So I am a discriminate consumer. If I like a place, I will shop there forever (until they give me a reason not to.) Even if they raise prices, I will keep shopping there. I am as faithful as a hound dog, and I never, ever cheat.
But mess with me, my family or my beliefs and I will boycott you forever. Take Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. I love the stuff, but I will never again bring a spoonful of that creamy nectar to my lips. Why? Because they made a donation to Tapestry Against Polygamy. I cannot in good conscience patronize a business that supports a hate group.
Most of my early days in the workforce took place in retail, so the lost ethic of “customer service” was embedded in my psyche. I feel strongly about it. Even though it is virtually nonexistent here in the White Mountains of Arizona, I look for it, hope for it incessantly. And there is nothing like bad service to get me to shoot off a strong letter.
But combine bad customer with prejudice, and you will get not only a nasty letter, but a special mention in my blog.
Let me relate to you the incident in question:
Last Saturday, I was helping a buddy of mine with a project in Eagar, AZ. It is a small town about 60 miles from where I live, and I was planning on being there all day. But I forgot my insulin needles. So I called my wife Temple up and asked her to drive my needles out to me. I was already feeling the effects of being without insulin. So Temple drove all the way (with a new baby) and brought me some needles.
I took her to lunch, and then I signed a check and instructed her to fill up the tank at my favorite gas station in St. Johns. I have patronized this gas station for years, I know the owner, and even worked on her house a couple of years ago. I always write checks there, and this would not be the first time I had sent a check with Temple in this manner.
But on this day, there was a problem…
As Temple walked in to ask the attendant to turn on the pump, she saw the (female) clerk speaking with another customer. As Temple walked through the door, she heard the customer say to the clerk, “I hate polygamy! I could never live it.”
This was an awkward moment, but Temple gassed up and went in to pay with my check. The clerk looked at the check and asked her for her ID.
“This is not your named on the check,” the clerk said. “Who is this ‘Moroni Jessop’ listed on the check?”
Temple tried to explain the situation to her, that I had sent the check with her.
“Well, I don’t know who he is,” said the clerk. “What relation is he to you?”
Without thinking, Temple answered, “He’s my significant other.”
“Oh? And who is this ‘Martha’ lady that is also mentioned on the check?”
Temple was getting frustrated, because – besides it being a personal and private question – there were people in line behind her. But the clerk pressed on:
“Is this his ex-wife? Is this his current wife? Who is she?”
It is pretty damn obvious that the clerk knew who Temple was, who I was and what type of lifestyle we live, and that she was just trying to make life difficult for us. Temple was flustered and not sure how to answer the question.
“Why don’t you call him and ask him?” Temple asked desperately.
“Because there is no way that we could know it is really him on the phone,” the clerk snapped. “And you are not leaving until you find some way to pay this $55!”
Temple called me, in tears, and explained the situation to me. I was pissed. I called the gas station right away and got the clerk on the phone. The exchange went something like this:
Moroni: This is the “Moroni Jessop” that just sent a friend to write a check there.
What’s the problem?
Clerk: I don’t know who you are. The check isn’t in your “friend’s” name, and I can’t
Moroni: Why not? I have written checks there for over a decade. The owners know me
and have always accepted my checks.
Clerk: Well, I don’t know who you are.
Moroni: I have written checks there for over a decade. I have done this before. I have
sent checks with people for over a decade. Right now, I am working in Eagar
right now. That’s why I sent the check.
Clerk: Well, I don’t know who you are. So I can’t accept this check.
Moroni: Call the owner. (I mentioned the owner by name.) Call the owner right now
and ask her if she’ll accept my check.
Clerk: There is no way that I am going to accept this check.
Moroni: Call the owner!
Clerk: Not a chance.
Moroni: If this is the way I am going to be treated after patronizing this gas station all of
these years, then you have lost a customer, and I am going to write a letter to
the owner to tell her how you have treated us.
Clerk : (yelling) Fine! Send a letter! I don’t care! (She hangs up on me.)
Temple wound up having to write a check out of her own account, which I was trying to avoid. This was not just an example of bad customer service, but an example of prejudice. It may not quite be Alabama of 1962. But it is pretty bad when someone goes out of their way to deny you a service simply because of prejudice against your lifestyle. I may be a polygamist, but I am also a consumer and a taxpayer. My money is just as good as anyone else’s.
You can bet that the owner will be getting a strong letter from me!