12/17/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2015

It Takes a Nutjob to Provide Good Customer Service

My 17-year-old daughter recently obtained her first job at a nationally known retail chain. At the risk of defying her threat that, "you had better not tell anybody where I'm working," I will not reveal the chain's identity. Suffice it to say, it sells products for your BED, for your BATH and many products that go BEYOND the previously mentioned categories.

Besides remaining mum on the store's title and location, I am also now forbidden to enter the establishment whenever she is working, another edict she announced minutes after accepting the position.

"What if I need some last minute Christmas gifts?" I asked.

"Take photos of the products on the website, upload them to your phone, text them to my phone and I'll get them for you," she said.

"How about I just break in after hours?" (PAUSE FOR LAUGH I DIDN'T RECEIVE)

What if you get the wrong color? Or size?"

"I'll return them for you."

"What if...?"

"Dad, I get an employee discount. Why do you need to come inside and embarrass me?"

"Purchasing a toilet brush will embarrass you?"

"If you're planning to use a coupon, yes."

"Maybe I just want to observe your work ethic and customer service methods. You know, make sure they are up to Korean nut standards."


I synopsized the row that recently occurred aboard Korean Air Flight 86. Heather Cho, daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho and a first-class (naturally) passenger on the plane, successfully demanded the taxiing jet return to the terminal and an airline steward booted off after he had the audacity to serve her and her fellow passengers bagged macadamia nuts as opposed to arranging them on plates. This "packaging breach" violated Korean Air in-flight service rules, something Cho is very familiar with since she is vice president responsible for cabin service. Correction, WAS vice president; Cho resigned her position once the nutty story went public and it was determined her actions may have violated numerous safety regulations. Federal aviation officials and the South Korean government are apparently a little quirky about passengers giving pilots orders, even passengers whose family holds a 10 percent stake in the airline.

While many consider Cho's behavior reprehensible, I applaud her efforts in the dying fields of customer service and first impressions. As a college student I spent Christmas vacations working in a high-end men's clothing store where every purchase included protective tissue and a gift box (assembled by me under the customer's watchful gaze). Ask a typical retail cashier for a box and tissue today and, if you're lucky, he or she may produce a Kleenex dispenser from beneath the counter.

Of course there are exceptions. I worship the Home Depot worker who, on a recent visit, said, "let me show you" when I asked where the 3.27 mm Torx screwdriver bit was located as opposed to saying, "it's with the tools," accompanied by a casual hand wave. For the record, finding a specific tool in a Home Depot without professional help is akin to locating a specific ear of corn in Iowa.

"Dad, we sell nuts in decorative tins," my daughter said. "Are you suggesting I open them and arrange them on plates before ringing them up?"

"Of course not," I replied. "My point is that everybody likes to feel 'first class.' So go that extra mile. Imagine that you're the one buying every item you ring up, even the toilet brushes."

"What would I do with a toilet brush?"

"I'll pretend you didn't ask that question."

"But Dad, that Cho lady resigned. Can you guarantee I won't lose my job for going that extra mile, or whatever it was you said?"

"As long as your duties don't involve entering cockpits unannounced, I think you're safe."

"Good talk, Dad. Can I go now? I don't want to be late for work."

"See you later."

And off she went. I was left hoping she'd remember our little conversation when haggard, last minute Christmas shoppers surrounded her register, demanding this and that.

If she gets stressed, she can always look at the text message I just sent her:

A large photo of a macadamia nut.