Treating people right

I’ve made it a mission in my life to praise people for doing right.  Especially employees in stores that give exceptional service.  I’ve worked in service industry jobs too long, and know that all too often the managers only hear what’s wrong with their employees.

So, many years ago, I started asking to talk to managers when I received exceptional service.  This created a very humorous occasion when I asked to speak to the manager about excellent service a gentleman gave me when I was trying to pick out a camera, only to find out the gentleman who gave me the excellent service was the store manager!  In that case, when I arrived home, I wrote a letter to corporate to give credit where it was due.

So, in that spirit, I want to talk about two recent interactions in stores I’ve had.

The first one was a local Target.  I hardly ever shop at Target.  It’s not that I have anything against them, just I never go there.  However, this last week, I needed to pick up a couple of things at a store, and the Target happened to be in the parking lot I was already in.

I’m having issues with walking and breathing (or talking and breathing, or standing and breathing, or really, doing anything and breathing) right now, due to the air quality we’ve had for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve seen a doctor, and it’s just a matter of resting and healing now.  :\

Walking around a big store, and the Target I’m talking about is a Super T, is just not something I can handle well.  However, I feel very self-conscious about using the carts some stores provide for people to use.  I’ve seen too many comments of “That fat person is keeping those carts from people with REAL disabilities” or “Being fat isn’t a disability” or “If you’d exercise, you wouldn’t need to use that cart!”  So, I do my best to never use one of those (not even when I was on crutches after the surgery in ’07).  This time, however, I had to use the cart.

Since this was a brand new store to me, I had no idea where anything was.  So I was zipping all over the store, looking for the things I needed, and things that interested me (because, hey, shopping, amirite?).

The first time I saw a store employee, he asked me if I needed help with anything.  I thanked him and said no, and kept truckin’ on.  I was astonished by the offer because I was in two invisible demographics at this point:  fat, and using the mechanical cart (showing some sort of disability).  But then I thought maybe he had a family member who was disabled, or he’d been temporarily disabled at some point, and was more conscious of it.

But then it happened again, with a different employee in an entirely different area of the store.  And then, yet again by a third employee, in yet another area of the store.  At one point I actually did need help (to find Conall, who’d gone looking around someplace else, and whom I couldn’t find since I was shorter than I usually was), and the lady I approached did not try to avoid me, walked towards me when she saw I was driving towards her, and started to walk me to where they could page Conall (as she didn’t have a way to page over the intercom system herself).

It became obvious to me that the employees are trained to not discriminate against ability factors in their offers of help.  Seriously, I’d go back to that Target again, even though it’s a bit more expensive on some stuff than even my regular grocery store, because the service is excellent.

I don’t know if this is a Target wide policy, but I will sure be calling Target home offices and complimenting them on the helpfulness of the employees there.

The other place is a store I go into semi-regularly, and is Whole Foods.  There are two stores near me, and depending on what side of town I’m at, I make use of both of them.

Now, I know  Whole Foods does discriminate against fat employees.

In a letter to employees, Mr. Mackey claims that “Supporting Team Member Happiness and Excellence is a very important core value.”   While there is certainly evidence that generally suggests that high cholesterol, high BMI, and cigarette smoking are detrimental to a person’s well-being, there are many happy, healthy, active, fat people that are conscious of their food choices that do not fall within the prevailing acceptable range for BMI that Whole Foods will use to determine health.  There are not, however, many truly happy people that suffer from self-hatred, body dysmorphia, unreasonable expectations of beauty, or working against a body’s biology to comply with over-generalized definitions of health.

So, yeah.  I know.  And usually, I won’t give my money to a corporation that tries to punish it’s employees for being fat.  However, it’s the only place in town I can get a few things I need (like fair trade baking chocolate).  I’m in a Catch-22 here.

Even though the company CEO seems to want to punish it’s fat employees (also those who smoke), I’ve always been treated well in both local stores.  Considering that the “earthy crunchy” type (at least, many whom I’ve talked to in real life) tend to treat me as if I am at best exaggerating and at worst outright lying about my exercise and eating habits, when I first started going to the Whole Foods stores, I expected bad service.

I can say 100% that I’ve never received bad service, or felt like I was inconveniencing an employee for just being fat in their store.  I once even had a manager at the north store offer to hire me because I found the product I’d asked for help in finding (he’d taken me to the correct area, but then he couldn’t find it in it’s cubby, and I did).

Last night took the level of service up another notch.

I’d gone to the doctor for a follow up to the smoke inhalation issues I’ve been having, and was basically told that there really isn’t any more that can be done.  If I can get out of the area to where there isn’t a bunch of smoke and particulates in the air, I will probably do better, but just about all of Colorado has smoke from either local fires or from the wind pushing the smoke from other states to us.  Denver has bad air quality right now from the fires in Wyoming.

So, I decided I’d done Conall’s way, now it was time to do my way.*

Do you know there are a lot of supplements out there?  And that even doing your homework before going and searching for products doesn’t always help when none of the products you are looking at has the ingredients you’ve seen mentioned a lot when doing your homework?

Yeah, it can be confusing, even when you attempt to educate yourself about what has been shown to work and what is just snake oil.

After looking at things for about 15 minutes, I found an employee (department manager of the herbal supplements department) and explained what I was looking for.  I was a bit nervous, because, you know, fatty can’t breath.  And while I’ve always been treated well before, I’d also always asked for things like almond meal (for baking for gluten free friends) or where they get their honey from, what city is their “western slope” honey out of (for the honey caramels I make).

The employee last night was wonderful, talking about how he was having issues due to the air quality as well (and he was the tall, naturally skinny kind of guy).  We talked about options, and then he said, “Just a minute, I’ll be right back.”  He went around a corner and came back a couple minutes later with a bottle of “respiratory help” herbal treatment.  It’s made of an herb I’d researched a few months back (because Conall’s boss started to sell some coffee made with this stuff, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to hurt Conall to drink it), so I knew the basic properties of the herb.

The employee told me he was going to give me the bottle (over $25 retail cost) because it was a brand new product they had, and he had no feedback from people taking it, only what the company had sent.**  I asked him if he was sure, because that’s a lot of product to just give away, and he said he was absolutely sure.  He didn’t even ask that I come back and tell him how the product worked, although I offered that immediately.

Actually, what I said was, “What kind of input do you want me to give you about this, since you are giving me this product for free?”

He didn’t ask, and so still doesn’t know, that I write a blog.  So me talking up this product online wasn’t even something he thought about.

He was just being very nice, and trying to help a person struggling with a situational health problem get better faster.

I always try to give credit where credit is due.  Both of these things happened at chain stores, where I’ve come to expect bad service as the norm.  Not because I’m fat, but just because many chain store corporate headquarters seem to think that “customer service” starts and ends with the customer having to find an employee, and then still being lost when the employee says, “Oh, that product is down that aisle” (pointing vaguely towards the middle of the store).  And yes, I’ve had that level of service all too often.

These two local stores have distinguished themselves in my book.  As always, your mileage may vary, but I’d be interested to hear if this level of service is consistent with other places around the country (for Whole Foods) or world (for Target).

*Conall is much more traditional medicine than me.  I am much more alternative medicine than him.  It can be an interesting balancing act sometimes.

**I am (obviously) not a celebrity, and so never expect to just be given items for free.  Matter of fact, I had to ask the gentleman 3 times if he was sure, because, well, you know, unasked for semi-expensive FREE item. This just never, EVER happens to me.

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6 Responses

  1. I work at Target and I am glad you had a good experience there. We are told to ask every customer if they need help if they aren’t already accompanied by another team member.

  2. Dunno about their practices and policies towards employees re: fat, but have you looked at Sunflower Market for the fair trade baking chocolate? They have a lot of the same or at least similar products that Whole Foods carries so it might be worth a shot. They’re located around Academy and Dublin, somewhere in that area… don’t know for sure that they’ll have it, we don’t shop there very often because aside from the occasional excellent produce deal their prices are still far outside our reach.

  3. Whole Foods employees have a certain amount of latitude to give out free “samples” like that. I’m glad this employee used that power to help you out!

    It is really unfortunate about their fat-shaming health-policing policies towards employees, because in many ways they do a lot of things very right as an employer.

  4. And did the herbal sup. help with breathing? I have a couple of friends with fairly bad MS and they sometimes have a little trouble breathing.
    It’s awfully nice to see stories about good/civil service. And even nicer to see stories about humans being nice to other humans.

  5. its nice to be treated well.

    its NOT so nice when customer service has fallen to the point that being treated well is cause for extraordinary comment. *hugs* (and please comment if the product helped, and what it was!)

  6. –Nice to know Target treated you well (As they Should!) Any store that does not treat you w/ respect, I assume, probably doesn’t treat any of their costumers w/ respect.

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