Part II: When we left the author last week she was trapped in a Kafka-esque vision of hell at the local home improvement store, attempting to buy window blinds. See last week’s Viewpoints page to read Part I.
I turned to leave the silent white women at the front desk when, unexpectedly, the black female associate from the kitchen department appeared not far from me. I told the front desk lady that the associate had already called a person who didn’t know anything about window blinds. The associate confirmed that she had called. The front desk lady said nothing and continued to wait on the Spanish man.
“The young man I sent over to the window blind aisle knows about blinds,” the associate said to me. This comment sparked a discussion with the pregnant woman about how willingly they work at their jobs.
“I do my job; I don’t fool around,” the pregnant woman said.
The associate replied, “I work hard at my job. The young man doesn’t want to do his job.”
“That’s right,” the pregnant woman said, nodding her head in agreement. “These young people don’t want to work.”
“You see, I have two jobs,” the associate said as she stood in front of a metal mobile cart with shelves of merchandise. “I’m an associate in kitchen and now I’m checking and returning inventory to the departments.”
The black female customer looked sadly at me. She called out to the white female at the service desk. She asked, “Will you please get someone to help this lady-this lady in this wheelchair?” I was not in a wheelchair, but for lack of the correct name, some people call the store’s electric powered handicap cart a wheelchair. Again, the white female called on the phone, when she was finished she told me to go to flooring and someone would meet me there.
I didn’t see anyone in flooring. I asked the Spanish female associate in the paint department if she knew if anyone was in flooring. I told her I wanted someone to help me with window blinds. When the Spanish associate moved to a side counter where the telephone was, I noticed the 18-year-old skulking around the front of the counter.
The Spanish associate keyed in the number and waited. No one answered. The 18-year-old said something to the Spanish female associate. She left the counter and started walking back towards flooring. I followed her. In the wide aisle between the paint and flooring departments, we met a Spanish man driving a forklift truck. He asked her where she was going. She told him she was looking for someone to help me with window blinds.
Although he didn’t know a lot about window blinds, he said he would help me and jumped down from the forklift truck. While the Spanish man and woman were engaged in conversation, I spotted the 18-year-old waving at me from the corner of an aisle. He spoke to me in a way so no one could hear him but me.
“The window blinds salesman is back from lunch,” he said in a soft low voice. I shouted, “Don’t just stand there; go tell him he has a customer waiting!”
The 18-year-old ran to the back of the store. The Spanish man and I went around to the window blind aisle. Before I could tell the Spanish man my measurements and color, the blinds salesman was there. The salesman took less than two minutes to explain that he had the width and length of blind I needed for my kitchen windows, and he took them off the shelf and put them in my cart’s basket.
“I see you have your blinds,” the Spanish associate from the paint department said. She was standing near the checkout counter. “Yes,” I said. “Thanks for your help.”
As I walked to the parking lot, I imagined the disgusted customer in the beige dress who was also looking for blinds had left the store.
Although I purchased the window blinds, I felt disillusioned with the store’s customer service. Buying two windows blinds took an hour and a half when it should have taken two minutes.