Do you remember the days when we used to say, “I’m going to run into town and run a quick errand. I’ll be right back”?
Nothing is quick any more. It takes time and a lot of patience to go out in public and deal with technology and customer service folks who are extremely grumpy that they have a job.
They take it out on the poor customer trying to spend money to help pay their salary.
One afternoon, Louise, Mary Nell and I were at the funeral home to serve a meal to a grieving family. Louise said to Rodney, “Run get some honey mustard sauce so the kids will have it with their chicken fingers.”
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Obediently, Rodney turned and shuffled off. We were at a funeral home that is smack dab in the middle of downtown, an easy walk from some places to others. In fact, I had pointed out to Tink that a block away was where Mama had lived in the big Victorian boarding house with her Aunt Alfie when she first moved to town.
“There,” I said, motioning across the street, “is Central Baptist, the church she attended.”
She used to walk two blocks to church but “blocks” is a term really just used in big cities like New York. Where we come from, we say, “Just around the corner” or “it’s just a piece from here.”
Time stretched on and Rodney did not return. “I don’t know where he is,” Louise said, checking her watch and knowing that the family would soon be assembling to eat during a break in visitation. “He’s been gone 45 minutes.”
Almost an hour went by before Rodney came in, toting a white plastic bag with one bottle of honey mustard. “You wouldn’t believe what I went through to get this.” He rolled his eyes. Resigned. For he, like most of us, has learned nothing is easy or quick.
How many times do you dash into a store and ask the first employee you see, “Could you please tell me where such and such is?”
And then employee replies with something like, “Hmmm. I don’t have any idea.” Then, she or he just stands there.
Then you say, “Could you ask someone who might know?”
“Oh!” She or he replies with a startled expression because it never occurred to them, Huh, yeah. Let me see if I can find someone.
Of course, it usually takes a minimum of 15 minutes to find someone who has to find someone else to ask. Before you know it, a 5-minute run to the grocery store has turned into an hour. And the bigger the grocery stores are, the longer it takes.
Against my inclination, I fought Friday mid-day traffic to cross town and visit a craft store to grab a couple of things I needed.
I walked in to find one cashier trying to service a line of people who snaked around corners and down the aisle. I counted 16 people in line.
I saw a store manager a few aisles away. “Excuse me, sir, are you planning to open another register line because there’s 16 people in the one line that is opened. If not, I’ll just come back another time.”
To his credit, he immediately jumped on it to fix it. It took me less than 5 minutes to pick up what I needed. By the time I got in line, there were three registers opened and at least 10 people in each line. In another minute, they opened another line and more people came from somewhere to fill that line up. It looked like the Israelites en mass exodus from Egypt.
This proves what I think: The easier and quicker that retailers make it for customers to spend money, the more money they will spend.
And they may even get home “real quick.”
Ronda Rich, author of the trilogy “What Southern Women Know,” writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.