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A Personal Anecdote

December 1, 2018

A customer service story that is neither a rant, nor depressing.


A couple years ago, I got the news that I had been transferred to a new store location due to a promotion I had worked hard for. Fantastic! I earned it and it felt good to have my efforts recognized.


Turns out the store I was being transferred to happened to be in the small town I had spent my childhood before moving away in early high school. These types of situations can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, reconnecting with long lost friends, seeing the old neighborhood, and reminiscing are a good and healthy things. On the other hand... being forced into a professional setting when some of your customer base fully knows the outcome of that game of spin-the-bottle from 1992 can cause some particular issues for someone trying to build a corporate career from store level.


I took a deep breath and went to work.


The first couple days went beautifully. I was happy to see some familiar faces and chat about old times. I was also saddened to see and hear of some who had not fared well into adulthood. Some store fronts had changed, some didn't. There was a lot more traffic than I remembered. Then it happened, the moment I dreaded...


About an hour before I was to leave, a man came in. He looked vaguely familiar but in the customer service field everyone looks vaguely familiar. I didn't pay him too much attention. He shopped, I served my customers, all was normal. A small crowd had begun to gather around my register as it did each night at 10 pm.


I look up and he's in my line. He looked at me puzzled and says, "Do I know you?"


"I'm not sure, I used to live around here so it's possible," I responded.


We exchanged names... nope. I've never heard of him, he's never heard of me. We exchange schools and again... nothing in common but he swore he knew me.


Work histories...


Groups of friends...








This had gone on for ten minutes. We had no one in common and by this time, the small gathering had surrounded us. This kind of thing is utterly fascinating in nosy small town life. He was about to start breaking down a list of his second or possibly even third cousins and stopped. A slow moving grin crept across his face. "I know what the answer is," he teased.


Of course, I assumed the worst. In the silence of that moment, I relived every single terrible thing I had done (and yes, the list was large) as a young and dumb preteen. What does this stranger know about me? Why is he grinning like that? I actually saw out of the corner of my eye an old lady clutch her purse and lean in.


He looked me dead in the face, "I've never seen you before in my life." He laughed out loud, after a stunned second his audience joined him. I don't even know what shade of red my face turned.


Turned out he was traveling, never been to this town before and I never saw him again. Well played dude, well played...

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