I’ve always been semi-ashamed of my sordid past in customer service. I probably shouldn’t be; I put myself through college and the painstaking months of career-related job searching that followed by providing service with a smile – usually to people who didn’t really deserve it.Still, before I landed what I would call my first “real” job, whenever someone would ask what I do for a living, I’d find myself hanging my head, mumbling something about “waitress” and then go on to inform him of what I wished I were doing, the more ambitious plans that lay ahead of me.At the same time, the many years I spent in customer service definitely shaped who I am now, affected my work ethic and the amount of respect I bestow on those clearing my plates at my favorite restaurant. I feel about customer service the way some people feel about the military – that everyone should be required to serve for at least a year.
I have a point, I promise.
I wander into Dwelling Spaces as often as I can, and every time I do, I find myself standing in front of owner Mary Beth Babcock’s collection of local literature. Without fail, I find myself drawn to this little blue book: “The Customer is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles,” edited by local writer and retail veteran Jeff Martin.
I make it a point to read Jeff’s contribution to Tulsa People magazine every month, and I enjoy his quick-witted humor, enough so that I’m compelled to purchase his book, a compilation of tales of horror and hope in the customer service industry, every time I see it. I always get preoccupied, though, by whatever purchasing need I find more immediate at the time – Joe Andoe’s autobiography, Louis & Cluck’s latest t-shirt creation, an Ugly Doll for my kid – and I end up putting the little blue book back on the shelf.
A few days ago, I was at the PAC, interviewing the cast and conductor of Tulsa Opera’s Hansel and Gretel, and afterward, I stepped into Dwelling Spaces with the explicit purpose of nabbing my very own copy of that little blue book – and a Valentine’s Day gift for my baby boy.
I picked up the book and was perusing Dwelling Spaces’ other goodies when Mary Beth noticed what I was holding and said, “That’s a great book.” Then, half whispering and half laughing, she not-so-discreetly pointed her finger toward a guy standing at the register and said, “He wrote it!”
As fate would have it, Jeff Martin was standing in front of me, shaking my hand, thanking me for buying his book, which he offered to sign for me. I walked out of Dwelling Spaces that afternoon with a signed copy of “The Customer is Always Wrong,” inscribed with a personal note to a “fellow customer service refugee” and a newfound justification for my passion for shopping locally. If you don’t make it a point to patronize locally-owned businesses and purchase goods designed, made and written by fellow Tulsans, you miss out on opportunities for chance meetings and personal touches you simply can’t get at big box chains.
Experiences like that are invaluable, and that one left me more excited about my purchase than I would have been had I not met Jeff that day. I couldn’t wait to get home and delve into the book. And, so far, I haven’t been disappointed. The stories are hilarious.
Want your own copy of Jeff Martin's "The Customer is Always Wrong?" Leave your own (abridged, please) retail chronicles in the comments.
I'll do a random drawing from the comments left here stamped with a time before 8 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. I'll post the resulting winner of a bright and shiny new copy of Jeff's Martin's book, courtesy of Mary Beth at Dwelling Spaces, tomorrow afternoon.
Can't wait to wallow with you in your misery!