Sunday, July 12, 2015

Buyer Beware

I just got home from having a massage and cried from the stress of the experience.

Normally, the luxury of the spa isn’t a part of my teaching salary budget.  So, I was pleasantly surprised and even a little excited to receive a gift card on the last day of school.  I logged onto their website and clicked on the button to find a convenient location. 


Perfect—I called to book my appointment and spoke with Danielle. I confirmed the cost of the massage to make sure my gift card would cover it and confirmed their acceptance of gift cards. 

And so, today I went in and had a lovely, relaxing massage.  Relaxing, that is, until it was time to pay.

“Oh, we don’t take gift cards,” the woman at the front desk explains.

I tried to explain right back to her that they did indeed—I even looked it up on my phone and showed her the listing, but to no avail.  I told her that she better tell and Danielle about this policy because I was getting some bum information. 

“Well, that’s suspicious that you even thought you needed to confirm that we would take that gift card,” the woman tells me.

So, I hand over my Visa and then right there in the middle of the spa, I started to cry.  I was so embarrassed!  So, I end up paying for my own massage, what’s the big deal?  Why were my eyes turning into broken faucets?

Besides the fact that teachers don’t make a boatload of money for discretionary spending, we also live in the land of teacher lingo.  We don’t “meet with coworkers,” we “collaborate with our team.”  We dialogue and discuss.  We practice the seven P’s of collaboration: Pause, Paraphrase, Probe, Put ideas on the table, Presume Positive Intentions…sometimes I feel so much like a Psychologist it makes me want to Puke. 

So when I leave my bubble of the education world and step outside into the summer sunlight, I may be a little naïve to think the rest of the world operates the way I do.  I am trustworthy, so I trust people.  I am honest, so I believe others. As a consumer, I believe the salesperson wants to help me be a satisfied customer.

So, not to sound overly dramatic (well, since you already see me sniffling in the spa reception area, let’s continue) but I think I started crying because I felt someone had taken advantage of me.  I trusted the website and the person on the phone.  And in return, I got accused of being suspicious?  I think I started crying because I “presumed positive intentions” and someone didn’t presume the same of me. I don’t want to be the cynical, distrustful consumer.  It isn’t in my nature.

This is also the second time this week that I have felt like an unprepared consumer.  Jack’s big present for his 16th birthday was a pool table—in stock, on sale, and ready for delivery!  I called this week to figure out when it was coming since I hadn’t heard from the store and they tell me “end of July.”  How can a pool table that is in stock take a month to get to my house?  The store manager checks and returns my call.

“It’s the legs,” he tells me. “The table is in stock but the legs are coming from the warehouse.”  OK, not to sound naïve again, but why would you have a pool table in stock without legs?  Is there a big market for legless pool tables?  I suggest possibly they could mail the legs instead of waiting for the truck delivery.  Heck, where is the warehouse?  Can I go pick up the legs?  Clearly, the store manager has never lived at home with a teenager.  He seems in no hurry to think outside the box and help figure out a creative solution.  What I see as “thinking outside the box,” he sees as “batty, crazy lady.”

Again, I want to assume that the store manager cares about me and wants me to be a satisfied customer.  But I’m feeling a little jaded.  Because it seems as if now that he has his money, the month-long delay in delivery is no longer his concern.

Before the end of school, teachers reviewed the results of our annual teacher survey.  There was some frustration that parents are allowed to leave anonymous comments that are sometimes downright mean and hurtful.  We are told that we need to give parents an opportunity to express their level of satisfaction. “We’re in the business of customer service,” my assistant principal explained.  Yet, my experiences this week make me wonder what customer service means anymore. 

Just when I’ve decided to adopt the new motto “Buyer Beware” and become a distrustful, cynical person, the phone rings.  It is the woman from the spa.  She’s calling to tell me she is sorry, and her plan for how to fix the situation.  So what do I do?  I burst into tears again.  This time, because her kindness and concern restores my faith in humanity.  It also makes me wonder if I should go back to the pool table store and start to sob. If being an honest, authentic person doesn’t get me what I want, maybe I’ll have more luck as a blubbering crybaby.

P.S.  Out of curiosity, I googled 7 P’s of collaboration and I found out the U.S. State Department uses them as well.  Diplomacy in action!