It was a slow morning like most days at the pharmacy, only a handful of customers would come in to get their prescription at that time. For this reason we would schedule new employees in the morning, so their training would go smooth and they would not be in the middle of rush hour chaos.
At the time, I was training to be an Assistant Store Manager and regardless of of my short tenure (1 year) and young age (20), I was on my way to become one of the youngest Assistant Managers at Eckerd Pharmacy.
Through hard work, self-learning and dedication I had become a future manager candidate, just like my mentor did when he was young. Greg started working at Eckerd at the age of 17, never went to college, by his early 30’s he managed the most busy store in South Florida, and from him I learned the most important rule of retail, the customer is always right.
Going back to my story; about an hour after opening the store, I hear a call for backup to the pharmacy. Usually store personnel will assist at the pharmacy when long lines are formed, but this time I was called because a long time customer was complaining of poor service. After a small briefing of the situation I rushed to help this delicate and fragile looking old lady, her name was Irene.
Irene was known for yelling and being condescending with clerks, pharmacist, assistant managers, you name it. She explained to me that her medication was missing and demanded to see the store manager, Greg, who she knew from many years of shopping at our store. During this time I was given the task of opening the store on my own as part of my training, and the manager would usually arrive later during the day. I rushed back behind the counter and politely asked for her name, and also told her I would personally help her since Greg was not in yet. After asking her name, I started looking for the medication but could not find it, the next logical step would be to ask the pharmacist if they knew anything about this case.
Now, for anyone who has ever work at a pharmacy, or maybe you have picked up a medication and noticed this, most pharmacist (not all) have a tendency to lower their heads whenever there is a problem. We could argue that is not their job to deal with customer’s issues, but pretending to be counting pills while the customer is yelling at the clerk is not a pretty sight. This behavior, and the fact that we could not find Irene’s medication, made her very furious and the verbal abuse started to take place. I recall Irene calling me names and questioning my English knowledge and literacy, during this time I had a very heavy accent, it had been only two years that I had arrive from Cuba. It was painful, brutal and humiliating, there were around ten people between employees and customers watching Irene tearing me apart, all of this within three to five minutes. I decided to go through the medication bins one last time and found a prescription, same last name but first name: Eugene.
Miss Irene, I have found a prescription here with your same last name but the first name is Eugene, I said to her. Let me see that, Irene said as she grabbed the bag from my hands. Oh honey, I am so sorry, you are right, I am here for Eugene’s, not mine today. Eugene, was Irene’s husband. I thank her for her patience, went back to the storage room and started crying of anger, it was hard for me to comprehend what had just happened. The days passed and Greg commended me for my patience, and with time I realized what a test it was for me. After the incident Irene and I became good friends and she would always ask for me, just to say hello and “check up on my progress”.
Who knows what kind of day Irene was having, or like most people at the store said: “That is just the way she is”. In essence:
To be of service to someone is to serve them as they are within the best of our abilities, without judging, without making assumptions and without jumping to conclusions.
I have moved from retail since long ago, but always feel sad when encountering poor customer service because the mantra of “The customer is always right” has stuck with me forever. You never know what kind of day a person is having, if they are not nice to you, be nice to them.
After all, anybody can have an Irene kind of day!