What Happened to Customer Service?

I felt a cold coming on and knots in my back. The kids were away with their dad for the day, so I called the Nordstrom Spa, an occasional destination for a massage to ease my stress and tension, which lately had been high.

When Anita arrived to start her shift, I’d been waiting 15 minutes. She didn’t smile. Her nose ring glinted off the overhead lights and her dark frizzy hair, pulled back into a bun, was tight as the side of a ship.

She said nothing, just waved me back. “You can change in the restroom,” she said. “Someone’s still on the table.”

I pulled on the soft-soft robe and padded my way to the back of the spa for the routine foot soak. Again, no smile from Anita.

And when I hit the table, the room aglare in bright light, nothing ready, no dimmed ambience to help ease whatever voices I couldn’t banish from my head, she didn’t crack a grin. “I’ll adjust everything when you’re on the table.”

Nestled in, trying to shut out the light, I waited. When she finally returned, turned the lights down and touched her fingers to my bare skin, I cringed. She swiped her hands up and back againagainagain until I thought my skin would break into fire.

I asked three times to please slow down until finally, I sat up on the table and said, “This is not working for me.”

“Do you want to reschedule? You obviously don’t like my technique.”

Technique? Technique? Was not the job of a massage therapist to attend to the individual needs of the customer?

I’m not so old to say I remember better times but I do. I remember my mother pulling into the gas station and a young man with a smile filling her car with gas. I remember the credit card slip passed through an open window for her signature.

And I certainly remember the stock phrase, the customer is always right.

It’s something I try to keep in mind in my client dealings. Whether I’m writing an article for Better Homes and Gardens or AARP, or working on projects for Hiller’s or Yoga Shelter or Frameable Faces or other clients, if the client isn’t happy, they won’t send work my way again.

Is it so hard to crack a smile, swallow a reaction and just say, “I’ll try harder?”

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