I have a cold so I’ve been sitting in front of a computer all day searching, researching, sniffling, and drinking hot peppermint tea. It’s been raining on top of the snow that’s already on the ground and, even as much as I love nearly all types of precipitation, I’m actually pretty glad I didn’t have to be somewhere today.
To be frank, I’d really like to work from home. I know it seems like everyone must say that, but nearly everyone I know says they couldn’t do it, that they don’t have the discipline. But I know I do. I was homeschooled, and mostly self-educated at that, so I learned pretty early how to keep myself on a schedule. I spent most of last week looking for opportunities that would allow this. There are a few I keep going back to, but I haven’t applied for any yet. I’m gathering more intel first. Trying to learn how to sell myself without using my face and personality. Yes, they can come through in writing and on phone calls and all of that – but all a lot of people want is a resume and that format is so dry… It doesn’t say I worked 16 hour days when my coworkers couldn’t come in or I walked to work in the snow for months while my car was in the shop or I will learn whatever I have to as quickly as I can if you present me with an opportunity that’s worthwhile – I’ve done it before. A resume says this is what I’ve done, not watch what I can do, and that’s frustrating.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my Dad and, in a moment of aggravation, I growled and said “I’ve never been hired because of my resume,” – He looked right at me and said “So say that.” That’s my Dad.
It’s true though. And it’s been the toughest thing for me so far to try to find ways around. The backbone of my work history is customer service. I’ve done it in various capacities since I was 15 and people don’t scare me. It wasn’t hard to figure out that all a lot of people want is to be heard, even if they want nothing else, they just want you to listen and probably to empathize. And, well, I like helping people. Not just that, I take particular delight in helping them fix the problem and then telling them how it was done if I can, so it doesn’t happen again, or they’ll know how to fix it when it does.
I’ll never forget: During my most recent stint with Starbucks, a woman and her mother used to come in and order two of the same recipe, it was a pretty obnoxious variation of a frappuccino that we technically didn’t make anymore, but they knew how to order it and they were pretty nice to be honest. They were high maintenance is all.
We had a bit of turnover at our store, it’s normal, so not everyone “just knew” their drinks and suddenly they started coming back in after ordering to have them remade. This is never a fun situation for anyone involved. It’s a waste of product, man-power, and time – but Starbucks caters specifically to the high maintenance crowd and when you sign up you have to know it comes with the territory.
One day this woman comes back in very frustrated, in her defense it was the third time I’d personally seen this and she often came in multiple times a day. If you’ve ever worked in customer service you know the look (and the walk) and, since I figured it was going to get escalated to me as the supervisor anyway, I intervened by meeting her at the cash register.
“What’s going on, Jane?” (Not her real name) I began cheerfully. “Not right?”
Jane shook her head and handed me the full drink. “I don’t know what it is,” She said, it’s hard to describe what it looks like when someone is very annoyed but they’re trying to be nice anyway. “I just never get it right anymore!”
“Well,” I crooned. “I’m really sorry, I know we have some new people but I don’t know who made this. How does it taste wrong?”
“I don’t know!” She sighed. “It’s just… not good, if this keeps happening I might have to start going somewhere else, I’m really sorry,” She had one of those mouths that could make an almost perfect upside down ‘u’ shape when she frowned apologetically. Leaning in, as if there weren’t another partner standing right next to me (Thank god it was a slower time of day, though this made the offense that much less excuseable), she almost whispered “Can you make it?”
I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. “Sure.” I smiled. “Tell me how again, I want to make sure I get it right the first time.”
Making eye contact with the still apologetic Jane as often as I could, I repeated each step back, and watched closely as my barista entered the ingredients into the register, then I comped the drinks and got to work. Meeting Jane again at the handoff when I was done.
“Taste it.” I commanded before her hand met the already frosty plastic of the cup. “Don’t leave if it’s wrong, I’ll make it until we get it right. You’re not leaving here with shoddy workmanship.”
She smiled “I’m sure it’s fine,” as she took her first sip. It was, I could tell because she was smiling before she could speak. “It’s perfect! Thank you!”
“Awesome!” I’ve been mocked intermittently throughout my life due to the use of this word. But I grew up on the West coast and my Dad is from California, so it was sort of fated. “Now listen,” I held up a finger to stop her from leaving. “See the sticker on that cup?” She nodded, sucking greedily on the straw. “That has everything you need on it to get it exactly the same next time. When you get back to your car, take a picture of it with your phone or save the sticker when you’re done or something. And next time you order show it to the barista, or if you’re in the drive through read exactly what it says and tell them you have the sticker if they have any questions. Okay? Then this won’t happen to you anymore and it saves everyone.”
“OOH, that’s a good idea! I’m gonna tell my mom and my husband, too!” I thought she was going to hug me, but she didn’t, I guess it’s the little things.
This scenario happens pretty often, what follows is the thing that made this one stand out.
Jane and her mom came in a lot for several weeks after that without a single remake as far as I could tell. They were always kind to me, appreciative to my shiftmates, and tipped quite well. And then I didn’t see them for a long time. In total I think it was a couple of months. Jane’s husband came in once and I only knew because of the picture of the sticker he showed on his phone. I wondered casually what had happened and just figured it was one of the normal reasons you stop seeing regulars: they find somewhere else, or they change their drink and you don’t recognize it anymore.
Then, one day, I was working on the bar and I turned aroud to realize I was being beckoned from the person in the passenger seat of the van that was waiting at the drive through window. I had someone take over for me and walked over, it was Jane, her husband was driving. I hadn’t seen her drink come through because it was busy and I had someone making cold drinks for me but it was the same.
“Hey! Long time no see!” I said, probably too loudly, but there was a lot of noise in the store.
“Hey!” Jane smiled. “Listen, I just wanted to tell you the reason we haven’t been around is because my mother, you remember her? We used to come in together and she, well, she passed away.”
I was dumbfounded. “I’m so sorry for your loss…” I said, much more quietly.
“Thank you,” She took her first sip. “It’s okay, it was expected and she’s better now. But I just wanted to thank you. You were always so nice to us and she wanted me to tell you, so thank you for everything.”
I almost cried, but I didn’t. I know I said you’re welcome and see you soon and normal pleasantries were exchanged and then I took over at the bar again, but I was just sort of shocked. It seemed crazy to me that I would stand out among any number of people to this woman who’s name I’d never even learned.
I guess it really is the little things.