Two Tales of Service
One cold afternoon last week I waited an hour and fifty-two minutes on hold for service from a huge company that never showed up, and got phenomenal service from a little store-front tailor shop whose owner opened his door to me after hours. I was left marveling at the gigantic difference in my experience; the ground-to-the-nub frustration I felt from being shunted by Google “Customer Care”, and the elation I felt at having a shop door swing open to me 6 minutes after closing and getting my little problem fixed in a jiff.
In a nutshell, my Gmail got hacked and emails, texts and phone calls started pouring in asking if I’d sent a fishy-looking message. My ultra-responsive friends and relatives were asking, “Is this from you? Should I open it?” I changed my password, but couldn’t quite figure out all the ways I needed to address the problem and warn my contacts. So I did the only logical thing – I panicked, and called Google’s Help Line, thinking it would be helpful to talk to a real person. I clung to my buzzing, vibrating iPhone and listened to a wildly confusing array of options, none of which seemed to apply to my particular problem. I dove down the rabbit-hole of an option which landed me squarely into a Muzak loop, interrupted about every 7 minutes with an exhortation to please hold, someone would be right with me.
The longer I held, the greater my investment in staying on hold. I put my phone on “Speaker” and tried to stay productive. I yelped curses every time I checked the timer, and fretted furiously as my afternoon evaporated. I ignored all the calls and messages coming in to my phone, afraid that if I started pressing buttons, I’d lose my hard-earned place in the great Google line.
Finally, appalled both at Google Customer Care and my own willingness to stubbornly hold for so long, I decided to document it and take a screen screen shot. Naturally, this complicated maneuver ended up disconnecting my call.
This development immediately spurred me to try and resurrect something of the squandered afternoon. Get in the car! Go someplace! Maybe after having those chintzy, torn car seat covers knock around in the way back since Christmas, I should go someplace and get them fixed. Great idea, but I was pretty sure that little tailor shop up on 29th closed at 6, and it was five til. I decided to go for it.
I raced up there, and sure enough the neon OPEN sign was dark, and the sign said closed at 6. Bluish florescent lights flooded the little shop, but I couldn’t see anybody inside. I looked at my phone – 6:06. Not even close. I tried the door, anyway. I went in calling out, “Hello, hello?”
The tailor appeared from the back, his cloth tape draped around his shoulders, and gave a short wave when I apologized for barging in.
“How can I help?” he asked, peering at me over his glasses. He’s a fit, middle-aged Chinese guy. I dumped my sorry-looking seat cover on his counter. “I don’t do upholstery,” he said.
“But it’s only a seam,” I said. “Maybe you could keep it overnight, and take a look in the morning, and I could come back.”
“Got time now?” he asked as his fingers found the gap.
Did I have time? I am the person that spent an hour and fifty two minutes on hold with Google.
He waved at me again. “Maybe ten minutes okay? ”
Without waiting for an answer, he said “I do this.”
He went to a rack of spools and rolled a few strands between his fingers before picking one which he ran through his mouth and threaded directly into a small green sewing machine sitting just behind the counter. As his feet worked the treadle, he showed me the cheap thread that had given way. I could hardly believe my luck as I watched the thick black thread zigzag over the seam.
The tailor smiled broadly as he handed it back to me, saying “Good as new.” He charged me five dollars.