We all should have been suspicious when businesses started calling
us consumers instead of customers. Tom Peters once said consumers are
statistics, customers are people. So now we're all consumers.

Customer service training is a growth industry. Believe me I know
because I've done a lot of it. The problem is that as soon as the
seminar is over, people stop thinking about customers and go back to
dealing with consumers.

Check this out. I swear it's an actual
conversation. The names have been changed. As we join our hero, me, I'm
calling my friendly neighborhood print shop to get some, guess what,
printing done.


"Good morning. Fibro-blastoma Printing, Marjorie speaking, how may I direct your call?"

"zzzzzzzzzz uh . . . oh . . sorry. Is it my turn to talk already? Let me speak to Roger?"

"Do you mean Roger Muckfuster?"

"Do you have any other Rogers working there?"

"No we don't, sir."

"Then how about I speak to Roger?"

"And whom shall I say is calling?"

"John Hancock."

"Will he know what it's about, Mr. Hancock."

"Well not right away, but I promise you on my Grandmother's grave that
the moment you connect me with him, after we say ‘hello' of course, I
will tell him what it's about."

"And what is the name of your Company, Mr. Hancock?"


"Just a moment please, and sir?"


"There's no need to raise your voice."

I then got to listen to approximately one and one half minutes of weather channel music followed by . . .

"Yyello. RRRoger speaking."

"Hi Roger, Dave Foreman calling, I have a four color 4 page flyer to do
for Independent Foods. 150,000 copies and I need it in about four days.

"And how will the billing be handled?"

"Uh, I was thinking, maybe AFTER the job was done, I'd like you to bill Independent direct?"

"Does Independent Foods have an account with us?"

"I don't know. If they don't have an account with you, I'm sure it
keeps them awake nights. They only have eight supermarkets and do 70
million a year in business."

"Well, I'm going to fax you a credit application."

"Fine, and Roger . . . "

"YYYYYess Dave."

"Sometime, this millennium, do you think you could find time to answer my original question? Can you print this for me?"

"That depends. When do you need it?"

To make a long story short, they printed the flyer. Roger was a decent
guy. He just couldn't get the hang of not making customers feel like
second class citizens.

I can hear you saying, "Yes, but most
people don't have bunches of flyers printed so how is that all
relevant, except to people in advertising?" Okay, fair comment. Let's
talk retail. A couple of weeks ago, my neighborhood supermarket had
chicken breasts on sale. Here's the conversation:

"Uh, excuse me?"

"Yes sir, how can I help you?"

"Well last time I bought these chicken breasts on sale, when I opened
the box, they were all stuck together in a solid lump. It says on the
box, ‘individually frozen'."

"No problem sir."

"No problem?"

"Just throw them on the basement floor."

"Oh, I see. Just take these individually frozen, boneless, skinless,
lightly seasoned chicken breasts and throw them on my basement floor?"

"Yes sir. Works every time."

"Well, you see, instead of throwing them on the floor, I'd like to be
able to reach into the box and pull out a couple, or if my son is going
to be home for dinner, maybe seven or eight. But aside from that,
doesn't the fact that they have become a solid lump when they were
individually frozen, doesn't that mean that they have thawed out and
then been frozen again? I've heard nasty rumors to the effect that you
can get food poisoning from chicken that has been thawed and refrozen,
depending on how long it was thawed and how old it is now."

"We have no control over that. It happens in the warehouse."

"Oh, good. Then I guess it's okay. Don't want to upset the warehouse
staff by forcing them to keep the frozen food frozen. Say, would you
mind opening the box and just checking to see that they aren't one
solid lump?" (I know better than to open the box myself. The last time
I was thrown against the wall and strip-searched by the retired
policeman who looks after store security.)

"Be glad to sir."
She then opened the box, pulled out several and showed them to me,
holding them under my nose, in her ungloved hands and said. "See? No

I left, gratified, knowing that I wouldn't have to
throw them on the basement floor. I did wash them in a lot of hot water

The ad agency came up with the words, "Individually
frozen, boneless, skinless, lightly seasoned chicken breasts." Probably
cost the supermarket chain several thou. The ten dollar an hour freezer
lady was telling people to throw them on the floor.

"When Faith Popcorn, in her book, "The Popcorn Report" talked about militant consumerism, I thought she was over-reacting.

Sorry Faith.