I was at Blockbuster yesterday. As I was paying for my movies the store phone rang, and the clerk did the unthinkable: “Can you hold please?” and he finished checking me out.
“Whoa. Did you just put that customer on hold to wait on me?” I was stunned. “That was really nice of you.”
“Not me,” he replied with the grin that comes from putting people on hold. “Company policy. In-store customers come before phone customers.”
I have always agreed with that, but no one else seems to. Heck, I drove there and am standing there with product to buy and money in hand. I am why they built the store. But in my experience, I’ve always had to wait while clerks answer caller questions about store hours for people who got the phone number from a Yellow Pages ad that listed the store hours.
I have waved cash to get a cashier’s attention. “Yo! Real Human with Money here!” It didn’t work, so as I stood there I used my cell phone to call the store. “Hi, my name is Michael –I’m standing right in front of you and I was wondering if I could actually buy something?”
If I were the clerk I would think it was brilliantly ironic. But I got that blank stare you often get from someone raised on Nintendo.
The recorded greeting on the phone at my bar, Mick’s, is eternal. It embarrasses me, and not just because my voice sounds uncomfortably like David Sedaris. “We’re open at…for booking questions…to see who’s playing, visit our website….” By the time they get a chance to leave a message they’ve had another birthday. Yet inevitably they ask a question like, “What time do you open?”
In 1965, someone got paid $2.30 an hour to answer your questions. Now we pay “voice talent” who has never even been to the store $60 per hour to pre-record answers to questions you were never going to ask. “To get your current balance, press one!” They never offer a selection like, “To speak to someone who actually knows something…” And don’t even get me started on how good it sounds to a customer who calls for operating instructions for his Chevy and gets connected to someone in India who has never even owned a car. Is it really cheaper to just hope a customer will give up?
Press 9 for more options? Man, you don’t need no more options.