December 5, 2012

Publisher's Notebook: 'Tis the season to be mellow

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Even though I’m looking directly over the fiscal cliff, I approach the holiday season in a more reflective, mellow mood than normal. Heck, I even found myself listening to holiday music on the radio the other day, which wasn’t difficult since it was playing on every one of my station presets.

I have vowed not to become upset by pushy Christmas shoppers, terrible customer service reps, annoying cell phone users and right wing political nuts who refuse to believe Barack Obama won the election, and who believe strongly that our president, not the Mayans, will cause the end of the world in a couple of weeks.

I didn’t even get that upset when Albert Robinson won the election to represent Laurel County as state senator. I knew it was a foregone conclusion after the local Republican committee basically handed him the election. Myself and 10,000 other Laurel Countians tried not to send the “worst” legislator back to Frankfort.

Now, Robinson is already causing problems. (Read Ronnie Ellis’ column in Monday’s edition). Laurel County is a laughingstock in political circles, but hey, if that’s what the majority wants, I’ll accept it. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

Come to think of it, mellowness enveloped me after the election was over. It’s like soldiers who’ve been bombarded endlessly for months, finally realizing the battle is over and they have survived. They light up a cigarette, pat each other on the back and then retreat to a corner to reflect on their good fortune.

My more agreeable, amicable self was clearly on display recently when I:

•Stopped at the Lowe’s in Corbin last week to buy four lens panels for custom light fixtures. It took 15 minutes to find someone to help me and other 15 minutes to find someone to custom cut the panels for me, like they did the last time I purchased them at Lowe’s.

Then, I got in the middle of a dispute between a manager and a clerk on which one would cut the panels for me. The clerk said the manager should do the work because it was her department, but she said she was busy and he was going to do it. He grumbled something under his breath. Arguing right in front of a customer is terrible form.

It soon became obvious the clerk couldn’t cut the panels. His heart and mind weren’t in the task. He huffed and puffed and slammed the cutting equipment back and forth.

At that point, my former, less agreeable self would have walked out and told the rude Lowe’s employees to keep their merchandise. But I picked up the panels and told the clerk that I would take them home and cut them myself.

•Tried to order a new iPhone 5 online as soon as it was available. I hadn’t upgraded from my iPhone 4 in a couple of years and I waited anxiously for the new phone and its features. But boy, trying to buy one through AT&T was a nightmare.

At one point, I was talking with an international AT&T sales representative, trying to explain to her that I lived in London, Ky., not London, England.

As many friends flashed their new iPhone 5 in front of me, I could have succumbed to peer pressure and exerted a lot of energy, and built a lot of frustration, searching for a new phone of my own.

But my mellow attitude convinced me to wait until more iPhone 5 supply was available. I slipped into the London Walmart  in the middle of the week recently and picked up a new iPhone without and fuss or trouble.

I used to demand and expect good customer service at places where I spent my money. I’d even go so far as to return to a fast food restaurant if they didn’t fill my drive-through order properly, which happens quite often. I have waited on hold for 30 minutes just to tell the rep that I didn’t appreciate being put on hold for 30 minutes. That is, when the rep can understand English.

But I’ve come to realize that employees at fast food restaurants, discount stores and call centers are some of the lowest paid in the country. They are overworked, underpaid and undertrained. Most are trying to do the best they can and to give the best service possible. Others just don’t care.

In any case, I’m not going to let poor customer service bother me anymore. Life is too short to be upset by huge conglomerates who don’t pay their employees enough to care, or to even live in the U.S.

I will search out alternatives like I did with my recent encounter with Lowe’s and AT&T. Or I may whistle Christmas songs while waiting in a long line at the only cash register that is open.

'Tis the season to be merry, and mellow.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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