I went to Whole Foods. You know, the new one owned by Amazon. It looked the same from the outside. When I got inside it looked the same, too. Great. No changes in substance. Good. I got a basket. I walked into the store.

Uh-oh, forget the old hot food counter where there were tons of different kinds of chicken wings, Dover sole and other weird meat and fish dishes. I loved that part of the store. Loved it. Gone. Now there’s Bok Choi and grilled asparagus.  Crap. So, I went to the exotic drink section, where they used to have all kinds of coconut milk and such. Gone. Now you can get bottled water that says it makes you smarter. I’m smart enough not to buy it. I moved on. No bison in the meat section. Gone. Only chip snacks out, with no cheese or fruits or anything. Gone. You could always steal a boiled shrimp or two from the old meat department. Gone. Everything’s behind glass.

At Whole Foods, I always ended up with at least half a basket of stuff I had not gone there for but ended up with anyway. This time I was in the express line with less than ten items on the way out, being told I could not get the Prime discount because I did not have the Prime app on my phone. Sad. I then went over to the Barnes and Noble store located nearby. I don’t get there very often, because the store is an hour away…longer than it seems and farther than it must really be. Anyway, I went to the Starbucks that’s part of their operation. There was only me, one customer. There was also only one woman working the counter on the other side. I ordered a medium-sized coffee, mild or medium strength, with room for cream. The young woman held up the cup with a pen in her other hand. “I have to have a name to put on the cup,” she said. I told her that I was the only customer and that she was the only barista. She didn’t need a name. I was the only one there. She frowned at me, turned around and went about her business.

I got the coffee and paid for it. I put sugar and cream in it. I looked at the cup when I took my first sip. It said: “the only one,” on the outside in magic marker. This is the real world of today, I still live in some bit of past history where reason and rationality really existed and was lived by. Jeez. Today is not that way. What’s going on with service and the relationship between businesses and customers today? Somehow, getting the money from customers has gotten confused with providing those same customers with service. The utility companies have, as a group, gotten rid of all their customer service offices.

There is nobody to visit at the electric or the gas company, anymore. If you have a problem you talk to someone in India who is really sorry that you are having whatever problem you are having. There is nobody at Apple, Spectrum or U.S. Cellular, or any of the rest of them. Those companies all discovered that being a monopoly has certain benefits. Getting rid of customer service is one of them. There is nobody to call, or email, or even text, who gives a damn because they do not have to give a damn. The individual consumer is no longer important. The only importance there is comes down from upper management and it is all about how the very small number of stock purchasers treat the company in the buying and selling of the stock.

Those stockholders are not clients of the company, necessarily. If you don’t believe the information you are getting here then try calling Google (866) 246-6453 or Apple (800) 692-7753, and you will very quickly understand. Not only will you be on hold for at least twenty minutes, but then whatever problem you have will be referred to some other company you have or do business with. These companies have become so large and so careless that they no longer have to care about the individual consumer.

I have this coffee cup with the word “only one here” written on its outer surface. The woman at the Starbucks café in Barnes and Noble should have added: “and we don’t give a shit,” at the end.

~~James Strauss



Sign up for Updates