Wednesday, November 12, 2008

PREJUDICE - Alive & Well in St. Johns, AZ

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
accept it.
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!


Disciple said...

I sure can appreciate how you feel - that would burn me up!

Hope the owner fires that clerk!

Melanie said...

Hmmm... you can't get a cheque account with three names? Or some sort of group/trust account you could all use? I think it's kinda sucky that you and Martha have a joint account and Temple just has one on her own...unless she prefers it that way. It's a bit of a situation waiting to happen. Maybe the clerk was new. When i worked at a supermarket, some eons ago, i would never have accepted a check because someone tells me they know the owner and it's OK, i mean thats the oldest trick in the book. The clerk should have called...but maybe they couldn't maybe the owner was away and out of reach.

The clerk being prejudiced against polygamy..well OK maybe that has some bearing but i think there might be another side to this one.

Melanie said...

And another thing... you Americans need to quit using paper to do your banking. Get with the times, man! =P We use EFTPOS here everywhere and often your transaction account and credit card are the one piece of plastic you can choose which account to use at the point of sale.

Moroni Jessop & Family said...


But the way they were talking about polygamy when she walked in? And the way they were grilling Temple about her relationship to Martha?

I can assure you that this was a case of prejudice. This is the town of St. Johns, and it is mostly mainstream Mormon.

Those two facts are enough. Generally people leave us alone. This person went out of their way to make things hard for us.

There is nothing wrong with each wife having their own account. Martha and I share an account, because we are legally married. Temple has her own account, because she was working.

I believe in each wife having her own money and would not prefer everyone to have the same account.

And yes, I have a debit/ credit card.

But I like this gas station, because they accept checks, and the money stays in my account a little longer. lol

God Family Country said...

With only two gas stations in town, I hope the other one does not give you the same grief.

Tony said...

I thought with all your experience as a social worker, you already knew that the majority of the population of St. Johns are inbred relatives. Surely this ignorant store clerk must be a product of such a union.

I'll betcha if one looked hard enough, one could find a Hallmark card at the drugstore that reads: Happy Birthday! From Uncle Dad.

Sorta Reform Guy said...

Maybe I shouldn't have read this post while having my breakfast. I'm gonna be in a bad mood all morning now!