Today’s Daily Prompt from WordPress asked:
“What’s the most dreadful or wonderful experience you’ve ever had as a customer?”
My post twists the question around somewhat to reply as the one providing the customer service. I’m sorry to have to report that it turned out as rather inept service.
“I’m making a chia cava,” the woman said. “Can you tell me what fabric would work for that?”
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I’m not sure I heard you right.”
“I’m looking for fabric, for a chia cava,” she said again.
Chia cava. Chia cava. Chia cava. I repeated in my head. I’m picturing chia plants, chia pets, chia heads. But what’s a cava?
“My hearing isn’t very good, ma’am,” I said apologetically, “could you say that again?”
“Chia cava,” she repeated louder. “Fabric for making a new chia cava.”
She didn’t have an accent, she wasn’t from a foreign country, she could pass as my grandmother and yet I couldn’t tell what she needed.
“Just a second,” I said as looked for the other sales associate to call her over.
“I’ll just find it myself,” the woman said and she walked away toward the stacks of fabric. Exasperation wasn’t exactly the look on her face, but I had clearly failed her.
I explained the misunderstanding to the other sales associate who looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
“Seriously, she said ‘chia cava,’” I whispered to her. It wasn’t a very big fabric shop.
Fabric shop in Hilo, Hawaii. Not, unfortunately, the one I worked at.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My coworker walked over to the misunderstood and somewhat frustrated customer and started chatting with her. They ran their hands over the bolts of paisley’s, prints, stripes and solids. They took out a bolt or two and spread out the fabric a bit. There were hand gestures I couldn’t quite make out. I still had no clue what a chia cava was. They walked over to another section of the store and talked about some of that fabric. And again, there was the touching of fabric, more pulling bolts and spreading it out across the top of the other bolts. There was some laughter. Then they walked over to another section and chatted some more.
I stayed busy restocking a few notions while I surreptitiously watched the two of them chat and talk about fabric. When the customer selected the fabric she wanted the two of them walked back to the cutting counter together. I found something to do in another section of the store. Embarrassed at my inability to understand or help, I made myself as scarce as possible.
After measuring the fabric, cutting it, bagging it and collecting the money, my coworker walked to the door with the customer, chatting comfortably. As the door opened they both looked back at me briefly and I hid my face again. I’m not certain but I’m pretty sure I heard chuckling. The customer left with a look of satisfaction clearly on her face.
I stepped out from my hiding place near the notions wall and lifted my hands and shrugged my shoulders to ask, “well?”
“Well, what?” my coworker laughed.
“What is a chia cava and what kind of fabric do you make it from?”
She pulled up a chair behind the counter and sat down. “See this?” she said, leaning back in the chair and letting the front legs lift off the ground.
“What? The chair?” I said exasperated.
“Yes, the chia,” she replied, dropping the “R” in the word chair.
“A Chair?” I said hitting myself in the forehead with the palm of my hand. “But what’s a chair cava?” I asked, but as I said the two words together out loud I understood. “A chai cava is a chair cover?” I said emphasizing the “R” sound in each word.
“Yup, simple as that,” she said. “She wanted to recover a chair in some new fabric, and if it turns out well, she’ll be back for more fabric.”
I looked at her, stunned and sheepish.
My coworker laughed. “That customer thought you were the strangest, dumbest salesperson she’d ever encountered in her whole life.” She laughed again. “I told her you were really new to the job and didn’t even know how to run the cash register yet.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. I’d been working there for over two years. I thought it better for the customer to think I was silly and inexperienced than for her to feel awkward or embarrassed herself.
I’m sure she told her friends and her husband about the airheaded sales clerk who couldn’t understand simple English. Just as surely as I told my family about the customer who couldn’t make herself understood by a simple sales clerk in a fabric store.
Occasionally when one of my kids says something I can’t quite hear or understand, I’ll throw out the phrase, “you want a chia cava” and get a laugh out of them. Then they’ll repeat themselves very slowly as if I am hard of hearing and dimwitted, laughing at me the whole time.
At least they all get a laugh out of it.
I’m happy to be of service.