Several years ago I was fortunate to be at a small party in a house in Dublin. Or Galway. Or Antrim. Or somewhere where I felt foreign even though I wasn’t.
It was full of foreign drink, food I didn’t deserve, and annoying Irish people.
Somebody then brought up the subject of America, specifically the United States. Everyone in the room had experience of the US, and before we go further I should explain that most Irish people with experience of the US fall into one of two camps.
Camp one says the US is the greatest thing since sliced bread, whereas Ireland is a traffic jam in a corrupt toilet. Camp the second on the other hand maintains that the US is the worst thing in the world, especially compared to the greatest thing since sliced bread, which happens to be Ireland.
The important thing to draw from this is that regardless of economic performance, literacy levels, the minimum wage, racism, extremes of weather, or wars, Irish people really like sliced bread.
Being perfect and a non-joiner, I was in neither camp. Being a coward I was also silent. Everybody else in that room was in the first camp, and the subject being discussed was customer service. In short the room proclaimed America to be brilliant in making people feel happy as they consumed goods and services, and Ireland to be incapable of even spelling the words, assuming the staff turned up and didn’t tell you where to go (assuming you had no desire to know where to go).
Anyway, no longer a resident of Ireland my job here now is not to defend what I no longer know at home. it’s much more fun than that; it’s to bring testament to my experience in the US.
With a raging passion I hate customer service in America.
Over the weekend I went to the supermarket, and optimistically chose to carry a basket. Usually the messages (groceries and the other stuff) fit inside my bicycle helmet so there’s no need, but the desire to belong is strong so sometimes I carry my helmet in the basket, with plenty of room still left for the messages.
As it turned out I purchased only one item. I paid for it refusing to use the loyalty card, the fact that they want me to use it being reason enough not to. Their job is to make money, so I figure not doing what they want should prevent them from making more money and ultimately in the long run save me money. Try this at home yourself.
Usually this is where I’m asked if I want my bags to be paper or plastic. Somehow, 50% of the time the packing person gets it wrong which then leaves me with the conundrum of whether 50% of the time I should ask for the option I don’t want. But if I ask during the wrong 50% I would end up with the wrong choice all the time.
Anyway this time we were all spared my mathematical prowess, as the packer took my bunch of bagels in their house-packed plastic bag, and packed the pack into a general store plastic bag. And then it happened.
I put my change in my pocket, picked up my plastic bag, and began to walk away from the checkout area. As I passed the packer, he said, Enjoy your bagels, sir. Holding those bagels in my left hand as my left arm cradled my helmet, I swung swiftly and with my right fist punched him hard in the jaw.
Now the reason I was in the super-duper-market in the first place is because Aldi, that place which sells stuff that does a great impression of food, was closed. It was late. I usually only go to the super-duper-whooper-market when I’m returning from playing the pub quiz and my team has won or come second putting a few sheckles in my pocket. With the winnings I treat myself to ham, cheese, and some nice bread.
Without the winnings on this night, there was no treat. The bagels are old and being sold off cheap. In the world of people who eat bread, old is code for stale. The previous month one was so stale I almost threw up, which is odd because I regularly chance things ten and twelve years past their date. If you think about it that’s not as bad as it sounds because it does at least stop the concern over whether the date is American or European format.
-Enjoy my bagels?
-No sir, they’re just aged
-So might there be ones that haven’t aged?
-I don’t know
-In the cabinets for three times the price of these, are those bagels aged?
-Not as much as the ones you have sir
-So I am to enjoy my aged bagels?
-Well you did buy them sir
-Yes I did but it’s a bit presumptuous to think I’m going to eat them, let alone enjoy them, is it not?
-I was just being polite sir. It was a way of wishing you to have a good day
-But what if I don’t want to have a good day?
-Well I wouldn’t know that sir
-Because I don’t know you
-But yet you feel you know me well enough that I should go around enjoying reduced-price stale bagels?
-Only if you want to sir
-What if I had bought a whole trolley-full of groceries?
-Would you have told me to enjoy my yogurts, my washing-up liquid, my milk, my carrots, my baked beans, my cornflakes, my lightbulb, my cheese, my frozen pizza, my mushrooms, and on and on? Would you?
-I probably would have wished you just to have a nice day
-It’s almost midnight! Would I be supposed to enjoy just this last twenty minutes of the day, leaving me seriously short-changed in the day-enjoyment stakes, or would I be allowed to carry forward the balance of your wished happiness and enjoy most of tomorrow too?
-Once you’re happy sir, it’s not that important
-What if I’d just bought a light bulb? Would you have told me to enjoy the light?
-Or toilet roll?
-You know what those bagels are for?
-They’re not for me
-Well you could still enjoy giving them to somebody
-They’re for a gangster
-At this moment he is holding my three kids, my three wives, and my three goldfish hostage. He captured them last night and has threated to kill all of them unless at midnight tonight I bring him six fresh bagels from your store. Cheap as the ransom may seem, this has been the worst day of my life, interrupted only by constant wishings for me to have a nice day. Tomorrow may be even worse. I didn’t have enough money for fresh bagels but I did have enough time to play a pub quiz and maybe win the money necessary for the ransom to save my family and my fish. But we missed the last question - from what city in Poland does the close relation of the bagel, the bialy, come from?
-You knew that? We said Kracow
-My mother’s Polish
-Anyway, so now I’m giving the gangster stale bagels and hoping on the life of my family and fish that he doesn’t notice
-They’re not really that stale sir
-Even a little aged and he could decide to kill the goldfish just to make an example of me
-I see the problem sir
-So in future, before you go presuming anybody is going to eat the bagels, let alone enjoy anything to do with the experience, maybe you should first think about the goldfish?
-Anyway, I better dash if I’m to make this deadline. Sorry about that spot of trouble earlier
-Not a problem sir
-Good luck so
-Have a nice day