Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Next In Line

I had to renew our car registrations and get new plates yesterday, and I dreaded the trip to the License Bureau. It was the last day of the month, so there was likely to be a crowd, and the place is not known for its efficient and pleasant customer service.

When I got there, I was pleasantly surprised to see only one person ahead of me in the renewal line, and he was almost done. The woman behind the counter then took my info and chatted with me amiably without losing a step as she processed my paperwork. Meanwhile, another clerk called out, in a tone that I knew meant trouble, "Who's next in line?"

A young woman, probably 22 or so, approached and asked that clerk if she was in the right place to renew her registration. The clerk angrily replied, "Are you next in line?" The woman looked around, saw no one else nearby, and responded, "I think so, but I don't know if this is the right counter." The clerk stepped it up a notch: "I asked for the next person in line. The operative word here is line. That doesn't mean the people sitting in those chairs over there. It means whoever is next in LINE!!!"

The young woman, still confused, went up to Ms. Mean Clerk with a handful of papers and tried to explain that she'd never done this before, that her father usually handles it, and she wasn't sure what to do or where to go. The Clerk From Hell showed no sympathy, shuffling the papers while badgering her verbally until the woman started crying.

I normally mind my own business, but I was about to intervene to put a stop to this customer service nightmare when another woman, who seemed to be a supervisor, came out of an office in the rear, saw what was going on, walked around the counter and put her arm around the crying woman's shoulder.

She told her, "It's okay, it's not worth crying about," as the young woman sobbed so forcefully she couldn't even speak. The supervisor then made a dismissive motion to Satan's Clerk, who rolled her eyes and walked away, no doubt to devise a new method of torture for another customer later in the afternoon.

There's no defense for this clerk's actions. I don't care that it was Monday, the worst day of the week, or that it was the last day of the month and she'd had to deal with more than her share of problems already, or that perhaps the previous customer had been a jerk to her. None of that matters; none of it justifies the abuse she showered on this woman; none of it should allow her to keep her job. Unfortunately, I'm sure she was back behind the counter not long after, waiting to bite the head off another unsuspecting customer.

I glanced at the very nice woman who was just finishing up my renewal, and told her how much I appreciated the expert and congenial way she had helped me. She nodded, knowing exactly what I meant -- that I was really thankful that I hadn't gotten there 30 seconds later and ended up with Cruella Da Clerk.