Friday, March 23, 2018

It's Time to Stop Confusing Personal, Professional, Private... and Good

The proof of th' pudding's seen i' the eating.  - Nicolas Boileau Bespreaux, 1672.


I'm old enough to remember when people actually walked into stores to buy things. I realize it's a cute, yet somewhat antiquated notion in today's online-everything, yet, physical retail spaces do hold some nostalgia for me... I recall, as a child, my mother pulling me into places where sales clerks - and at some rather ordinary establishments, like the corner pharmacy or shoe repair shops - behaved in a manner which identified them as having some pride in their work. They would also ask her questions, I recall, and listen to her, then replying with, at the very least, a modicum of coherence, if not also a civil conversation and some heartfelt concern. We'd then purchase something, or maybe not, yet, either way, we were always escorted to the door and bid farewell, gracefully. It was a unique time in retail history and I was honored to have experienced it, albeit vicariously through her, as I was only about seven years old and had no money of my own.

Anyone who lives in, or has even visited, Manhattan, knows about one of the very few large remaining bookseller retail spaces, which sits on possibly the most expensive square footage of real estate in the entire city. Surely, for this type of operation to continue, the experience must be good. 

I wanted to take a trip down memory lane and to see for myself, so, last night, after I was identified as the "next person in line" and instructed to approach the counter, the nametaged Professional Sales Associate quickly informed me the cards that I was searching for do not exist.
Perhaps her highfalutin job title
had prompted this absurd and
condescending behavior?


"Yes, that is correct, sir. Do. Not."

Now, why her face indicated she had bitten into a fresh new lemon just seconds before speaking with me, I'm not sure, but I realized that I'd at least had the luxury of a professional experience, so I was grateful for that. On my way home, I also realized the establishment was probably around 30,000 sq. ft., yet there seemed to only be about half a dozen or so total customers inside. I suppose the other customers all went home a little later, too, and maybe they'd found what they wanted, or maybe not. Maybe they'd gotten called on the carpet, too, or maybe they'd just felt the vibes, gone home, gone to bed, and prayed the next day would come as quickly as possible.

*****

Today, I was visiting a new community center in South Bronx, in a particular small neighborhood section of that area of the borough with, I'll say respectfully, a very humble economic reputation, one which had gratefully received this amazing new resource from NYCgov. It was getting pretty late and time to go, and on the way to my subway station, I took a side street and stopped into a market to grab some odds n' ends before my trip back home. A young man - unremarkably and without affect being referred to by others in the store as the bag boy - was sacking up my groceries. He looked at me directly in the eyes and he smiled, as I finished my transaction with the cashier for the few simple items I'd picked out. He'd noticed - and very attentively so - that I'd purchased the dark roast variety of Folger's coffee, an item he'd also apparently enjoyed recently (at around $5.00/LB, it's a premium product in many places of the world where people typically purchase even cheaper brands of coffee), and, unsolicited, he began describing to me the experience I was about to have, with no less the aplomb of a sommelier about to pour a '89 Chateau Haut-Brion.
He was simply good.

Astonished, I stood there, elated, speechless, and delighted beyond what I can put here into words, taking it all in, and thinking - where else have I had this type of experience lately, for any sum of money? The line of neighbors behind me patiently waited, as they knew (I could just feel it) they were in for the same delightful attention from this angel of customer service who had, no doubt, earned his wings at a very early age. 

I returned his look intently, thanked him with sincere appreciation for his service toward me, and then took my little thin yellow plastic bag containing less than ten dollars worth of goods, walked out the door, and, well, the truth be known, all I could think about on my way home was when I'd be able to return there again one day. Not necessarily to buy anything, really, but to just be there again - in that space. And something tells me the others in that line felt the same way, too. And it was good.

*****

Personal Assistant.

Private Chef.


Private Service Professional.

Forget, for just a moment, about all the fancy titles. 

And think about, for just a moment, if the experiences that others are having from you - are good.

Next time you're in town, please look me up.  

And join me for a cup of Folger's.