Monday, June 22, 2015

Dealing with John Q

I am spending more time in the stores these days, and for the most part, we have great customers. The unfortunate thing is that the occasional bad customer is the one that really sticks with you. Here are just a few examples of what our staff - and I - have experienced in the last couple of years.
1) The Grinch: Late on Christmas eve two years ago, I was doing my usual in Glenview, giving out samples and helping people with items in the freezer, answering questions about how to cook lobster tails etc. A car pulled up into the patio area outside the store - not a parking spot - and the driver came in and walked directly to the lobster tail freezer next to me. He pulled it open, looked at the prices and started swearing. I asked him if he would like me to suggest some alternatives, and he snapped "yes." I asked if they were doing "surf and turf," he said yes, and I made some suggesting for less expensive items he could substitute for the lobster, or as they were also serving beef, they could divide the lobsters in half. His response to my suggestions? He turned on me, and said if I didn't "shut up," he would walk out without buying anything. I was stunned. He obviously didn't realize that I was the boss's wife, and felt quite comfortable treating "the help" as he assumed I was, like dirt. On Christmas Eve. He bought a couple of lobster tails and left, and I hope I never see him again.
2) The Good Wife: Our credit card machines went down in Glenview, something that happens rarely, and something over which we have no control. A woman came in and chose some fish, but when she got to the check out, she had no cash or checks. The clerk suggested two solutions: she could go to the ATM in the parking lot and get some cash, or she could give him her credit card number, and he would enter the information manually when the machines were back up. (This is how people pay for party trays on the phone all the time.) Her response: "Give me the fish and I'll pay you the next time I come in." She was not a regular customer, and she said we should trust her to pay for the fish eventually, but she would not trust us with her credit card info. The clerk told her he couldn't do that because he might lose his job. She stormed out of the store, and had her husband send me an irate email, about how we didn't trust his wife. Never mind that she didn't trust us. I responded politely to the husband that his wife had put our clerk in a very difficult position, that he had tried to come up with a solution, but the only thing that she would accept was us giving her the fish for free. Had this happened in Macy's, for example, would she have expected them to let her leave with the merchandise without paying?
3) Forgetful: A young professional woman, probably early 30s, nicely dressed, came into the store with an unopened package of fish that had been purchased the day before on her lunch hour (one of the staff remembered waiting on her). She wanted a refund, because the fish was "off." It was July, and it was obvious to everyone that she had forgotten to take the fish into her office and refrigerate it, hence the rather smelly package. She had ruined her fish, but wanted us to give her money back, which we did. It was another customer waiting to pay who said after she left that "you shouldn't have given her her money back, she obviously left the fish in her car." But we didn't want an unhappy customer. When someone does this to us, we can't go back to our supplier for a refund, we eat the loss.  Her screw-up became our problem.
4) Lobster Lady: Just recently, a woman called our Glenview store claiming that she had bought 4 lobster tails from us, and two of them were "bad." When asked if she had her receipt, a copy of her credit card bill, the packaging or the product, she said no. She was offered a store credit, even though we have no proof she ever bought anything from us. She came in when the manager was out, demanding cash. The clerk gave her a credit for over $50, but she just wanted the money. No receipt, no product, only an occasional customer.
     We buy only restaurant quality lobster tails, which are shipped frozen, and we individually package them, so we can easily see if a tail looks like it's not good quality, and we return them to the shipper if they don't meet our standards. As far as we know, this woman never bought lobster tails from us - maybe she did, maybe she didn't, and yet we tried to make her happy. If she had bad tails, she probably got them somewhere else.
5) Crazy Like a Fox: Several years ago, we had a woman who would come in every Friday, and loudly complain to the staff (with other customers in the store) that we'd "sold her bad fish" and that she wanted a store credit. She had her receipt, but never brought back any of the fish. She did this 4 or 5 times, until the manager told her no more refunds unless she brought back the product. She showed up the next Friday with the same routine, so they got the Fish Husband, who gently lead her to the door, and told her that we would be unable to serve her any more, since obviously, we couldn't meet her quality standards. Of course we all knew that she'd eaten all the fish. She was stunned that she'd been fired as a customer. She actually came back in periodically and bought fish, but never again tried to get it for free.
     Perhaps because we are a small business, some people feel that we should be more willing to give them their money back or put up with abuse. My experiences have been few in number compared to our staff who deal with the public every day. That horrible man telling me to "shut up" on Christmas Eve still sticks with me.  It made me very aware of what a hard job it is dealing with the public, and I make an extra effort to be nice to sales staff wherever I shop.
     I also now see that Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" was on to something - rude customers never bothered him, he made all the rules, no exceptions. If we were in New York, I'd say "stop being so nice to people who are being rude/dishonest with us." But we're not.  I wish I knew what the solution was.
Suggestions, anyone?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seafood for Guys

The more time I spend in the fish stores, the more I realize that we have a lot of male customers, a lot more than you see in the grocery store. They seem to gravitate towards the fish that they can grill in the summer time, which is a lot of it. According to staff, the guys zero in on the meatier, more flavorful fish,like salmon, halibut, swordfish, marlin, mahi mahi, and the wild Gulf shrimp. They're going to cook it on the grill, so they want to get what they want to eat. (They also like to tell us about their last fishing trip in Florida or Canada or Scotland or Chile - guys will go a long way to catch a good fish).
     This year for Father's Day, the Fish Husband is getting shrimp kebabs and salmon, grilled by the Fish Son out on our deck. He'll top the salmon with some fresh Burhop's pesto, and serve it with whatever I get at the farmer's market on Saturday morning.
     Eating seafood in the summer time is the best, because you can get your guy to grill the main course, and you can get all kinds of wonderful fresh vegetables, at the farmer's market, or from Burhop's in an already prepared state - less work is good, right ladies?
     But for Father's Day, of course, Mom and the kids do all the work - so we always go for something simple. Both our kids are good cooks, so thankfully the onus is off Mom these days.
     One of the secrets to making your guy happy with your fish choice - ask him. If you know absolutely positively that he loves sockeye, that's what your should get - but maybe he's really dreaming about that last mahi he caught and would love some of that. I never assume that I'll know what the Fish Husband wants from the fish store - and he likes it all!  Like the guy on the TV commercial, some guys hate surprises.
     Just ask him what he fancies! Besides you!!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We are a hockey family...

I fell in love with hockey in college, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison - I was dating a player, so went to all the games my sophomore year, not so many after we broke up. But still loved the game.
     Fast forward 15 years, and I married a hockey player, the Fish Husband. He started as a boy in his back yard, flooded by his dad each winter, so the kids could play hockey, and mom and dad could practice their ice dancing. He played all through high school and college, and went on to become a hockey coach in Wilmette for many years. Being a coach entitled him to play in a coach's game on Sunday mornings, something he continued for decades.
     Our son played hockey as well, from Peewee, Squirt and on up. He changed to tennis in high school, and I must admit I'm very glad, especially with what I know now.
     Hockey is a beautiful, exciting game, but it's also a violent game. Checking is violent, and the fighting is violent. The refs have the ability to stop the players from fighting - if players would get thrown out of games, they would stop fighting. Why then, you might ask, do they let the fighting go on? Because the pro hockey team owners think it sells tickets.
     The Fish Husband gave up hockey when he was 50, not because he wanted to, but because he started having headaches after he played that were so severe, he could do nothing but go to bed. It seemed like a sign that perhaps he should hang up his skates, and he did. But it may have been too late.  Even no check hockey takes its toll.
     Last year, he was diagnosed with memory loss. The doctors can't definitively tell us what the cause is, but certainly the banging around his brain took during all those years of hockey didn't help. In the early days, getting your "bell rung" was a common occurrence - the coach would let you sit on the bench a little longer, then back out you'd go. The equipment is better now, back when he started over 60 years ago, the kids didn't even have to wear helmets.
     This is why he retired rather abruptly last year from the fish business. It's been a rough time, for all of us. We still love watching hockey, but I cringe whenever a player gets smashed into the boards, or they pull off their gloves and start pounding each other.
     We will be cheering on the Hawks Monday night, with friends and family and lots of Burhop's shrimp - and hoping that no one gets hurt. Everyone is talking about the brain injuries in football, maybe they need to look at how to make hockey safer as well.
     Just read in the Chicago Tribune this morning about Stan Mikita and his memory loss - I'm guessing that even if he knew what could happen to his memory, he still would have played hockey. My husband would go out and play today if he could - it's a wonderful game, I just wish that they could make it safer.