Friday, December 22, 2006

Please, Dad, Don't Make Me Go Back There

Our family always uses the Post Office in favor of UPS and FedEx because my dad is a postal retiree and the benefits he receives for the rest of his life would surely be immediately and directly impacted by any disloyalty on our part. But my resolve on this family directive is wavering.

Yesterday I took Nutmeg with me to our local P.O. to mail a few last-minute packages. I knew it would be crowded, being Dec. 21, so I brought plenty of patience. The first thing Nutmeg did was head to a chair toward the back of the small Post Office and shout to me, "MOMMY, YOU'RE HAVING A BABY, YOU HAVE TO SIT DOWN!" After giving reassuring smiles to the alarmed looks I got for that one -- nothing to see here, people -- I actually got the Nut to assist me by bringing me a padded Ready Post envelop from the little "Postal Store." I also tried to get a free Priority Mail box for my larger package, but they didn't have any big enough. So I figured I'd see if the people behind the counter could find me a bigger box or maybe I'd buy a Ready Post box if the postage difference between Priority and regular mail made sense. As I addressed my envelop and filled out a Priority Mail sticker, I gave Nutmeg a pen and paper to draw with and she wandered around the room, drawing on her paper and climbing on whatever she could, mostly amusing more than annoying the other patrons, I think/hope.

When it was finally my turn, the clerk started out merely unaccommodating, telling me that the zip code on one of my packages was invalid and that she could not tell me how much they would cost Priority vs. regular until they were in boxes, that the boxes were in the back of the room. You don't have any back there? I asked. Hohoho! She sneered at me, but finally offered up an estimate that buying a box or shipping it priority mail would probably cost about the same, and told me I could come right back up to her after I'd boxed the stuff up without waiting in line again. Then I read back to her the zip code I had for the incorrect package from the sheet I'd copied it from -- "XXXXX is invalid?" I asked her. This is where she decided she was finished speaking to me. She told me the price for what I'd mailed so far, and when I repeated my question, she repeated the price.
"I just wanted to check this zip code," I told her.
"I already told you that's invalid."
"Well I just wanted to make sure you could read my handwriting," I said.
"I'm not STUPID, I can read, it's invalid," she told me. "Where is your little girl?"
Nutmeg was playing toward the back of the store, and it's true she had slipped out of my sight.
Because I'm an absolute wimp when it comes to conflict of any kind, not to mention when I'm 8 months pregnant and trying to deal with a 2-year-old and a recalcitrant bureaucrat at the same time, I was fighting back tears when I went to the back of the store and grabbed Nutmeg. She notices these things. Really loudly, she says, "MOMMY, DON'T CRY! JUST BE HAPPIER!" And then she gives me a huge hug. Which of course just makes me cry more. All this of course is in front of a P.O. line full of people with nothing to do but watch. I nice old lady did offer to help me, but really there was nothing to do. I would have loved to just walk out, but I had already written an address on one of their envelops, opened up a roll of tape and folded up a Ready Post box, all of which I had to pay for. At least this time the P.O. woman was shamed into being nice, even, lo and behold, getting out her directory and looking up the zip code for me, which I had one digit off.

Between today and yesterday, I've been to more than a half dozen businesses on last-minute errands, and I have realized that you never realize what customer service is until you try to shop with a 2-year-old. Here is my naughty and nice list:

Trader Joe's: A little cart, a balloon and a free sample. No wonder Nutmeg calls out this store's name with delight every time we drive down Lincoln Ave.

The Book Cellar: I bought three Christmas presents and had them wrapped while Nutmeg listened to story time. Shopping nirvana.

The toy store on Lincoln Square: The counter guy saw that I was trying to hide the Cookie Monster puppet for Nutmeg's stocking, so he whisked it behind the counter in a streak of blue and wrapped it up. I was finished with my transaction before she was finished browsing.

Renessence Salon/Aveda: While I hate their name, Renessence had an Aveda rep in for the day who helped me put together a build-your-gift-box and then entertained Nutmeg by applying pink lip gloss and blusher to her while I paid. She even wiped the free chocolate from the bookstore of Nutmeg's face for me!

The Post Office, obviously, especially the P.O. on Lawrence St.

Fancy Men's Store on Michigan Ave. whose name I can't remember: You locked your regular doors so people would use the revolving door, and I had to stand outside with my stroller until another customer went in to ask you to let me in!

Walgreen's: OK, I understand that you didn't want to make copies of some of my photos because they were obviously taken by a professional, and some readers of this blog would surely not approve of me trying to do so, even though I've already spent hundreds of dollars on prints from said professional. But you should make it clear that we should not come back to resolve the matter at 9 p.m. because no manager will be on duty, because no one likes walking five blocks through a rainy Chicago night only to turn back home again, not even Epu.

Polish Sausage Factory on Milwaukee St.: I dunno, put your number machine in a more obvious place? To tell you the truth, this place wasn't rude, just busy, and though most of the older Polish customers were quite brusque, one lady did let me take her ticket since I had been there longer than her when I realized that there was a ticket-and-number system going on. But I dunno, raise your hand if you think the hugely pregnant woman with the yawning, whining toddler on her hip (because toddler has removed her shoes yet again) deserves to cut right to the front of the line?


Kori said...

You know, my mom's dad was a doctor, and I don't think I've ever gone to a doctor's appointment with her where she hasn't mentioned that to the physician. I think she feels like it's like showing her membership card to a "Families of Physicians" special benefits club. You should whip out your post card the next time you have to deal with Scroogella McPostlady.

Carrie said...

I can't do that, because it doesn't work on clerks. The clerks and the carriers have separate unions, and they don't seem to like or respect one another very much.

Notta Wallflower said...

Well, I was going to post about my shopping mishaps this season, but they pale in comparison to yours. :-P Instead of having a toddler, I had a teenager, who was oddly well-behaved (he hates shopping with a passion). I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. Also, San Jose crowds have made it so that the crowds in Spokane look miniscule. I have officially been "broken in".