Service with Attitude
Aasha Mehreen Amin
Isn't it amazing how when you vow to yourself that you will remain calm and collected on a particular day, that's exactly the day you will have the highest number of short fuses. It is as if someone (up there) is having a good laugh over your exaggerated sense of righteousness, your overconfidence regarding the amount of control you have over yourself. Your arrogance at even thinking that nothing will bug you today is being intensely, not to mention humiliatingly, mocked.
It is not just the ludicrous way vehicle-drivers just ram into every little space they see, zigzagging away without any regard for basic traffic norms. The hell with 'right of way', the left lane must be blocked by those going to the right to make sure those turning left will be stuck along with the 'rightists'. Buses must stop anywhere their passengers want to go or anywhere a few more passengers can be lured. Bus stops, now what on earth are those, says the helper-turned bus driver. All this is a part of life and there is no point in tearing off one's own hair over this, especially if you have only three left.
Okay, let's calm down, traffic insanity is a way of life here, a part of our culture, much the same as going public with the call of nature or ogling at women and foreigners (male or female).
But there's another kind of behaviour that really takes its toll on the nerves. This is called the Disgruntled Salesperson's Syndrome and manifests itself on hapless customers who brave the hellish traffic to land at those trendy boutiques that sell hundred percent deshi goods in Gulshan and Banani. If you enter a store and do not exude the aura of being filthy rich chances are that you will be given the o royal disdain treatment from the Disgruntled Salesperson.
Sometimes it's really hard to tell who is doing who a favour -- the customer who has braved hellish traffic to land at some snooty boutique to buy thousands of taka worth of goods -- or, the salesperson who condescends to reluctantly show them.
There are variations of course. Some salespersons have the annoying habit of 'hovering', in other words breathing down your neck. They will follow you like a relentless detective, from aisle to aisle, room to room, rack to rack until you flee like the David Jansen in that ancient but thrilling series The Fugitive.
I don't know whether they do this because they are on vigil in case you shove a few packets of noodles (in case of those trendy superstores) or a pair of fotuas down your kameez or this is their way of 'helping' you through the apparently complicated process of choosing what you want.
Speaking of which, the customer is often treated like a dim-witted fool who can't possibly know what to buy. So these guiding angels will insist that the garish multi-coloured horror of a sari is a must-buy and very 'uncommon' or a pair of jeans is black (because that's the colour you have insisted upon) when it is clearly dark grey.
So it is a test of patience when one is in a terrible hurry and you quickly chose a few things and rush to the counter, practically knocking over the customer who would have got there first if only she hadn't made eye contact with the accessories rack. But you needn't have bothered. The girl at the sales register is in deep conversation with her boyfriend and is least bothered with the customers. As the minutes tick excruciatingly by, she will finally say adieu, as she cannot take the heat of the sharp rays of your animosity any longer. Finally, with knitted eyebrows she passes the items through the barcode detector and you start breathing again.
Owners of these trendy stores seem to have forgotten the basics of marketing: train their people to serve the customers not repel them with attitude, to assist them if they are asked not hover like fruit flies over ripe bananas, to exercise their smile muscles more and abandon the scowls of boredom and irritation.
But before such a 'revolution' takes place, on days when your anger vein is throbbing and your pressure is on the high side it is better to steer clear from those shops that sell goods that are so 'exclusive' that even the salespeople are reluctant to sell to any old Tom, Dick and Harry.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009