Wednesday, 7 September 2011

My friend Sue

At Wal-Mart yesterday, Doris the associate checking me out, gave me some tips for hanging my slacks using children’s hangers. While she scanned the jeans I’d bought for Deaglan we had a fun little chat. Then at the Dollarama a few hours later, Iris who was ringing me through admired my choice in gift bags and together we marvelled over all the great stuff you could get for a buck these days.

It brought to mind Sue, my neighbour-friend down the street. She’s just itching to have grandbabies, I can tell. Last month when we gratefully accepted her invitation to come for a swim, she had all sorts of toys laid out for Deaglan and Naveen. Her twin girls, who she raised mostly on her own, are 21 and nowhere near having children.

She’s always walking her little white dogs, Becky and Chase, sometimes with 92 year old Dot and her little white dogs in tow. Dot recently moved in with her daughter because her vision had begun failing. Regularly Sue picks Dot up, brings her back to our neighbourhood where she’d lived for the last 20 years, and they have doggie spa days where the younger woman bathes and grooms the older woman’s dogs. They drink tea and have fresh baked cookies, catch up on each other, gossip about what’s been going on in the neighbourhood.

I can’t tell you how many times Sue offered to take Deaglan for a few hours here and there last year when I was bone tired and navigating the rough new waters of being mother of two.

She retired a year and a half ago, after pledging 32 years at a large communications firm. And although she earned a pension, a tight little income, she found a job as a cashier at a local grocery chain. She asked for only a few shifts a week so as not to cut into her retirement income.

I asked Sue a few times in passing how the new job was going. At first she bubbled with stories of darling old couples who routinely shopped on specific days, waited patiently in her line just so she could scan their groceries.

It didn’t surprise me. Sue has a way about her that makes you want to beg her to invite you for a sleepover.

But a few weeks ago Sue was fired. Well, she wasn’t fired – exactly, but the Big Boss told her that her IPM (items {scanned} per minute) was really low, lower than anybody else’s in the store. The acceptable number of items scanned per minute was 25 and Sue was lagging behind at just 18.  He told her she was doing a great job in every other way. However, Sue's shifts got cut back. And she was given a “partner” during her busy times, a young student who could scan up to 30 items per minute.

Having this prodigy work beside her made my friend nervous. She couldn’t take the time to talk with her regulars, get to know the customers the way she usually did. And the IPM genius treated her as if she didn’t know anything about the job. Sue reminded the kid that she was a bit slow scanning, not stupid. But the kid reported back to the Big Boss that Sue was difficult to work with.

Tired and defeated, my friend gave her resignation. I choked back tears (and the burning desire to hunt the kid and Big Boss down) when she told me this. I thought about how wonderful it is to go into a store and get treated like an old friend. How something like that can pick up your mood and have you humming for the rest of the day.


  1. If I lived anywhere near you, I'd hire your friend. Customer service skills like that can't be taught. Shame on that company and manager!

  2. That's so sad...It's a shame that we have become such and instant gratification society...

  3. Aw, that's awful!

    Btw, I'm so glad that you linked up. I was just thinking about you and realizing that it had been a while since I'd visited!

  4. Please, please send this to that store manager. Write a letter, let people know. This breaks my heart. We need more friendliness and love in this world--not a fast scanner.

  5. This makes me so frustrated. What happens to community? To connections? Are we all just machines?

    What Sue provided was priceless. A moment of shared humanity.

    You write it so beautifully.

  6. That's so sad :-( I hope she finds somewhere else that appreciates her.

  7. Oh my gosh! That is so sad! I would much rather have a friendly cashier than a fast one. Stupid big wigs. I'm sure she would appreciate knowing you thought so much of her! Does she read your blog?
    Many hugs her way!!

  8. Is that what customer service has come to, how fast you can get in and out? I would much rather have friendly service than fast service. This is just sad!

  9. Big Boss is an idiot. Customer service is gold.

  10. That is so sad-and it makes me angry to think that a store would place more value on how fast a checker can take a customer's money than take the time to treat the customer like a person and not a dollar sign. I had to choke back the tears too. I hope Sue finds a new job soon, where she is appreciated for the wonderful person she is:)

  11. I am SO sad for Sue. This is horrible. Really, their loss. She sounds like a true gem and how wonderful you have someone like this in your life.

    P.S. Love the headed with the two pairs of feet. Cleaver.

  12. That is very sad. I'm sorry for your friend Sue. She sounds like a wonderful soul to know and learn from.

    The picture of the boys is terrific. They are getting so big!!

  13. That's really a shame - once again productivity wins over customer service.

  14. I would definitely fire off a letter to whomever is in charge. Even if it did nothing more than to make me feel better - jerks!

  15. This so sad. Really, my heart breaks to hear this! I imagine it probably wasn't the manager's fault though - he probably is just following orders.

    Or that's what I'm telling myself so that I don't hate him!


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