My car was packed with little girls and dogs and our destination was Jamison Square for a hot summer's evening, picnicking and playing in the fountain. We pulled into the drive through at Burgerville on Martin Luther King Blvd in Portland; the one near the Oregon Convention Center. We placed our order, pulled up to the window and was greeted by the friendliest, most gracious and happiest-to-have-a-job order-taker I've ever met. He wasn't a teenager or college kid and if he wasn't just plain delighted about providing customer service, than he sure fooled me. It's good to have work.
I dug in my purse for my debit card and...didn't have it. Not a credit card, not cash, not even my check book. Nada. I've had this moment before. This is a moment I hate. I told the guy, "Sorry, this sucks. I don't have my card. I only live five minutes from here. Just hold on to my food and I'll be right back." He told me to hold tight and he'd get the manager. The manager, who was just as friendly as the window man and said, "don't worry about it. Just take the food and come back when you can." I am not kidding you. He handed me two bags of food, three milkshakes and a Sprite, extra ketchup and salt and said, "I'm sure we'll see you sometime soon." I'm sure he thought he'd see me sometime like never. I drove home, grabbed my debit card out of the pocket of the dirty jeans I'd dropped on my floor, jumped in the car and cruised right back through Burgerville's drive-through. I handed window-man my card and he said, "W My manager's going to want to talk to you." The manager said, "Seriously, you didn't have to do that. I would have been happy for you to come back tomorrow." When I said, "Thanks for being generous and for trusting me," he said, "Well, we sure need more of that in the world, right? Thanks for being honest." If you don't already love Burgerville for being the only fast-food joint around that uses local, sustainable and organic materials or for their blackberry or hazelnut milkshakes, you should love them because they're kind to their customers.
I've been working on some banking issues. Let's just call them that, shall we? Banking issues. Again, this is a moment I hate. The recession isn't making any bank feel like risking their money on freelancers and On Point Credit Union isn't any different. Thomas was my loan liaison and even though he had to email me a disapointing, professional and not very surprising, "sorry, no luck," he had the decency to call me a few days later to tell me how I might amend my situation and offered ideas. He wasn't hawking another On Point product, he was just offering his opinion and advice and he was just plain nice about it. It really took the sting out of the situation and yes, if things change (AKA, if I'd just quit freelancing and get myself some W2s for Lord's sake) , I would definitely go back to On Point. Decent, professional and kind. I loves me some good customer service.
This rejection led me back home to my own bank - Umpqua Bank on 14th and Weidler. Candace, Jessica and Faye are "my bankers" and we know each other well enough to notice each others' new haircuts, weight loss, promotions, maternity leaves and the daily changes that come with doing business together over time. Here's what I love about Umpqua - if my balance is dangerously flirting with disaster, they call me and say, "hey there, did you get any paychecks in the mail today because if you could get a deposit in we can cover your mortgage." This is how you take a moment I hate and turn it into a moment that sucks less. I can say for certain, I never received that kind of customer service, support, kindness and respect from any of the big-name banks. That's why I bank here. I like Candace, Jessica and Faye. They take care of me and are currently looking for ways to help a hard-working freelancer with a big ol' family make it.
And now, a word about people in the back-to-school business. I want to give a shout out to Susie O'Donnell at University of Puget Sound for being a sweetheart who heard me, helped me and held my hand again through the daunting college-funding process. Thank you, thank you, and thanks again.
My son is starting his freshman year at Grant High School next week. We stopped by the school to pay the fees for his "free" public education and the doors were locked tight. We found one propped open at the side of the building and walked through dark halls to the office. A woman sitting in the otherwise empty office greeted us and introduced herself as Vivan Orien, the new principal. She told us no one was supposed to be in the building yet and that she had sneaked in too. When I said, "That's cool, we were just here to pay fees and get books," she looked at my son and said, "Hey, I know you. You're an incoming freshman, right? Do you know who I am?" My son didn't have a clue until she said, "take a good look and think of a 'skinny little Michael Jackson.'" My son dropped the WTF? look and recognized her. "Oh yeah, you're Jake's mom. He was in my core class in middle school. You're the new principal?" A short conversation ensued where in the principal recognized my son as the prematurely man-like, sweetheart 8th grader who'd shared a classroom, his sense of humor and some kindness with her son, a skinny little 6th grader who apparently impersonated Michael Jackson in a talent show." A personal connection was made that will help my son stand out in his new big school. Honestly, the principal was just doing her job and my son would stand out anyway but still it's good to have a personal connection.
Sometimes, saving the world means good customer service. Yeah, it's just good business but business is always at least a little bit personal no matter if it's fast food, banking or back to school.