December 27, 2010 | 1:09 pm
Posted by Julia Bendis
Being a wife, a mother and a woman in general, you find yourself at a grocery store quite a bit. I also find myself quite a bit pissed off when I am there. I really thought that America was all about business, and customer service, and giving really good customer service. I guess I just assumed that coming to this country from Russia, where back in the day most people didn’t know what “customer service” even meant, I would only find happy, go-lucky people everywhere I went.
Apparently, I was wrong. I keep hearing the phrase “good customer service is hard to find”, from everyone these days. I never really thought about it, until I started paying attention. Take my neighborhood Ralphs grocery store for example. I was in there the other day, and was hoping to find those small, Persian-type cucumbers. I remember that they used to carry them there. One of the produce guys was working close by, I went up to him and asked if they ever get those cucumbers in. Without even looking at me, he blurts out: “No!” And keeps working. No explanation, no offering to see if they could order some, NOTHING. Me being a big mouth, and wanting my damn Persian cucumbers, I ask him if they ever order those anymore? “No”, he says. Well, at that point I couldn’t back down, even if I wanted to. “Do you think you COULD order some, and I will come and buy them all?” This time he actually turned to look at who in their right mind would actually have the balls to keep bugging him! What a miracle, I thought!
He says: “Fine, I will see if we can order them!” I am sure what he meant to say was: “I will order them, if you take your annoying ass out of here.”
Did I mention how much I dread going to my neighborhood Ralphs, or shopping for groceries altogether? The problem is that the closest store besides Ralphs is miles away, and when you only need a couple things, the last thing you want to do is drive 20 minutes each way to get it.
And I’m not saying that other stores are any better. I tried going to the Persian store, further away but was told they have the best produce, and carry a lot of Russian and Israeli foods, which I was very happy about. I learned fast that if you don’t speak Farsi, they just ignore you! They are very nice when you first walk in, and assuming that you are Persian (having dark hair, and dark features, I’ve been taken for Persian, Italian, Mexican, Armenian, everything BUT Russian), they say: “Salom”, which I have no problem with, but that’s as far as my Farsi language goes. Once they realize you have absolutely no clue what they are saying, they turn around and leave. I’ve tried asking for something a couple times, only to get the same response as the moron from Ralphs, “No”. Once you finally get to the checkout stand, the checkers don’t even look at you to say a “hello”. They just keep scanning and bagging your groceries until you are done.
One of the last times I went there, during the checkout process, I asked the clerk: “Why are you so mad?” He looked up at me, and I swear I wasn’t sure if he was going to ask me to get the hell out of the store, or throw groceries at me. Without answering, he proceeded to bag my groceries. The people in line behind me didn’t seem to find it funny or amusing either… Let’s just say that was the last time I went to that store.
You know, you almost expect it from the Russian stores, I don’t get mad at them. I know they can’t help it. That’s just how they behaved themselves back in the old country. During Communism, life was crappy, not enough food, sometimes no food and they were the bearers of bad news. When you’ve been waiting in line for 3 hours for a skinny, un-plucked dead chicken with its hair, his head and neck still on, the last thing you want to hear is that they ran out!!! The fat, ugly He-woman standing behind the counter is the one to deliver the bad news to you. You know she hates her job, but its a job and someone has to do it. I can only imagine how my Mother felt after a long day at work, having to stand in line for a promised chicken only to find out the guy in front of you took the last one… I know I wouldn’t have taken the news well, and probably would have reached over the counter and tried to strangle her.
When that same woman behind the counter immigrated to the U.S., the only job she could get was being a store clerk, and with no English, she had to do it at a Russian store. Unless you are Russian, and used to that sort of thing I don’t suggest going into one. Its almost as if they forget they are in America, and once enter the store start reminiscing about the bad-old days. They forget that its not the “first-come, first-get-it” mentality. There is no need for shoving and pushing, and on top of that yelling, very loud yelling over everyone’s heads!
I remember the first time I took my husband to a Russian store in LA, back when we were still dating. Boy, was he scared. Even though he is a 3rd and 4th generation Russian, his grandparents never talked about their days there. He is still learning about the culture, and the way life was there. He was definitely Not prepared, and I almost felt bad for him. Some 80-year-old woman shoved him in to a corner, while trying to grab bread behind him. I must have been busy yelling at the clerk because I didn’t even notice him standing quietly in a corner, with his eyes about to pop out of his head. Its a pretty scary sight for a newbie to be thrown into that chaos.
I am pretty sure that I am on some kind of a “list” in every grocery store in Orange County, they all have had enough of me and my efforts to “change” things… Oh and you know how much we, Jews LOVE being on lists! I try to avoid being placed on any kind of lists, even the good ones. Going to a bar or club, I’d rather wait in line in the freezing cold than have my name be put on a list. I don’t care that its a VIP list, its still a list.
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