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Latest Casualty in COVID Era: Customer Service

Doctors offices, fast food and restaurants, grocery stores, boutiques, screeching at patrons, patients and clients

By Katy Grimes, August 13, 2020 3:04 pm

My neighborhood grocery store, which once had very nice customer service, has degraded into COVID mask hysterics, and clerks now yell at shoppers for for allowing their own reusable bags touch the conveyer belt at the check out stand.

Far too many restaurants have devolved from friendly, really cool places to dine, to openly hostile with patrons – also known as “clients.”

Mask mandate. (Photo: youtube screen capture)

Doctors offices are ordering patients to wait outside until they are called – in the triple digit heat of the California summer.

Fast food and chain restaurants also make patrons wait outside until the order is ready, pitting those who are fully masked and gloved, against those who love breathing fresh air out-of-doors.

The handling and politicizing of the coronavirus pandemic has made friends, neighbors and business patrons treat each other like walking contagions, while some store clerks and restaurant employees are openly hostile to people trying to live normally.

It’s as if many businesses are using the virus panic to end the time-honored tradition and business success of customer service.

One of the worst mistakes a service business can make is prioritizing company policy above the customer needs, as well as ignoring customer feedback.

Forbes reported last year that poor customer service costs businesses more than $75 billion a year.

The main reasons for customers ceasing to do business with a company should be obvious:

  1. Customers do not feel appreciated.
  2. Customers are not able to speak to a person who can provide them the answers they are looking for.
  3. Customers experience rude and unhelpful employees.
  4. Customers are being passed around to multiple people.
  5. Customers are put on hold for unreasonable lengths of time.

I had a run-in with a condescending and rude hostess at a favorite Sacramento restaurant recently. They already had plenty of outdoor seating before the COVID restaurant restrictions, so I assumed going there would be pleasant. I arrived and my lunch date was already seated. As I waved and started walking toward him, the hostess ordered me to put on a mask. I pointed to my friend who was maybe 15 feet away and told her he was already seated and started walking to my table. She said if I wanted to dine there, I had to put on a mask until I reached my table. Outdoors.

I told her that since I was outdoors already, there was no need to mask up, and that it was a fairly silly request. While I was pleasant and remained upbeat, it got worse from there. She made the mask demand again as I walked to my table. Minutes after I sat down, she walked up behind me and shoved a piece of paper in my face with “3-1-1” written on it, the city information hotline, and told me to call the city to familiarize myself with the mask law.

I replied that I was already very familiar with it, and noted that it is not a “law.”

This young hostess had designated herself the front line of defense for the restaurant’s mask police. I still do not know whether the restaurant management set the policy or if she did. I saw her hassle another woman who was also walking toward her already seated outdoors lunch date.

This is happening across the state in many different types of businesses and recreation areas.

Millennials and the elderly appear to be the most fearful of catching coronavirus out in public, and their fear is making them hysterically treat others like lepers or criminals, even in business settings.

Walking past people as they shriek, circle wide, and even back away, is becoming a daily occurrence. Some demand to know why not all are not wearing a mask – outside. When confronted, I’ve replied that I like breathing clean oxygen outdoors. If that is met with a finger-wave and the beginnings of a lecture, I’ve resorted to telling the righteous lecturer that if they are so fearful they might want to consider remaining at home and having groceries delivered.

And, if masks work, then their mask should protect them from those not wearing masks.

Many medical office clerks have also stooped to new lows, treating patients like infected swine, ordering them to wait outside in the parking lot. Many of the patients are elderly and in poor health, and not only cannot stand around for indefinite periods of time, but it is summer and is hot in many places. These doctors offices could remove half of the waiting room seating, schedule patients out a little more, and even put people in waiting rooms, rather than kicking them out of the office to wait.

“Covid has given every marginal health care professional (the ones who got in it for respectability and not service), a means to scold everyone else for not doing exactly as they say,” a friend reported.

Patrons and clients might not report a bad experience with a business, but you can bet that they will tell family members, their friends, co-workers – and total strangers.

I speak with people wherever I go, with most reporting the same observations. Even other employees at the places of business I’ve experienced COVID hysteria at say that cannot believe what has happened to their co-workers.

I recently wrote an email to the restaurant letting them politely know about my experience with their condescending and righteous hostess. I don’t expect a reply, but they needed to know. I expressed empathy with how difficult it must be right now trying to run a business, and still comply with the state and county COVID-19 orders, but that is no excuse for any employee to treat customers so poorly.

As Forbes explains, “Satisfied customers aren’t the same as loyal customers. Satisfactory is a rating. Loyalty is an emotion.”

As for mandatory face masks, here is the county/state’s “Guidance:”

“People in California must wear face coverings when they are in the high-risk situations listed below:

  • Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space; (1)

• Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank;(2)

• Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle;

• Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when:

• Interacting in-person with any member of the public;

• Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;

(1) Unless exempted by state guidelines for specific public settings; (2) Unless directed otherwise by an employee or healthcare provider.”

This is just a “guidance” for businesses, as long as they want their business licenses. As one California Globe reader quipped, “Previously the mask-nagging seemed to be mostly scaremongering propaganda. Now I think that being surrounded by self-righteous snitches who swallow the mask propaganda hook, line, and sinker is meant to dispirit informed, common-sense people who know the masks don’t work but are made to wear them anyway as the price of admission.”

You can read the rest of the County “guidance” HERE.

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10 thoughts on “Latest Casualty in COVID Era: Customer Service

  1. Great piece as always, Katy. Every day I think about the far-reaching consequences of the behavior we are normalizing. I was happy to hear that you did not put a mask on as you walked to your seat.

  2. Exactly. I’m so glad to see this piece, it hits the nail on the head. I sometimes wonder how many people are troubled by these experiences; I know I am. And since we’re all basically in the same boat right now, although separated by our reactions, the number of people must be huge. It seems we are losing something very important here because these interactions, through business and thus our economy, are a big part of our ability to be civilized.

  3. Cloth and surgical masks do not offer protection from virus particles which a too small. Masks decrees are a tool of oppression and control much like the burka and hijab?

  4. Your story about your restaurant experience really does resonate. As in staring at the ceiling at 3:30 am kind of resonate. It reminds everybody just how far things have gone to hell with this whole virus and mask hysteria, intended more than anything to crash the economy and make Trump look bad.

    As for your aspiring TSA screener, one is reminded of what Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham said about her type. Approximately, it goes like this: “That’s what happens when you give some power to little people. It goes to their heads and they don’t know how to use it.”

    Doubtless you’ve received endless Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda quarterbacking from all sides about this incident. You’ve endlessly examined it yourself or else you wouldn’t be writing about it. Regardless, some truths reveal themselves, primarily that food-service revenues are down ~40% for a number of reasons with large scale bankruptcies on the horizon, and antics of this stupid little girl partially are the reason why.

    Anybody can make a sandwich or a cup of coffee in their kitchen. As you or anybody else reading this already knows, you go to a restaurant or coffee shop for, variously, the convenience, the ambience, or as a pleasant interlude in the midst of doing something else. You do not go there for nanny finger wagging or PC hectoring*.

    All that said – and admittedly slamming you with yet another woulda/coulda/shoulda – rather than sending whoever is in charge an easily ignored e-mail, it’s a shame you didn’t confront the owner directly, then and there and in front of God and everybody, with the little 311 missive in hand, and then ask him to explain it. Doubtless there would have been a good deal of “Well, you know…” and “As you can see…” and “Surely you agree…” along with the obligatory and disingenuous boilerplate “I’m very sorry….”

    One can imagine you listening to him dribble with expressionless, dead eyes locked on his, waiting for him to finish. And when he does you reply with, “Yes, all that is possibly true, but another thing is absolutely true: I’m the one with the money. And you need me a lot more than I’ll ever need you.”

    And then turn and walk out.** But with one bit of snark: “This used to be a nice place. I wonder what’s going to replace it when you guys are out of business?”

    Just a thought.

    VicB3

    *Thinking of Starbucks here. Haven’t been there since this whole thing started, partially because there’s no place to sit and people watch, but mostly I don’t feel like a BLM brow-beating for being a White male. Saving a ton of money, and I’m not alone in all that.

    *But at least tip the server 20 bucks anyway. It’s not his or her fault the hostess is a stupid little bitch or the owner a clueless asshole.

    1. Such a great comment VicB3. I seriously thought about confronting the manager/owner but did not want to upset my lunch companion. I really do wonder what will replace that restaurant, which has been there since 1975!
      Today shopping in Target, they announced that masks were mandatory, and if a shopper did not want to wear one, they could shop online. I almost left my basket and walked out.

      1. I would contact the manager or owner if I would’ve been treated this way. I don’t know if it’s worth it but we cant allow this type of behavior to continue. That waitress was way out of line. I haven’t seen anyone else talk about this issue but I have encountered it myself. I entered a small retail shop and the owner/manager insisted on spraying hand sanitizer on my hands even though I told her I wasn’t going to touch anything. I accepted but left right after she did so to wash my hands off since the hand sanitizer had an off-putting smell to it. The doors were wide open and I even had a mask on. She also disapproved of the type of mask I was wearing before she insisted on spraying the hand sanitizer. I do not appreciate being treated like a damn child by people living in fear. I hope that lady looks back on how she has treated potential customers and feels ashamed of herself. I respect if a business has their own rules but some don’t allow exemptions like the ones the dept of health put out. I don’t understand why some businesses have gotten stricter this late in the year. It makes zero sense to me. I don’t even want to go shopping or traveling due to these ridiculous rules businesses have put in place. Have they ever thought about how this is affecting business and people’s decisions to go out and spend? I’m tired of all this nonsense and I can’t believe people around me just keep going along with it. Seeing people exercising with masks on in hot weather leaves me in pure disbelief. Critical thinking and common sense has completely gone out the window for so many people. I enjoyed reading your article!

  5. Great article and I agree with your comments 110%. I wear a mask when interacting with the public but when I am not I remove it. I find it uncomfortable and hard to breathe. I have also notice how poorly customers are treated everywhere. Many individuals that work in retail , fast food or restaurant industries have chosen to use the mask requirement to wage war with the public. I have not said anything to anyone at this stage but instead have made of list of companies that once the pandemic has passed I will not patronize any of the companies or their franchises again. Many friends and colleagues also feel the same. Ignorance drives fear and it seems that there is a lot of ignorant people working in the service industries. It is the responsibility of business owners and managers to educate staff. Not the public that use or purchases a product or service.

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