“They really need to cut that hedge,” I complained as I tried to bolt across the small side street that runs just in front of our Barnes and Nobles. “Oh my gosh, the parking here,” as I turn the corner. “Of Course, any spots close to the entrance are taken,” I offer to drop off my grandmother, who is now 89 this month, at the front door before taking the girls and seeking out our own handi-capable slot elsewhere. “It’s always this bad,” I moan.
My teeth grind, holding my tongue as the girls are in the back with an uproarious chant, “Book store! Book store! Book store!”
I wrestle with the girls to drag them out of the car. I practically toss Baby K over my shoulder and take a firm grip to Li’l A’s wrist just to avoid any casualties in the parking lot. The stress and tension of my shoulders from wrangling toddlers at the restaurant, the drug store, and now bracing myself for the book store had bared a consistent burning sensation.
I pull open the front doors and of course the girls make a mad dash for the five finger discount department as I corral them into the next set of doors that lead into the shop.
I feel like singing the Cheers anthem each time I wander into our neighborhood Barnes and Nobles here in Doc Phillips. Everyone may not know my name, but you would never believe it the way they celebrate my arrival. As soon as I walk in the man that runs the record department empathizes as the girls each pull me towards the 100 Acre Woods. “Can I help you,” it’s not a question out of obligation but instead sincerity.
“No, I’ll manage,” I smile.
“Perhaps I could get you a sled, get that energy working for you not against you,” we share a familiar laugh as I move on.
The kind woman who runs the Children’s section watches as my kids run in opposite directions. Instead of pointing out the rule to keep all kids within my vision she takes on a kind patient smile as she goes above and beyond to find a chair for my grandmother’s aching legs.
The girls are loud, running form this end and then to that. I chase closely behind, but the burn of my shoulder disappears as I find the natural excited behavior of my toddlers accepted; appreciated even.
This is my happy place, this is a place where I feel welcome. I made a career for years analyzing the customer service methods of various retailers, the consumer trends that ensued, and trying to do my part to “save” retail through my written word. I have reached my point in life, in motherhood, that I am finally too exhausted. I almost never get out beyond my neighborhood Publix, and even then I try to purchase most of my groceries I can manage from Amazon Prime Now (one hour delivery). (GASP Shopgirl Anonymous! Say it isn’t so!)
But this Barnes and Nobles is something else altogether. As I make my way through the aisles to find myself a book sales associates will kindly ask not how they can help me, but instead how my day is going. At the check out counter there is never a time I am not met with the biggest smile, as if I was just the customer they’ve been waiting to see all day. In the Cafe my hollering two year old is treasured, and my latte is delivered in perfect order with a smile.
I have felt so alienated since moving to Orlando. Like I’m alone in a sea of people. 8 months have passed and I haven’t made one solid girlfriend to wander the mall, or go to the park. This problem is a result of a solid combination of keeping so distracted with family outings and living in the land of out of touch millennials and out of reach tourists. But when I come here, it’s like a refreshing recharge, a human connection my mind didn’t even realize it craved.
We climbed back into our car, began to pull out and the bitter complaints had turned to celebration. It as a successful afternoon of retail therapy that had nothing to do with my purchase. “I wish I knew who the manager was there, because if I did I’d hug them” (and I’m NOT a hugger).
Grandmother nodded, “That’s how customer service used to be, a human connection.”
“If customer service was universally like this Barnes & Nobles is every day, I can say that retail would definitely not be in the state it has found itself in today, I mean I am the expert.” 😉
Blogging everyday for November? Well we’ll give it an honest try anyway. 😉