confirm that there is a network issue on campus, and you may have trouble maintaining a stable connection to the network."

Me: "... Um... yeah, I... was kind of hoping there would be a fix...? Or... a timeline? Or... some kind of guidance on alternatives so that I can complete my work...?"

IT: "Well, did you save your work to your personal network drive?"

Me: "No. I saved it to my hard drive, but I can't log into my profile to access it."

IT: "Well, that could be a problem. If you save your files to your personal network drive, they will always be available, even if your hard drive crashes."

Me: "Isn't my personal network drive on... like... the network?"

IT: "Correct."

Me: "The network that I can't access right now?"

IT: "Yes."

Me: "..."

IT: "..."

Me: "Okay, thanks."

IT: "Have a great day."

Me: "You, too."

That conversation was going to go nowhere fast. I'll just go have lunch and hope things get better in the next hour.

Monday, December 08, 2014

He's bathed in the spirit

Monday, December 08, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I sent out an email to all members of my organization about our holiday service project for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. I got an email back from someone complaining that they don't celebrate Christmas, and couldn't participate.

That's okay, I said, because it's for any holiday in the winter. New Year's is secular and perfectly valid. Why not start the year off with good karma? Long story short, he/she Grinched out on me. That's cool. Whatever floats your boat. But even though the email only said "holiday," and not "Christmas," I clarified the situation for some others. That prompted another round of emails.

M.M.: I don’t celebrate Christmas!  How dare you not know the affiliation of everyone on your e-mail list!! GAWD!

Me: Many members of the organizational family do not celebrate Christmas, which is one of the reasons that it's not a "Christmas" service project. It's just for the winter holidays. There are about 25 holidays from various faiths and traditions in the next 30 days, so we get to pick the one we celebrate and make the service project about that one! I might decide to celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish new year, just because it sounds like fun. They do some kind of "fireball swinging." Not enough swinging fireballs around here, in my opinion. :-D

M.M.: I do not believe in the winter season or the word “holiday.”  Or fire. Still offended, M.M.

Me: Well, then, I apologize, and hope you have a happy new year - which is technically not a holiday, but a simple changing of the calendar.

M.M.: I refuse to acknowledge anything but the Mayan calendar.  #offended

Hahahaha! I love this place. :-)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014 By

R.H.: "Is it bad that I'm looking forward to the new Jurassic Park because of the carnage?"

Me: "Yes, you're weird. I'm excited about it, too, though... but I'm mad that the dinosaurs are wrong. They're supposed to have feathers."

R.H.: "They designed them with the information they had from known science."

Me: "Pretty sure the known science is that dinosaurs had feathers."

R.H.: "Well, no one would be scared by 'Chickensaurus' running around!"

Fair enough. I'm still excited about it. But besides feathers, it needs more Judy Greer.

"Bok-bok, mothereffer."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Attack of the Giant Metal Chickens

Wednesday, December 03, 2014 By

DISCLAIMER: No one show my mother this post!

AUGUSTA, GA. - My mother has a thing for chickens. She grew up with them while spending summers on her grandmother's farm, and has a fondness that has lead her to decorate her house with them.

It's flocked up. She has folksy rattan chickens, and chicken serving platters, and chicken hand towels, and chicken pot holders. Once I bought her a very expensive hand-blown glass chicken at a museum gift shop just so I could say, "This here is a fine art chicken." It sits on top of her refrigerator.

Y'all, we are all full up on chickens.

BUT... recently I remembered this hilarious post from The Bloggess, and tried to find a similar giant metal chicken for my mother's yard. I don't think I can properly capture my inevitable glee at witnessing my mother waking up Christmas morning to a giant metal chicken staring menacingly into the sliding glass door from the back patio. I would crow about it for years.

Side story: Once, my sister and I decided it would be a great idea to steal a giant fiberglass Mayfield Dairy cow that was on display at a new grocery store in Monroe, Ga.


It was very late at night, and we were on our way back to Conyers from Athens... where we had been reading classic literature to elderly blind nursing home residents, of course. Anyway, the cow was already on a trailer, and we thought we could just hook it up to the car and drive off with it - just to see our mother's face in the morning when she went to get the paper and BAM!! Big-ass cow for the win!

It's okay. They have extras.

That experience didn't work out so well. And while I have tried not to brood about it, I have spent nearly two decades disappointed that I don't have a plucky "you should have seen the look on her face" story about my mother finding an enormous stolen fiberglass cow hooked up to her old Cadillac in the driveway one random Sunday morning.

I really am terribly disappointed.

My Christmas wish is that a giant metal chicken will appear in my mother's yard one day. I am thinking of starting a GoFundMe campaign to buy one. Let me know your thoughts.