Archive for April, 2021

The Interview

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

In just over a month I will be celebrating my 25th anniversary living in America. I’m not sure if celebrating is the appropriate term considering recent events, but it will do for now. I wrote several articles in the first few years I was settling into the great American dream which I have never posted on my blog. The following article is one of my favorites:

In 1997, while I was still working on the ramp at Hartsfield Airport, I was offered the opportunity to interview with a computer software company for a sales position. My wife’s relative worked for the company and encouraged me to apply and also set up the interview. He believed I would make a great salesman with my Welsh accent and unique charm (his words not mine!) I didn’t share his confidence in my retail ability, but he reminded my that the company was famous worldwide, and the products sold themselves by reputation. This would return to bite me in the leg later but I digress.

The interview was arranged for 4.30 pm, and I had ample time to work my morning shift on the ramp, drive home, shower and shave, and put on my wedding suit and power tie. I left the house one hour prior to the interview to avoid any possible traffic congestion, and to give my time to compose myself. I arrived 3/4 hour early, and decided to walk around to clear my head of negative thoughts. It’s hot in Atlanta in May, particularly wearing a suit and tie, and I was beginning to burn up. A sweaty head and perspiring palms are not really items on wishes to present to a prospective employer  at an interview, but there was no respite from the heat except for one straggly tree which was token contribution for landscaping a sea of tarmac. I decided to make a good impression and present myself 15 minutes early.

I straightened my tie, wiped the insteps of my shoes on the back of my pants, and opened the door to reception, but there was no receptionist to greet me. Remember this was 1997 when receptionists had not become an endangered species. I assumed she had stepped out to powder her nose, and I patiently waited and waited and waited. There was a glass door behind the reception desk which displayed a sign in black bold letters: EMPLOYERS ONLY. Through the opaque glass I could decipher human shapes scurrying back and forth, and I assumed somebody would notice me and attend to me. They could at least put me on the right track to fame and fortune, but to no avail.

It was now 4.30 pm, and I was beginning to become a tad anxious. Cold beads of perspiration were running down my back and my glasses were beginning to steam up. There was still no sign of a receptionist, but I assumed the interviewer would come and get me. Assumptions were not helping me in pursuit of the American dream, and I was now late for the interview. I had entered the desperate hours, and it was time to execute  Plan B except I didn’t have one. The only items in receptions were two chairs and a telephone sitting on top of the reception desk. A TELEPHONE!!!! It was now 4.45 pm, and with nothlng to lose, I picked up the receiver and heard a dialing tone. Now what? Dial “0” and wait. Following several rings, a little voice answered. I had a human contact at last and she said:

“XXX Company, this is Cindy, how may help you?”

“Hello, I have an interview with Miss Personality from Human Resources.”

“What is your name Sir.”

“David James.”

“One moment Sir while I contact Miss Personality and tell her you are here.”

“David, Miss Personality will be with you momentarily when she’s finished sharpening her claws. In the meantime, please have a seat.”

Five minutes later, enter Miss Personality.

“David Jones? You’re late; your interview was scheduled for 4.30.”

“It’s James actually, and I was early. I arrived at 4.15 and I have been waiting in reception for 45 minutes.”

“Didn’t you read the sign: PLEASE RING FOR ATTENTION?”

“What sign? There is no sign. What’s this an initiative test?”

“Oh never mind, I can spare you a few minutes. I thought your name was  David Jones, and not James Jones. Why is HR always giving me the wrong information? I’ve got hundreds of forms for you to complete. Sit down in that hell hole while I read your resume. If you manage to complete them before I go home tonight then I’m not fulfilling my job properly.”

I believed the British had the patent on red tape and petty bureaucracy, but I had obviously underrated Corporate America. I managed to complete the forms before Miss Personality could hotfoot it through the exit door, and she greeted me with a leer. She instructed me to sit down on a chair across from her desk. My chair was at least two feet lower than hers.

“What makes you think you can be a salesman when you have no experience in that field?”

“I admit I have no experience in sales, but I am well aware of your Company’s respected reputation world wide, and their products sell themselves.”

I mentioned earlier that latter comment would bite me in the leg. Little did I realize it would be a stake through the heart.

“Well that’s a gross over-simplification, and you’re sadly mistaken if you think our salesmen turn up at the office and the orders come rolling in>>>>”

“I’m sure there’s much more to it, but equally with expert training and guidance provided by your Company, I would be up for the task.”

“Do you know what products our Company sells, and who our main competitors are?”

By this time the interview was going to hell in a hanging basket. The products sell themselves line had sunk like the Titanic, and my mind was turning into a mushy blank sheet of paper.

” Hum, well hum, you sell computer software and stationery, and as for competitors, I’m new to America>>>>>>”

Well I have a meeting to attend in five minutes and unless you have any questions>>>>>”

My peers always stressed to me that the cardinal rule in interviews is to be sure to ask at least one question, or at least I thought so until>>>>>

” Yes, I do actually.  What type of areas are sales reps expected to cover, and what type of transportation do they normally use?”

The veins in Miss Personality’s temples grew to gigantic proportions and she was positively bristling with contempt.

“A car of course and covering an area anywhere between Alabama, Georgia and Florida. What other means of transport could you possibly use?”

I pride myself in being quite intuitive, and I had been acutely aware for some time that this lady hated my guts. This had to be the worst interview of my life. My job prospects at this Company went AWOL at the reception desk, minus the sign, and I decided to go down will all guns blazing.

“Well depending on the area, I thought maybe taking the train would be appropriate, and I also own an airplane (which I don’t) which I could use, providing suitable airfields were available, and my expenses were reimbursed accordingly.”

Miss Personality flopped back in her chair with an incredulous expression on her face. She looked for all intents and purposes like a cartoon character who had just been smacked in the face with a jackhammer.

“Just kidding>>>>> but it pays to have a sense of humor in sales, don’t you agree, Miss>>>>”

Slowly recovering her composure she replied:

“If you say so, Mr……David….. thank you for finally turning up for the interview. I will be reviewing your application over the next few days, and will decide whether to call you back for a second interview which would be with one of our senior sales managers. You will be notified by post. I appreciate your interest in our company  and have a pleasant evening. Please find your own way out.”

As I walked past the back of the reception desk I  noticed a card lying on the floor. I picked it up and written on the card in bold letters was: “PLEASE RING FOR ATTENTION.”

Approximately a week later, the standard reply arrived and surprise, surprise, my services were not required at this time, or at any other time.

What Ever Happened to Customer Service?

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Lock down restrictions are beginning to ease in Atlanta, and we decided to take advantage by taking our three grand daughters to Applebee’s which is a reasonably priced chain restaurant. The parking lot wasn’t very full when we arrived, but the good news was the dining room was now open, according to the big sign displayed in their front window. We opened the door and noticed there were a couple of staff members sitting at the bar, but none of the tables or booths were occupied. Nevertheless, it was relatively early in the evening and we waited patiently at the front desk waiting to be seated.

Approximately ten minutes at elapsed when a sullen hostess came walking up the steps towards us, brandishing a bunch of napkins which she slapped on the desk. We were all wearing masks and so was she, standing the required six feet apart, but she gestured in an aggressive manner for us to stand further away. It was not going well. In fact it quickly went downhill:

Wife: Hello.

Hostess: Can I help you?

Wife: We need a table for a party of five please.

Hostess: Name?

Wife: We don’t have a reservation.

Hostess: We don’t take reservations.

Wife: Why do you need our name?

Hostess: To add you to our wait list. It will be a 35 minute wait.

Wife: What are we waiting for? ( pointing to an empty dining room.)

Hostess: We don’t have enough staff.

Wife: Thank you very much.  (sarcasm dripping from her every fiber) We’ll go somewhere else. Background comment from me: But there’s nobody else here!!!!!!

We trudged back to the car and Grand daughter No 2 exclaimed: ” My stomach hurts. I’m so hungry.”

Postscript: The reason for the wait could possibly have been the result of online orders. But we will never know as the hostess with the charm and personality of Meghan Markle  grudgingly told us they were short of staff. We eventually found a restaurant at the third time of asking which saved Grand daughter No 2 from wasting away.  Lock down caused by the pandemic has been very stressful for restaurants and bars, but that’s no excuse for staff to be churlish to customers. Needless to say, hell will freeze over before I set foot in another Applebee’s.