Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Five Who Strive (To Drive Me Nuts!)

2012 Year in Review: Top 5 High-Maintenance Customers

As we in the service industry start the new year, it’s time to reflect on some of the most noteworthy patrons that visited our workplaces last year. I give you, the Ghosts of Customer Services Past...I give you The Furious Five. The minute they enter my workplace, wise co-workers run for cover while those who must serve are suddenly gripped by a combination gag-reflex and facial grimace as their stomach acid sluice gates are opened. Without further ado, here goes my countdown to ecstacy...

1. WAIT A MINUTE! (aka, The OCD Kid, Dunkin' Gonuts)

"Wait a minute!"
Wait a Minute is a bug-eyed Tourettes/OCD-tormented kid who torments staff with his never-ending quest to listen to all the music in the department in increments of six records - plus another six of each format on his mother’s card. (He has actually pondered such metaphysical concepts as “How long would it take to listen to all the music you have here? How long would it take to listen to all the music in the world?” I usually reply, “A long time.”) A number-counter who must always say things in the exact order, so that if he misses a word in a sentence, he has to start all over again from the beginning – always prefaced by his plea to “wait a minute.”

Lately he has been adding CDs and  DVDs to his audio-visual consumption, but the main entry on his maddening menu of wants remains vinyl records. This is probably because this virtually obsolete format (despite a minor resurgence among retro-loving hipsters) is stored in an area not open to the public and thus connotes something of the exotic and unknown to Wait a Minute - a vinyl "cloud" of unknown treasures that he cannot touch, count and obsess over all at once.

He will then stand in front of me, literally inches from my face, and twitch, fidget and (occasionally) growl - like a cold car engine slowly warming up – while waiting for someone to bring the records down from our storage area, until I finally ask him, “Can you please not stand so close sir? You’re kind of freaking me out.”

While waiting, he will interrupt transactions with other patrons to either ask for more things that pop into his head or to engage these people with his limited social skills (e.g., "Hi, how are you? You like music? Hi, how are you? Stevie Wonder was a good singer. Hi, how are you?"). He will also also grab anything in my PC work area and ask if he can have it (even if it’s totally unrelated to music, like a book on Pre-Menopause!), although I always tell him things laying there are either mine or materials we are processing for other patrons. Not to be put off, he will then call an hour later from home and request whatever item caught his eye, like the Patti Austin CDs that I was checking out for another patron – and he will call every day after that to inquire if the Patti Austin CDs are back yet, even though I placed a hold on them for him and explained that the other patron has the item out for three weeks…Wait a minute - but I digress!

Typical exchange (plan for at least a painfully slow 30-minute duration):

WAIT A MINUTE: "I want six movies by Woody Allen. Wait…wait a minute…I want six DVDs by Woody…Wait a minute, OK I want six videos or DVDs…wait a minute, OK I want six videos, DVDs or movies by Woody Allen and six records by…wait a minute, I have a list…OK, OK, I want, I want, I want six videos or DVDs by Woody Allen…six videos or DVDs by Woody Allen… and six records by Chaka Khan, The Temptations, The Dells – no wait, the Delfonics, Michael Jackson,  Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, The Jacksons,  Patti Austin, and Jimmy Reed…Wait a minute, wait a minute…” (moves away from reference desk to mutter to himself: “1-2-3, 1-2-3, grrrrrrr, lemon-lemon-orange, lemon-lemon-cherry, lemon lemon-lime, grrrrr!”)

WAM: “I won’t even ask you about  Jimmy Rushing. I won’t even ask you about Jimmy Rushing. His stuff is so hard to find. So I won’t even ask you about Jimmy Rushing. I won’t even ask you about Jimmy Rushing…(continues for several minutes)

ME: “Good, sounds like a plan. Let’s move on then to the other names on your list.”

WAM: “OK, I don’t want to annoy you but, I don’t want to annoy you but, can I ask you about Jimmy Rushing?”

ME: “I knew we’d be getting to Jimmy Rushing, so let’s look him up and settle the matter, shall we?”

(We actually have one Jimmy Rushing record, so I’m sure Jimmy Rushing will, in future, be asked about! And, even though we only have a lone Jimmy Rushing record, I’m sure he  will ask for six of them!)


El Mecca Man
One of our many el-Bey surname patrons, the Mecca Man - so-called because of his obsession with our missing (stolen?) Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Buttuta DVD and the exact same half-dozen Arab/Muslim DVDs he checks out every single time (which surely he must have memorized, word-for-word, image-by-image, by now) - announces his arrival even before we see his signature fez and matching red beard rounding the corner into our department, thanks to his overwhelmingly potent smell(he sells oils, incense and other unsubtle fragrances and always reeks of his samples). In fact, we usually have to turn the fan on when he's in the department to stave off coughing fits. Imagine walking into a freshly fumigated bathroom and you will get a sense of the air quality I'm talking about.

Typical exchange:

MECCA MAN:  "Is Journey To Mecca, the story of Ibn Battuta, in?" He always points to DVDs and says (thinking he's narrowing the search parameters), "It's one of these."

ME: "Yes sir, they are called DVDs." (And, I think to myself, by designating the format as DVD you've have helped me narrow my search parameters to approximately 11,500 possible titles! Thanks for the assist, Mecca Man!)

Much more helpful info is the fact that it's a National Geographic DVD that has been missing for several months and is probably gone, but I lead him over to the National Geographic section every time, note that it is not there, look up the catalog record and tell him the circulation information, and ask him if he wants to put a hold on it in case it comes back - but he always says "I'll just check back." He will keep going to that well even when it's obvious it's run dry.

He’ll spend hours in the stacks looking for the same half-dozen titles he gets out every time, and which are filed alphabetically by title, seemingly unable to remember what they are or visually recall where he got them.

I sometimes wonder if he can read (you’d be surprised how many people mask their illiteracy by claiming “I left my reading glasses at home” – which they seem to do every time they come to the library. This is not a criticism, I just wish people would tell me they can’t read as it would save us both time in finding materials I assume they can find themselves when I tell them it’s filed under its title in the stacks (e.g., Mecca Man will be looking for “When the World Spoke Arabic” with his finger on “Brideshead Revisited” while browsing "B" titles DVD aisle). Amazingly, he’ll sometimes ask for “travel videos” for war-torn locales one would never think of as tourist destinations(e.g., Syria, Sudan and Somalia) - places Rick Steves has yet to venture to - and look incredulous when I tell him they are not typical locales for tourists these days.

3. THE MAN IN THE YELLOW HAT (formerly known as The Man in the Red Hat)

The Man in the Yellow Hat
has Blond Ambition
No, not the guy who discovered Curious George. Our Man in the Yellow Hat (formerly known as The Man in the Red Hat until he switched color schemes in an attempt to forge a new identity) is a notoriously mean-spirited drunk who wears a yellow hat with a feather in it and whose modus operandi is pulling out any music CD with a picture of an attractive blond woman on the cover - regardless of genre - for purposes I don't want to imagine. He will then stack then in random piles all over the floor or jam them back, out- of-order, anywhere in the music racks, often backwards, upside down, whatever. If you've ever played the card game 52 Pick-up, you get an idea of the chaos his creates, which is while he is so enamoured by our shelving staff.

The Man in the Yellow Hat sometimes fills a hefty bag with blond cover girl CDs  and heads to the Men's bathroom. Again, for purposes I really don't want to think about! My hand is always one ringa-dinga away from calling Security for this guy (who has been kicked out of the library before, even wisely threatening security officers (e.g., "You and whose army are gonna make me leave?") It gets curiouser and curiouser, George!

Physically, he looks and dresses like Dennis Weaver playing Marshall Sam McCloud, but without anything resembling Weaver's charm. The rest of his fashion ensemble is a mix-and-match of post-machismo NASCAR chic, with western shitkicker boots and rednecky polyester jacket with lotsa patches on it.

The Man in the Yellow Hat is always the last patron in the library checking out at closing time, often keeping circulation staff 5-10 minutes past closing time (and thus endearing himself to them as well - hey, it's not like those people have to catch the light rail or a bus to get home!). Thus, he is loathed by librarians, circulation cleraks and security staff alike - not to mention our hapless CD shelvers who must clean up after The Man in the Yellow Hat whenever he comes in and leaves our racks disheveled, chaotic and hopelessly out of order.


"I need words to Top 10 poplar songs all time!"
This middle-aged Ukrainian man claims he sings in his local church choir and is obsessed with learning the words to every song in existence, regardless of genre, and often in different languages (Latin, Russian, English, Italian, German, etc.). He has bad eyes and carries a magnifying glass with which he will then peruse the LARGE PRINT lyrics that staff dutifully prints out for him. Inititially he started out requesting sacred music and opera lyrics, progressed to opera singers like Placido Domingo, Pavarott and Andrea Bocelli, and somehow expanded to contemporary Boy Band groups and teenybop idols (Justin Bieber!) and rap stars like Jay-Z and 50 Cent ("Ees goot, this Justin Beaver? Is goot, this Woo Dang Clang? I try them next.") (I try hard to imagine him singing the F-bomb and N-word laced lyrics to contemporary rap in his church choir; but hey, give the people what they want!)

The Borcht-Belt Baritone used to sing snippets of the songs he was looking, unleashing his garlic-gloved dragon breath on us until we politely waved him off with a "Please sir, singing won't help!"

Typical exchange:

BBB: "Yes, can you print out for mee, in beek ledders, puleese, deese words to ______ (fill-in-the-blanks with everything from opera arias to rap rhymes). Now Justin Beaver - he ist goot? I try him. Most poplar song leereeks to hims, puleeze? Tee-Pang? Ist dis soul singer? No, wrap moosic, you say? Ist goot? I try him too. Beek print, puleeze, my eyes not too goot." (Pulls out magnifying glass to study the printout I give him in Arial bold 72-point font size.)

Most open-ended reference question ever from Borcht-Belt Baritone:

"Yessss, I like lee-reeks to every Top 10 poplar song in Amereeka, last 10 or 15 years, puleeze. Large print, puleeze, as my eyes not so goot."



"Don't I Know You?"
I Know You Man is so-called because that's his opening line to any attractive female that our staff happens to be helping at any given time. He will interrupt any transaction with his patented line ("Don't I know you? I know I know you!"), uttered only to women, and every time is rebuffed by the incredulous parties to whom it is addressed.

One woman gave her name, occupation, birthplace...and drew a blank, adding "I don't think I know you."

I Know You Man's modus operandi reminds me of Jonathan Lethem's short story "Vivian Relf" wherein the narrator meets a girl at a party that looks familiar but it turns out they are total strangers without one iota of connectivity - their only connection is their disconnection.

Having exhausted his attempts at flirtation, I Know You Man then moves on to his other signature trait: asking the Open-Ended general Question for Which There Is No Answer.

To wit:

I KNOW YOU MAN: "OK, all I want is a DVD on history, you know, all of it. You know like...yeah, like all of it, you know what I mean?"

ME: "That's a pretty broad spectrum there. I don't have one DVD that covers that. Any particular aspect, country, era? You might want to narrow your search."

I KNOW YOU MAN: "OK, like Modern History, just, you know, like The Renaissance on. You got that?"

ME: "No, but how about The Entire History of the World (As We Know It): From Primordial Ooze to Parallel Universes and Everything In Between - unfortunately it runs about a million years and is due back in one week, with late fines starting at 20 cents a day."

OK, no, I didn't really say that. Instead, invested huge chunk of time showing the man every video and DVD related to history in our collection. But he was disappointed it all wasn't available on one DVD!

An hour later, he came back and asked the exact same question to my co-worker, and got the exact same response. When I interjected, "She's going to give you the same response as I did," I Know You Man "Shhhhh"-ed me!

It was the reference question equivalent of Groundhog Day, the same transaction pointlessly reenacted all over again.



Anonymous Scott Wallace Brown said...

I'm pretty sure the "Wait A Minute" guy is one of my patrons. Can you tell me if his initials are SD?

4:13 PM  

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