Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Help FOUND: Hiatt's Poultry at Farmer's Market

I want to buy my chicken from Hiatt's Pork and Poultry at the Farmer's Market but I stopped. It is free range and naturally raised, it tastes GREAT, but I wouldn't buy it. At one point I was not so sure I could keep buying my eggs and cheese there either...this is why:

A few weeks ago I went to the market and bought cheese from the Hiatt's booth. The gentleman who waited on me was very pleasant, patient and courteous. This man gave excellent customer service with one exception: his dirty hands. He took my cheese out of the plastic bag to cut it in half per my request without washing his hands. Also without washing he took my money, gave me change and handed me back the cheese. I worked in a deli a jillion years ago but I would imagine food safety processes are all the same...money and food should not be handled with the same bare (or gloved) hands. I almost didn't buy the cheese, but I figured I could pop it in the freezer overnight to kill any extra bacteria. I realized that everything in the case could have been handled and packaged like this- that not seeing it didn't mean it was done differently.

I used to buy their chicken- big gorgeous chicken breasts, deliciously succulent chicken apple sausage and Thanksgiving turkeys. I stopped buying them after watching several times as a variety of employees handled my chicken barehanded, then my money, then the outside of the chicken bag all without washing or using gloves, wax tissues or anything at all. I was grossed out by the dirty slimy scales with a variety of chicken juice marinating there all day long.

I was too 'chicken' to confront them then, but I did call them to discuss it today. The lady told me to call back after six o'clock when someone would be there. I wish they had an email address or some way for me to all during the day to encourage them to tighten up their food handling practices. I want to buy from them-- I want to buy more chicken, cheese and eggs from them because what they are doing well is so important and special!

I know salmonella and chicken love each other. I work really hard at home to respect bacteria and not give it a good place to hang out. I plate my meat in the fridge so juices don't wander over something else. I wipe down my counters with bleach, I do not use my main cutting board for raw meat and I wash my hands well before touching anything else after handling meat and poultry.

Hiatt's, please tidy up for me, even just for me! I love what you do and want to encourage you. I want to give you my money and support the free range,all natural and hormone free work you do that so so special. Will you help me help you help me eat more chicken?

UPDATE: I talked to Catherine at the Hiatt's counter yesterday. She was very helpful and said someone else had complained too. She said they had been overhauling their food safety and she was now trained and training the other employees. She said she even had a title "Food Safety Manager". I talked with her openly about Cheese Man and the scales. Catherine was wonderfully through in explaining to me what they were doing now and what she was teaching to everyone else. The wipe their hands with a bleach rag. They are using more care in retrieving items from the case and bagging them. I felt a lot more confident and even bought their ridiculously good chicken apple sausage. I love being able to touch the person who made the food...and knowing they are always improving how they do business. Thank you Hiatt's, for helping me buy more chicken from you...keep up the clean and tidy work!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Help Granted: Great Cloth Diaper Information

The website www.diapersetc.com offers so much wonderful information. If you are horrified, curious or dedicated to using cloth diapers check this out and get some great knowledge!

http://www.diapersetc.com/content/cloth-diaper-guide.html

I love it when a site or a business goes above and beyond like this to serve their customers. WAY TO GO!

Help FOUND: Udder Covers and Mothering Magazine

I was visiting the web site for Mothering Magazine and saw a promotion for Udder Covers where they offered free nursing covers, hilariously named "Udder Covers" if you simply go to the site, enter the promo code "onefree" and pay about $8.00 shipping. I ordered one to give as a gift to a girlfriend who is expecting. I already have a 'Hooter Hider" from another vendor and I probably paid $28 on sale for it. For those of you who are beyond confused at this point, allow me to explain that a nursing cover is basically a HUGE APRON you wear over you and your nursing offspring which protects any modesty you may care to have and (hopefully) keeps you from being harassed for feeding your baby in public. It is an indispensable item for a nursing mama and I strongly recommend them to everyone. (Thank you to my friend for recommending it for me in the first place- Ila, you are AWESOME!)

I was very impressed with this company just giving away a valuable item in order to support what they believe. After I ordered my free Udder Cover Tuesday night I spent a bit more time on the site and found additional items I wanted to order. I sent an email asking if my additional items could be added to my cover order in order to save shipping costs. I was delighted to get a phone message from Jenny (the Owner!) Wednesday morning on both my cell and home phones. She was very warm, friendly and accommodating. She said they could add the items to my first order and could I call back to verify details.

I called back to square away the details. I then asked Jenny more about how they came to give away a $30 item for free. She explained they wanted to encourage women to breastfeed since it is so healthy for the babies. Jenny also said they had a lot of stock and felt it was a good use for it. She even added value by explaining the covers are a great lightweight material perfect for nursing in the coming summer months. She was 'selling' a free item to me! This is AMAZING customer service in my book. Thank you Mothering Magazine and Milk Bands for making a positive impact professionally and personally, I am a Raving Fan!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Help Wanted: Carter's Store in Michigan City

HELP WANTED: Went to the Carter's store in Michigan city to return a duplicate infant outfit.

I've never been much of a kid person, so as the new Mother of a charming three month old Cupcake you can imagine my confusion when it comes to baby clothing! Everything is presented in a range like 0-3 months, 3-6 months and so forth...BUT depending on the actual SIZE of your kid they may not follow the typical monthly sizing. Our dearest Cherub, for example, wears a cloth diaper and diaper cover so her heiny is COMICALLY ENORMOUS and this requires larger sizes. Given that I am not so great juggling math, trying to figure out what size she could be in a month or two plus adding size for her Big Bottomed Girl Self and adjusting for potential change of seasons I am pretty overwhelmed when I finally do have to shop for her.

My dear Father bought The Princess an adorable Carter's outfit we already had, so I took it to their store in Michigan City Indiana to exchange it for something different. The girl who greeted me immediately went to get a manager before even looking at my return. I would think returns or exchanges(the easier of the two) would be very common and that all staff would be equipped and confident in handling them. Maybe she was brand new there? The manager glanced at my offering and even without a receipt she cheerily said "Go ahead and pick something else out!" I was delighted and began to cruise the store. My delight faded quickly.

The floor plan of the store was haphazard with little girl clothes strewn throughout and no organization for items and their uses as far as my untrained eye could see. I was interested in bibs, shoes and sunhats, perhaps a bathing suit. I had to ask for help locating items twice...the first question for bibs gained a vague wave and "They are with outfits." from the first girl who greeted me. I made a few comments about feeling confused and overwhelmed buying baby clothes. Then I asked for infant bathing suits and the same girl waved towards the back wall saying "Three months? I dunno you will have to look over there." I didn't feel like they were too busy to help me more effectively, just too disinterested. Did I mention my Mother-In-Love was waiting in the car with my aforementioned Enfant Terrible?

The price tag on the outfit was $24 marked down to $18, so that is the amount I was trying to spend in exchange...or so I thought! After wandering through the store several times I had selected five items I would need to narrow down to four to stay under my exchange amount. When I plunked the down on the counter I said "Twenty four dollars, right? I'm trying to decide which of these to get." The manager cheerily replied, "Actually this outfit is on clearance and valued at seven dollars, so that is your exchange amount." SEVEN DOLLARS? Are you kidding me? I asked if they had any other outfit sets like this I could exchange and she said no. She said I could just pick a different size, but I explained I already had this set. I was still new to baby togs...I was thinking like an adult where you would not want two of the same outfit! I settled on one pair of tiny pants and completed my transaction.

I left the Carter's store frustrated and unimpressed. It didn't seem like a great deal to trade in a three piece outfit for one pair of pants my Babe will wear for fifteen seconds before she grows out of them. After I was 20 minutes into my drive home, I realized I would have gotten a much better deal if I had simply exchanged the same outfit in a much larger size, say a 15 month size Our Darling could wear next Spring...wouldn't it have been great if the Manager had been helpful with that solution? Since I was so obviously desperate for help it would have been nice if she had explained that I could buy a larger size of the same outfit for NEXT Spring...I was too clueless to figure that out until I was already on the highway home. ALAS. A hard lesson learned.

Help Wanted, Help Granted!

The standard HELP WANTED sign is black and white and hangs in a shop window. It implies a need or desire of one human being for the assistance of another. (Usually paid, or underpaid as the case may be.)

We do not have to own a business to hang out a HELP WANTED sign. Without regard to our business ownership, social status, age or profession we are all looking for help. It is a simple thing, a need that drives our daily lives: Help with our homework, help in the kitchen, help doing our work smarter, making our lives simpler, our fun bigger and our days more joyful. What does your HELP WANTED sign look like?

In my daily life I see so many opportunities to give and receive help that are missed, or at the very least done badly! Customer service is something we each offer and receive every day and it impacts more than just our work life. How we are served and how we in turn serve others affects everything we do and who we are as people.

We may be looking for help but we also display our own HELP GRANTED sign. Each of us offers help to the people surrounding us: family, children, friends, colleagues, strangers. We want to be supportive and make other people's lives better because we are in them. We want to be the person that someone else can rely on in a pinch. We want to be needed and effective in our relationships. This is a basic human desire.

It seems that people forget this basic desire to be needed, to be considered helpful. Poor customer service is everywhere because people have lost hope in themselves and others. We have given up believing that the small gestures of life matter, that how we treat each other MATTERS. We forget that we want help, that we want to be helpful. We may have the smallest, simplest, least exciting job on the planet but what we do MATTERS. We need to do what we do well. We need to help and be helped with a sense of purpose and worth.

With today's record unemployment and uncertain times people at every income and educational level are taking smaller jobs or are out of work and searching for Help Wanted signs. Many people are unhappy with their jobs and have forgotten that they can make a difference at all. What we do doesn't matter as much as how we do it. I could be a high powered attorney or a sandwich artist at a Subway restaurant for a living. That just may be the HELP WANTED sign I answered. IN either job I have a choice each day about how will do this task: I can slap those sandwiches together with joy or I can grudgingly take orders with a sour face. I can ruthlessly pursue my career goals or I can seek to serve and help people. Either way I am doing the same work, but who I affect and how I am affected sure does change.

I encourage you to pay attention to service as you go through your days. How can it improve and what can you learn from other people? When you see good customer service tell someone, tell lots of people! When you see bad service, speak quietly and encourage that person or business to reevaluate what they do. That is the purpose of this blog: to evaluate service in all of its forms and to offer HELP. I look forward to hearing your stories and lessons from the Help Wanted signs you encounter and I trust that mine will help you along your life and work path too.

The sign is out there: HELP WANTED! How are you going to answer it?