Featured Column
Week of 3.8.2004
"Did you find
 everything you were looking for?"
Personal service bygone memory
           It was “southern California cold,” which means the temperature was in the low 60’s. An occasional gust of wind blew a leaf or a discarded plastic bag around the sidewalk and into the gutter.
          I was glued to my recliner, reading “The DaVinci Code,” not wanting to be the only person in America who hadn’t read it.
          I was watching the clock, making sure that I got out of the house by 10 a.m. to do some shopping and get some chores done.
          After prying myself free from the embrace of the recliner I headed out the door, ready to face the day.
          First stop was the local mall and the enormous chain store that sells everything from Q-Tips to maternity clothes to motor oil. I had to buy a sweatshirt. I parked and walked through the automatic doors towards the big overhead hanging sign that said, “Men.” It didn’t mean “Men’s Room,” it just indicated that men’s clothing was located below the sign.
          I found the rack with sweatshirts, but there were no extra- large sizes there. I looked around for a clerk (anyone) to check if there were any extra- large sizes in the back room. I searched for an employee- human- being. After ten minutes I found a woman who appeared to be an employee. She was pushing a cart filled with cardboard boxes and she wore a vest the color of the store’s logo.
          “Excuse me, could you help me, I’m looking for an extra- large sized sweatshirt.” I got a moody look and she said, “Huh, I just work in the stock room, maybe there’s someone else on the floor that knows.”
          That sent me back on my search around the store for help. After five minutes of traipsing around the store I found another person wearing the store’s color. I walked up to him (a bright looking teenager), interrupted his journey and said, “Pardon me, I’m looking for an extra- large size sweatshirt and there aren’t any on the rack, can you help me?”
          “Oh, no, sorry, I’m in ‘returns and exchanges,’” and he kept on walking.
          I decided to give it one more try, so I headed for the check- out stands where I asked a young girl wearing the company vest, “Is there anyone who can help me find an extra- large sweatshirt?”
          Her answer was, “No, I can’t.”
          Out the door I went, thinking enough is enough. Who needs this aggravation? I’ll get a sweatshirt another time (and another place!).
          My next stop was at one of those giant office supply stores. You know, the kind that sells at discount prices, as long as you buy a minimum of twelve of what you want. I needed computer printer paper. I found the computer paper department stacked with a wide variety of reams of paper. I wasn’t sure of which weight paper I needed so I looked for some assistance. Standing thirty feet away were four employees, wearing the company’s identification badges. They were all either teenagers or in their early twenties and they were enjoying each other – and ignoring me. I saw two of them look my way when I gave them a head nod, a smile and a raised hand for attention. The four remained in their huddle and didn’t make a move towards helping me. I thought I would swallow my pride and walk over to them. As I approached, eight eyes turned towards me.
          “Can one of you help me in the computer paper department?”
          The oldest of the group - he was probably twenty two, gave me a half-hearted smile and said, “Nah, you gotta check with someone up front.” With that, the group disbanded and headed towards the back of the store.
          Up front, I walked to the nearest check out stand, where a young girl with a diamond embedded in the side of her nose absent mindedly said, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Now, I know that this is the latest anthem of many stores and clerks are told to recite it to all customers, but the sheer irony of it only aggravated my situation. Once again, I gave up and headed for my car. I drove home and plopped down in my familiar recliner, far away from the frustrations of stores with nobody to help a customer and untrained, non-caring, non-motivated teenage help.
          Tomorrow I will go shopping again. I will look for a store that sells extra- large size sweatshirts and another that sells printer paper and maybe I’ll find stores with help that cares if I spend money with them.
          One thing I do know is that you won’t ever find me shopping at the two stores I was at today.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger