Sunday, April 30, 2017

When People Are Too Self-Minded to Care

My pickup truck and new trailer at Love's in Gary, Indiana
Customer Service seems nearly absent here in the greater Chicago area. As Sash and I pulled into Gary, Indiana, the childhood home of the Jackson Five and reportedly the "murder capital of the United States", we learned quickly how people here don't give a shit about other people.

The Love's Truck Stop was the one of the few places we could find that sold propane. So not really aware of how bad the neighborhood is in Gary, we pointed our truck and trailer towards that direction. The phone by the propane tank was not working, forcing Sash to walk into the Love's store building to request service.

"I'll have a guy come out to you", the clerk barked at Sash, sounding almost like Queen Latifah getting snubbed on Peoples Choice Awards. Sash was shaken, but thus far, unconcerned.

I stood out there waiting for the guy to come out. About 20 minutes later, I walked back in to ask again.

"I sent him out there, where were you!" the clerk spewed and stared at me.

"I was out there waiting", I answered defensively.

She called the guy up on the phone, talked to him, and then put the phone down.

"He said he went out there and you weren't there!"

What could I say?

"Fine, I'll send him out there again."

About 10 minutes later, the slowest walking, fattest belly blubbering, indifferent shoulder shrugging, 20-something year old guy with a Chicago White Sox cap worn backwards, comes out and fills both of my tanks.

"I'll see you inside", was all he said afterwards.

I followed him into the Love's store. I paid the receipt and walked back to the truck.

"I bet he never even came out", I said to Sash. "He just looked out the store window and gave it one glance, and didn't see me, so he gave up."

That was the first of our experience with horrible customer service in the larger Windy City area.

Hammond, Indiana, I hit the Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of camping chairs so we had something to sit on inside our new toy hauler. None of the chairs I wanted had price tags on them, When I got to the check out line, and raised up the chairs so that the clerk could scan them, she mentioned not finding any tags.

"Yeah, I didn't see any" I said.

She got on the phone to call someone in Home & Garden. About 5 minutes, she asked me if I knew the price.

"I think it said $14.88, but I'm not sure".

Another few minutes later, she gave up waiting, and started looking around. She finally saw one guy she recognized from Home & Garden.

"Ladarius!" she yelled out. When he looked her way, she waved him to come over.

"Do you know the price of these chairs?" she asked him.

Ladarius made a strange face, looking up and down over these chairs.

"Do you think these are $14.88 each?" she asked again.

Ladarius finally smiled and spoke with a deep voice like Shaquille O'Neal, "Yeah, that's the price!"

"Are you sure?" she asked him.

"Of course I'm sure, I work in Home & Garden."

So I got them for $14.88 a piece. Honestly, I'm sure that was the price, but looking back, I guess I could have said they were "$9.99" and still got them.

At a Popeye's Chicken in Joliet, Illinois, the girl taking drive-thru orders spoke with such an Ebonics accent that only Barbara Billingsley from "Airplane" could have understood. Sash wanted a "Number 4 combo", so I just said that. When the girl asked about a drink, I said "iced tea, unsweetened." Then she asked about sides. Sash wasn't expecting to be asked about sides, but blurted out "biscuits". The girl said, "No, what sides!". That's when noticed that biscuits wasn't an option on this combo. "French fries" I yelled out, just trying to say something.

I then heard her ask if that was all. "No", I continued. "I want a 5-piece chicken strips, no combo". She asked me what sides I wanted. "No sides, just the strips." She raised her voice and asked rather slowly, as I was stupid. "Do you want a number 6 or number 7".

I said, "I want a number 7, but without the sides or drink".

I could hear a faint voice in the speaker saying, "He doesn't want a combo, just the strips."

"Oh, you want just the strips?" she asked me.

"Yes,  just the strips."

"OK" she answered. "Take a look at the screen and tell me if that's right".

(In San Diego, she'd have been fired for saying that. She's supposed to read it off to me, politely, to verify.)

After pulling up to the window, this girl reached her hand and muttered a price without even looking at me. I handed her a credit card. "Here you go", she handed me the credit card back, along with the food, all without looking at me, and showing no interest in me as a customer.

And it turned out she gave Sash sweet tea.

Similar thing happened at the RV Park we've been staying at. Hollywood Casino in Joliet has an RV park which yielded good reviews on Google Maps. But the woman at the check-in desk seemed completely uninterested in us. When Sash asked for her attention, the woman blurted out, "Excuse me I get to you in a moment!" (Picture Aunt Esther from "Sanford & Son" about to comdemn Fred to Hell.)

At another Wal-Mart in Joliet, the black cashier guy bagged the groceries for the black lady in front of us. But when he finished ringing up our groceries, Sash and I stood for a moment looking at him, thinking he would bag up our groceries too. But he didn't. He just turned his attention to the next person in line. It seems that racism is alive and well here.

My take on all this is that the people in the greater Chicago region have become too self-minded to be concerned about other people. It's not that they are "selfish", but more concerned about themselves than their community or fellow man. Service employees don't seem to view customers as important, but as a commodity with which their jobs are built upon. We're more like cattle to them, move 'em in, move 'em out, while paying more attention to their smartphones and workplace gossip.

Taking a few steps back, what I see is that both Trump voters and Hillary voters in this region are actually the same people. They are both equally indifferent to each other, and both frustrated with the world they live in. They both have their idea of freedom and equality and think the other side deserves to have their tubes tied and balls snipped. The only difference is that Trump voters want guns and God while Hillary voters want entitlements.

Both are just means to fuck the other side.

Sash and I really don't like it here, and won't be coming back.

And it's not just here. I've been to other areas of Chicago, including downtown Chicago, Waukegan, Lisle, Naperville. And Sash has seen her fill of downtown too.

Otherwise for me, it's further proof that the Mississippi River is a surreal boundary between two very different Americas. Even the Rocky Mountain range is yet another similar boundary. Having grown up on the west side of the river and the west side of the Rockies, I just have a very different view of humanity and society. The term "commie pinko bastard" is often used to describe people from where I come from. But the truth is that there are very few commies, and far fewer bastards on my side of the river.

I'm not suggesting that where I come from is better, it's just what I'm used to, and works for me. I suppose millions of people in the Chicago metropolitan statistical area are used to this, and it works for them too. We just see people differently, and view customer service far differently.

The good news is that I don't have to return, and won't be contributing to their local economy


  1. Things would not be any different in Atlanta.

  2. Interesting, well written thank you Steve and Sasha. I had a similar experience in New Orleans in 2009 and felt the same about the Mississippi being a surreal boundary between two very different Americas. it all makes you appreciate San Diego. Although we just had a apartment pool party shooting.

  3. If it wasn't true it would be funny.

  4. I think good customer service, just like 'common sense' and 'common courtesy' have become like a super power. When did people stop caring?

  5. It's interesting how you sometimes get pockets like that. Rude and uncaring people are everywhere (after visiting Berlin a few years back I felt the same way about Berliners) but I think we just luck out on occasion and run into a steady stream of obnoxicity (new word). But I agree, it does tend to colour our perception of a place or a people when that happens - fair or not.

  6. Sorry about your experiences, but there's no surprise. It's a given that those areas are total crapholes, have no redeeming qualities and should be avoided like the plague.

    I've traveled to and worked in several of these areas and it's rarely been a pleasant experience.

  7. I too am perhaps spoiled from living way out west......just be nice and I'll like you.....I'm sure there are nice people all over, but at home we like to make the strangers feel welcome too.


  8. Here in Australia one of our best-known entrepreneurs said "it's easy to make a million bucks in Austalia - just open a store over the road from one selling the same stuff but offer REAL service and they will come to you in droves." He's obviously being a little tongue-in-cheek …. but only a little.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)