November 9, 2007

Service with a smile

I reached a milestone today, my local supermarket became home.

A GS opened nearly two years ago just a few blocks away and I am a faithful client (when I need things that Pina doesn't supply). I have passed through one of the four cash registers hundreds of times that are manned by the same cashiers, day after day, week after week, month after month, and now year after year. No one had ever noticed or acknowledged my consistent presence across the bar chart reader -- never a "have a good day" or "can I help you" or any one of those quaint phrases. Nothing beyond, "card?" "change?" "how many bags?". Never any direct eye contact, nor interest. Any conversation took place among themselves, talking through you to the cashier on next line over.

Until today. The gum chewing 20-something year old with the black and blond streaked long hair and lots of eye-liner that makes her look slightly Egyptian suddenly looked up as the last item beeped passed the bar-code reader, actually saw me, and asked, "How do you cook this?" The item in question was a bag of mixed greens (cabbage, spinach, escarole and such). After recovering from the shock of this intimate interaction, I told her that I usually just boiled it, like spinach. She turned the bag over, looked at the ingredients and continued, "Could I also pass in the pan with some oil?" Suddenly having become a mixed greens expert, I responded slowly and with authority that she could also do that. But it didn't stop there (although the line was getting longer), "What does it taste like?" she continued as she turned back make a total. "A bit tart, with the cabbage, but not too much because of the other vegetables. I like it, my kids a bit less." She smiled (!!) and that was that.

It has taken over a year, but I have slowly, silently created a "relationship" with my local supermarket cashier just by regularly showing up in front of her. Who knows what may come of this new development -- maybe she will even keep the line open for me when it closes for everyone else, or whisper in my ear that she is going to open a new cash register so that I can discretely be the first in line.

Creating relationships takes time, but they always pay off. You rarely receive (what we would consider to be) service on first sight, you have to earn it by becoming a regular, day after day, week after week, month after month....

a domani,


MollyB, Bloggerin said...

Did you by any chance start doing your eyeliner differently?

Hats off for your patience in this connection!

Expectations that a human connection will pay off in practical ways feels like a very Germanic thing to me, though.

Anonymous said...

What I love about the smaller mom and pop delis around here is exactly what you described. The longed for connection. I miss that aspect as the smaller shops are being eaten up by superstores.

gillian said...

i haven't broken through yet at the sma...but your post gives me hope...i have earned a grudging smile at castroni when i go for my morning coffee and the salami guys now note how many days it has been since my last visit and my son's weekly ungarese salami consumption...piano piano...

Elizabeth Abbot said...

mollyb,its not really an expectation but a reality!Italians check you out for a longer time before deciding whether to let them into their circle (and give you service).

Marryann, me too! that's why I go to Pina and Leonardo's shop instead of a psychiatrist!

gillian, hang in there! a grudging smile is a great start.