Customer Service and Too Many Male Kiwi Plants

If you’re looking for a basil plant, or oregano, or even rosemary, you can pretty much announce this on the city sidewalks and someone will shove one of these into your hand, but if you want a tarragon plant, even a visit to a proper nursery doesn’t ensure that you’ll get one.

No, this isn't tarragon. It is the Norwegian Artist's outrageously orange lily, which we'll encounter later in this story. Photo by Steve Henderson Fine Art

No, this isn’t tarragon. It is the Norwegian Artist’s outrageously orange lily, which we’ll encounter later in this story. Photo by Steve Henderson Fine Art

This last week, Tired of Being Youngest has been on a quest for this anise-flavored herb, and so desperate are we that we stopped into two places I swore I would never frequent again because the only people who smile and wave at us there, or seem remotely glad to see us, are the plants themselves.

Perhaps I’m quaintly old fashioned, but I think customer service is an integral part of doing business with one another. One of the nurseries I abhor is very very small; the other is very very large. At the first one, I can generally find the proprietor, gloomily shoving plants around. I’m not sure what the mood of the employees is at the second place, since I rarely encounter these people and frequently question whether they actually exist.

I’m sure they’re there, but since they don’t identify themselves by a vest or a name tag or a “Hi! I’m Bob,” button, I wander about, looking confused and helpless, hoping that someone will notice my agitation and ask me if I’m looking for something specific, a tarragon plant, perhaps? It doesn’t do any good to go to the checkout area, since that is frequently uninhabited as well.

Sometimes I do, indeed, leave the crowd behind. But not when I'm at a nursery, looking for a human being to help me find a tarragon plant. Leave the crowd behind poster by Steve Henderson

Sometimes I do, indeed, leave the crowd behind. But not when I’m at a nursery, looking for a human being to help me find a tarragon plant. Leave the crowd behind poster by Steve Henderson

One lucky day, when I found an employee who would talk to me, I asked about male and female Kiwi plants — you need at least one of each to produce fruit, something quite common in the animal kingdom — but all of the pots were labeled “male.”

“Do you have any female plants?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re in there. Somebody just forgot to order the ‘female’ labels and  marked everything as ‘male,'” he replied.

“Well, which ones are female, then?”

“I don’t know. You can’t really tell until they get bigger. If you buy five or six, chances are you’ll get at least one male or one female in there.”

Actually, chances are higher that I won’t buy anything from this place at all, and I never do.

It was at the third nursery, the one that wasn’t too big or too small but just right, where we hit pay dirt, so to speak. Not that we found a tarragon plant, but we were effusively greeted by the enthusiastic owner. At the time, although overhead sprinklers were watering the plants, with the serious possibility of splattering customers as well, this wasn’t a problem, because the owner and her employees dashed out and grabbed whatever caught people’s eye.

The vibrant orange of the lily stands out as strongly as the bright fabric of the Canyon Sprite. Eyrie, open edition print by Steve Henderson at Great Big Canvas

The vibrant orange of the lily stands out as strongly as the bright fabric of the Canyon Sprite. Eyrie, open edition print by Steve Henderson at Great Big Canvas

At this point Tired of Being Youngest and I realized that, though weren’t going to successfully encounter a tarragon plant that day, we were buying something, and we did — an outrageously orange lily that Tired of Being Youngest purchased for the Norwegian Artist’s birthday, because Norwegian Artists thrive on outrageously colored plants.

This morning, as the Norwegian was sipping his tea and admiring the plant, he mused, “We need some larger perennial bushes for this front area.”

“I know exactly the place where we can find them,” I replied.

All of the painting images in my articles are by Steve Henderson, the Norwegian Artist. You can find his art by hitting the following links:

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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6 Responses to Customer Service and Too Many Male Kiwi Plants

  1. Dianne Lanning says:

    Too Right! I, for one, am only too glad to oblige, if they don’t want my custom/business, I shall take it elsewhere!
    I lived in England for a while, and developed the habit of putting my things down in a restaurant and then going and getting a “waiter” and making them take my order before we parted company. I would also infer that I wanted the meal service promptly too. They usually understood that I would FIND them if it didn’t come in my own idea of a reasonable time. I also followed through. I was shy of this at first, but when manners left me alone and hungry, I figured they were rude first by ignoring me. Believe me I had been in EMPTY restaurants with wait staff clustered around the kitchen door chatting for 20 minutes without getting even a menu. I timed it once. Enough was enough. I wasn’t rude in my actions, I just acted as if this was S.O.P.
    An English friend came back to London after a holiday in Miami and I had to laugh. She said the thing that changed her most was she had a new definition of “service” and she was appalled at what she had put up with in English restaurants before her trip.

    • What an interesting story, Dianne, and I love your boldness combined with grace in running those waiters down and getting service! It amazes me that, in a chronically sluggish economy in which it is too easy for the best businesses to fail, that anyone would think they could get by with treating their customers as irritants — especially in the restaurant business, where it is notoriously difficult to succeed.

      And yet, we are part of the problem, watching shows featuring crabby chefs and rude Donald Trumps and American Idol judges who delight in hurting good, honest people who are putting themselves and their skills out there for others to see. When we support these vile actions, we encourage the people practicing them to give more of the same.

      People like you, Dianne, are the lights in the darkness, maintaining an attitude of firmness tinged by kindness, demanding civilized behavior by a civilization that is becoming less and less that way. I applaud you. — Carolyn

  2. Margie Welniak says:

    Customer service is my pet peeve. I will walk out of any store or restaurant if I’m not greeted, or treated with respect while I am in their company. Of course they should also expect the same of me. I’ll always take the time to mention exceptional service. I had a part time job at Hallmark stores over the years, and even managed one for two years. This company knows what customer service is all about. I am not making a commercial for them here; this company simply puts the customer front and center. I carried that philosophy to my full-time job as an office manager in public warehousing & transportation and made it a crucial part of training for new employees before our corporate offices ever thought about it. The division I worked at for 28 years continues to be a favorite for over-the-road drivers and outside vendors because of the customer service they receive. Who doesn’t feel better when greeted with a smile and “How are you today?” Did you ever find your tarragon?

    • Margie — Your reply brings a smile to my heart. You have done, and continue to do, good things by your commitment to treating others well. And as you say — it’s a two-way street. College Girl works in a retail establishment where some customers are very, very rude, and she has no choice but to smile and be gracious.

      We can all, as you observe, be kind and gracious to one another, in whatever situation in which we find ourselves. I hope that Hallmark continues to propound the customer service that you describe, and if it does so, then it richly deserves its success. You, as well, richly deserve your success, because you have left a legacy through your teaching and your example that I’m sure you maintain wherever you go and whatever you do.

      Life is hard. Life is brutal. We don’t know what the person in front of us is going through, and what emotional blow they are staggering under, putting a smile on their face outside and trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy. Our smile, our looking straight into their eyes, our listening — truly listening — as they speak, does so much. And it’s something any of us can do.

      The tarragon? Alas, not yet, but I have picked up a Thai Basil and rosemary plant, and while this fills a niche in my covetous heart, I still look around for that tarragon!

  3. John Quinlan says:

    Customer service is a top consideration with me for where I shop. I have had good to excellant service in some places and bad to worse in others. I continue at the good ones and drop the bad ones. It used to be at Sears that you got very good service. Then it got so you could not find a clerk and if or when you did they were not interested. Your question was answered with a vague and general, “over there” accompanied with an indecipherable gesture. I don’t do Sears anymore.

    • I hear you, John. Such is the slow decline and death of any retail establishment, and people afterwards overlook this as a reason behind a company’s illness.

      I repeatedly find that employees who are treated, and paid, well, are excellent with customer service, because they have a vested interest and pride where they work. Poor customer service is a symptom of poor management, but management is blind — it drives good businesses to the ground and blames anyone but itself.

      I am glad that you support the places where human interaction is meaningful, because in the end, that’s what it all comes down to — human beings, on this planet, interacting with one another. — Carolyn

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