Wednesday, September 01, 2010

walk softly but carry a big stick

When I was growing up, it would absolutely horrify me that my mother would speak her mind to absolute strangers. If we'd go to a restaurant and the food or service were bad, my mother would graciously SAY something. She'd send the food back and/or ask to speak to a manager, while I'd be crawling under the table out of sheer embarrassment.


If we were out walking and she'd see older kids that were acting poorly, my mother would approach them. Instead of just going about her business and ignoring the bad behavior, my mother would stop and confront them. She'd authoritatively ask, "WHERE DO YOU LIVE?" with the intention of speaking directly to their parents, or gleaning enough information so she'd know where to send the police. It never actually came to that, though, because whomever she'd confront would always be stunned in to politeness and usually wind up sweeping her steps for the next year or more.


If one of my friends called the house and said, "Is Jen there?" My mother would gently say, "Let's try this again. When you call this house, you say, "Hello Mrs. Foley. This is Susie calling. How are you today? May I please speak with Jen?" Then, she'd ask for whomever was calling to repeat it, while I would try to figure out how to save up enough money so I could send MYSELF to boarding school.

Once, when we were staying at an upscale hotel in Boston, my mother saw a cockroach in the bathroom, a moment or two after she found a glob of hair in the sink. So we packed up and left. We hadn't even been in the hotel for an hour, when my mother strode up to the front desk and politely told them our room was filthy and she wanted a full credit.


I've wilted in the background, numerous times, when my mother has marched out of a crowded theatre and asked for her money back because a Star-studded movie was obscene. (Seriously? Top Gun?) And then a few times more than that when mom would ask for a refund for something she didn't like at the grocery store - or a discount on something that was slightly irregular.

I died a million deaths as a child. But then, I grew up and I slowly came to understand why my mother did the things she did. If she didn't demand good service - she very well might not get it. And if nobody takes the time to tell the unsupervised kids down the street that their behavior is unacceptable, they could wind up in jail. Or worse.

Years have passed since those days.

And now, it's my turn to embarrass my children.

Last week, when we were in South Carolina, I decided that all of the kids needed to have their hair cut. And because all of my hair cutting supplies are packed (probably fortuitously so), I went on line and found a children's salon. "Children's" being the operative word, here.


Although there are a lot of places around that could probably cut children's hair ... for less expensively than a "children's salon" ... they typically do not have multiple stylists on staff that can accommodate all of us at once. And because a trip to get our children's hair cut can last an hour or more, I don't mind paying a little extra to a place that is geared towards CHILDREN.

Hence the reason I specifically look for one that markets themselves as such.

Much to my surprise and dismay, when I took the children to what was marketed as a "Kid's Salon" I spent the entire hour we were there, telling them not to touch any of the bright and sparkly toys that they had available ONLY for purchase, lining the low shelves.


Tonight, I received a marketing e-mail and instead of just deleting it and removing my name from their mailing list, I provided them with my thoughts. This is what I wrote,

I found Snip-It's on Google, when I searched for "Children's Haircuts in Greenville, SC." Having just moved to this area from California, I expected that the salon would be similar to "Pigtails & Crewcuts" which was a fantastic children's salon we frequently visited in San Diego.

To be perfectly honest, I was disappointed. While the children received fine haircuts, I think that the shop is anything but kid-friendly. I expected that similar to "Pigtails & Crewcuts" there would be a playroom for children who were waiting to have their hair cuts, but instead, there were toys for PURCHASE lining the walls, with signs that clearly indicate that children should not play with any toys they were not planning to BUY.


I found this to be extremely difficult and rather obnoxious for a parent who comes in to have their child's haircut and then needs to sit and wait for 15 - 20 minutes or more while keeping a small child out of your toy inventory.
The only distractions for your young customers was a television that showed a repeating cartoon commercial for Snip-It's (!) and a small table with Snip-It's (!) coloring pages and a few crayons. The entire time I was there, I felt like I was bombarded with Snip-It's marketing, while trying to distract children who were frustrated that they couldn't touch anything.

With the economy what it is, most parents would probably prefer to not spend $20.00 + tip on a hair cut, and then unload another $10 or more on toys that their children will play with for less than 30 minutes.
If I wanted to buy my children toys, I'd take them to a toy store, where I could buy the same toys for 25-50% less. In my opinion, the back room that looks is used for "Snip-It's Birthday Parties!", should be converted to a small playroom where parents who are waiting - especially if they have multiple children like I do - can allow their kids to be KIDS.


I sincerely hope this feedback helps you to expand and improve upon your operations.

Tonight, we went out to dinner and the service was so poor, I spoke to a manager and instead of leaving my customary 20% tip, only left 5%.

It seems I am turning in to my mother a little more every day.

(Edited to add: A few minutes ago, I realized that the walls at the hotel where we are currently staying are so thin, I can hear the people directly next door to us brushing their teeth and using the toilet. And now, it sounds like some one is very ticklish. (Egads!) I'm not sure what good would come out of mentioning this to management since it's unlikely they'll put egg crate sound proofing on our walls at 12:30 AM. Besides, the pillows are nice and soft, so I suppose I can sleep with one over my head. It's like freshman year in the dorms!)


  1. I have no memories of my mother doing any of this. So I am not quite sure how I came to be exactly like this. My family laughs at me, but my feedback has served us all well.

    Case in point, we bought our first couch 10+ years ago, had it treated, never had an issue. Until after a party I noticed a stain. I checked the label, followed instructions and cleaned it. The next morning my small stain was everywhere water was used to clean it. The treatment co came out and said they could not fix it either. Turns out this material can't be cleaned with anything liquid & since all their cleaning products were liquid so they never could have helped in the first place. I called the store to discuss this issue and never heard back. I wrote a letter to the president of Broyhill. They were the perfect example of customer service. I did not expect anything more than a new cover for the cushion, b/c the rest of the couch was fine. Since it was ~3 old that fabric was no longer available. 8 weeks later we had a brand new couch courtesy of a a company who stood by their product.

  2. I grew up the same way-- but my mother also taught us -on the flip side- to compliment and thank people and go out of my way to appreciate good service...

    I am sure that you would have just as quickly sent a good response on that survey had it warranted it.

  3. Good for you! Miss you... please call when you get settled.

  4. Christina, good for you, going right to the top!! That's fantastic that the company stepped up and made everything right. Since we'll be in the market for a new couch, I might have to look at Broyhill - and tell them WHY! It feels good to support a company that supports it's customers.

    kbrients, ABSOLUTELY. That's another trait that I definitely learned from my mother... if service is bad, SAY something. If service is good, SAY something. It certainly works both ways, and a good manager would WANT to know. But what I've learned is that it's a whole lot easier to compliment than to criticize. Even if you do it with a "good" spirit, intended.

    Lorie, I promise we'll call you once we get settled and can find our phone book. Charlie says he's sure they packed it in one of the 471 boxes that were loaded up, last weekend...

  5. Haha - as I started to read this I was shaking my head remembering a certain day I called the house looking for my playmate Eileen - only to be corrected by your Mom about the correct way to say hello and identify yourself - to this day - I still say Hello and identify myself when calling others - she not only taught her own children well - she taught the neighborhood as well! Thank you Mrs. C :) for teaching us manners and respect - and how to stand up for ourselves!

    Your a lucky gal Jen and you realize your most embarrassing moments with your Mom were lessons in good behavior - something lots of folks lack these days!

  6. I can't stand the toy-at-eye-level thing!! I have 3 young ones and I have almost taken a 'you asked for it' approach when I am somewhere with slow service (grocery store line) and toys within reach. I do my best but at some point, they play, the put back and we move along. The haircut places are the WORST!!! And I'm sorry---I just laughed out loud when I read about the haircut party room?!?!?

    You're in the home stretch!!!


  7. Hi, I just found you blog! I live in Greenville! Please let me know if you need any help. You can email me at and see my blog at to confirm we aren't serial killers! :)

  8. It sounds like the snipets here in south Florida. Tons of toys for sale not for playing with. We stopped going because I was tired of telling my kids not to touch the beautiful art supplies because we were not buying them. Lousy haircuts too!! Try sweet and sassy for the girls, maybe they have them?

  9. My mom is probably your aunt or some long lost relation...I died a thousand deaths in restaurants as a kid.

    But the memories didn't stop me from recently calling the manager over at a Swiss Chalet recently to point out how absolutely filthy everything was (I could run my fingernail along the table edge and came up with black guck). Our four kids are still talking about that one--they ask me to not say anything when we sit down in a restaurant. But of course I will.

  10. BlackOrchid9/2/10, 8:10 AM

    GAH I hate Snip-Its!

    you're better off in any Great Clips or Hair Cuttery. Snip-Its is a total ripoff.

    Stay away from Sweet and Sassy too.

    Meanwhile - good for your mom. I need her right about now, since I just got royally screwed by my daughter erstwhile soccer league president. Just one of the many lovely things about living on the East Coast! Stress about CHILDREN'S SPORTS. Ridiculous.

  11. My mom NEVER said anything. I swear if someone would have stabbed her with a fork, she would have put on her best Texas accent and told them, "Sweetheart, that's fine. You didn't mean to." Which can result in children like me & my sister. Let's just say, if she slams her purse on a countertop, someone is shedding blood. Me, I will be the one walking around with fork marks in my hand and smiling politely.

  12. But at 12:30am you were climbing through the dorm windows...hahaha and there may be pictures to prove it....hahahahahaha.

    Sorry I wasn't able to catch up with you last week. I was on call and it was hectic! Glad everything seems to be going better. Hope you don't end up having to deal too much with Hurricane Earl! Remember HUGO! And in case you forgot Gator's real first name is Earl.

    Let me know when y'all will be back at your mom's. Amy agreed with me that we needed a girls night or weekend! love ya.

  13. Jen, do your realize your mother was singularly responsible for for the behavior of upwards of 30-40 children's behavior in our tiny neighborhood? Because, half the time, we were at your house in the pool, or the playhouse, or in the basement. Or maybe the trailer.

    You mother managed to remain calm through it all, and I remember she had a code word for your older brother. When she told him he was being facetious, it would stop him dead in his tracks. As well as his friends, because it meant BUSINESS.

    Happy to hear moving day is almost here! Good luck!

  14. Can I play on that tree? It looks fabulous? Is this on your new property? If so, book our family in for a visit your second weekend there. I'll let you unpack during the first weekend. Lovely!

  15. Cudos Christina for having the guts to go right to the top. I think sometimes the head huncho at big companies don't really understand what kind of customer service their staff is giving. I once had an AT&T supervisor tell me her manager refused to take calls from customers!

    Fortunately no parent embarresment growing up, but the first really words my sisters and I spoke were Peez and Kank Coo.

  16. Don't let yourself be fooled, that is always the worst behavior that can be observed.

    Didn't you ever hear the saying that God leaves imperfections to test your's?

    Even if you abide by the ol' WWJD. Come on COCKROACHES OR HAIR?

    Wow, bring on the crusades baby!!

    These Heathens WILL clean my crapper proper!!!

    Just sounds like some pretentious people who don't know what growing up hard or living hard really is,
    AND need to learn to be grateful for more than their high priced vacation.