Apparently, today’s younger generation is easily impressed. They seem to love the whole notion of superheroes but I’m still amazed by how little it takes to earn their respect. I came to this conclusion recently when I was given the nickname of Superman, at the grocery store where I work now. Several things are working in my favor to make this possible. A big part of my job is to come running whenever the cashiers get into trouble at checkout. I come to their rescue with my knowledge of the computer codes, known only to the management staff, that are needed to void transactions, make refunds and generally clean up any mess caused by inattention at the register. I also get to help bag groceries and retrieve our motorized carts for the elderly customers who need them. All the while, I am expected to smile profusely, engage the customers in polite chat and generally do my best to make them happy before they leave the store. And all of that is on top of answering the phone and taking care of every other problem at the customer service desk. If you haven’t done this job before, it ain’t easy but I like a challenge.
I guess when they found out I was doing all this at 65 years old, that was the clincher. I’m old enough to be the grandfather of many of these kids and I take great pride in showing them just exactly what old folks are capable of doing. I seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time more often than not. A few weeks ago, after an ice storm, I was just getting out of my truck when I heard my name being called in an urgent voice. One of our cashiers had fallen on the ice and needed my help. It was an older woman who had fallen and she couldn’t get back on her feet while trapped in the middle of a sheet of ice around her car. I carefully walked over to her and cautiously lifted her off the ground and helped her into her car. Then we drove up closer to the store and I helped her into the building. We went to the HR department and they took her to the ER where they determined she had broken her pelvis and wasn’t able to work. Later that week on my day off, I came back in the store to shop and my manager was kidding me about being out in such bad weather. I told her it looked like a good day to try picking up women in the parking lot again and it was just nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.
The legend of SuperGuy grew a little larger last week when the latest secret shopper customer service report came out and my name was spelled out for all to see, along with a critical evaluation of my skills. I got a perfect score but I’m still not sure who they talked to because they described me as Guy H., a male in his fifties who readily smiled and gave good service on a very busy Saturday in February. I remember the day vividly and I was overwhelmed for most of my 8 hour shift. God must have been watching over me and prodded me into smiling at just the right moment. Either that or I was just laughing at the sheer insanity of my situation, which I do quite often when I’m trying to wait on five people at once and keep the phone from ringing off the wall. This job is the multi-tasking Olympics and my manager has set the bar so high I may never get over it but I come to work every day just itching for the chance to try again. Just like the real Superman, I will never give up.
To the younger employees I must seem pretty talented because I can do math in my head faster than most of them can pull out their phones. It’s not really that amazing to know $3 is 10% of $30 but to some of them it seems supernatural. I’ve even had to interpret cursive handwriting for them when shopping orders come in from the retirement home. (I should probably put that on my resume – working knowledge of archaic hieroglyphics.) A retirement aged Superman should have skills that are in keeping with his many years of experience.
I need to add my thanks to my young friend Bianca for starting this whole Superman thing. She’s one of our younger cashiers who always makes me smile. She came up to me one day, not long ago, and told me I reminded her of Superman because I stand straight up with my hands on my hips as I scan the store looking for those who need help. Little does she realize that I’m just massaging my aging hips as best I can to relieve the stress on my 65 year old joints. I guess what she doesn’t know will just add to my mystique. Standing for 8 hours a day on a concrete floor is Herculean at least but I’m sure Superman could do it too. After she confronted me about my secret identity, I thought it would be best to play along so I got myself a Superman T-shirt for my recent birthday. I wear it under my work shirt and whenever I see her stressing out I open it up enough for her to see the giant S. We laugh about it and it helps pass the time, especially when it’s all hands on deck with too many customers at once, which happens several times a day.
Frankly, after six months behind the desk at customer service, in the biggest and busiest grocery store I have ever seen, I think they should issue Superman T-shirts to all employees who survive those first six months. It would be a nice gesture and a subtle reminder of what it takes to give great customer service every day. In my case, my new nickname has given me a whole new goal in life. I want to be the oldest guy who ever worked in customer service at this store and I want to keep working till I’m 70 so no one will ever beat my record. I plan to show up every day and keep working for truth, justice and the American Way. Feel free to stop in some time and see how I’m doing.
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