Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | August 11, 2006

Service with a smile – Israeli style

I stopped in at our local pharmacy last evening on the way home from work. Picking out the items I needed (those in stock, anyway, our branch of this national chain is notorious for never having exactly what I need), I found myself at the back of the store, next to the pharmaceutical counter. As opposed to the usual levels of madness, the area was almost totally empty, with no one waiting in the prescription line and only one woman in the non-prescription line. An employee was behind the counter, and as I approached, I asked if I could pay for my items there (after all, there is a cash register). She responded in a sing-songy voice that I could pay anywhere.

Then she walked away from the counter. I waited a moment, assuming that her return was imminent. It seems, however, that I was wrong. I took a step in her direction, and much to my amazement, I found her fiddling with products in the natural and homeopathic department, adjacent to the pharmaceutical counter. I could feel my inner bitch start to awaken as I threw my opening salvo.

“So, I guess I can’t pay here, then?”

She looked at me, almost surprised to see that I was still there, hovering around her station.

“You can pay anywhere,” she repeated, as she slid back behind the counter. “You can go pay in Cosmetics.”

“But I’m already here,” I said, standing firm.

“People might need to buy medicine,” she replied.

“But there isn’t anyone else here. I’m the only one here. If there were other people, I could understand, but there’s no one,” said I.

“She’s right, you know,” piped up the woman being helped at the non-prescription counter to my adversary behind the counter. “There’s no one else waiting to be helped.”

My newfound ally and I exchanged smiles and rolled our eyes.

My adversary (strange – her voice was no longer sing-songy) started to admit defeat, clearly beginning to realize how stupid she sounded, but then another pharmacist appeared and began pressing keys on the computer keyboard. “The computer is busy now,” she said, with just a hint of a smile. As I rolled my eyes and quickly scanned the other registers, the other pharmacist moved away from the computer, and suddenly, it was no longer busy.

Triumphant at last, I was finally allowed to pay. Victory was mine, and how sweet it was. With my asinine little transaction behind me, I quickly made my way out of the store. It did not escape my notice that it took this lazy sloth of an individual more than twice as long to try to weasel out of helping me than it actually took for the actual transaction to take place. I marveled at her work ethic, which clearly – hopefully – had seen better days.

When I complain about stuff like this, veteran Israelis like to impress me with stories about how bad things were ten and twenty years ago, telling me that today we are seeing a real improvement. Clearly, these folks have never been to my pharmacy.

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Responses

  1. Egads, what a wench your not-so-helpful salesperson was! Many a time I’ve paid at Superpharm at the pharmacy counter, because it was empty- even when I wasn’t buying any medicines. Never a problem. I guess it’s just the luck of the salesperson draw.

  2. I always wonder what people like that find so much more enjoyable than doing their job. I mean, really, is fussing with the items in the homeopathic aisle that much more exciting than ringing up a purchase? I never get why they want to get out of doing what they’re paid for in the first place. It’s not like you’re calling them away from their favorite soap opera, or something. You’d think boredom would lead them occasionally to wanting spice things up a bit, maybe indulge in a little human interaction. People are quirky, no matter where you live.

    Congratulations on the new shift in direction for your blog–flying solo, and revealing a bit of your identity. I’ve been enjoying reading your site since I discovered it (although it has, amidst that enjoyment, prompted me many times to pray for your safety and peace), and I look forward to seeing where the writing winds take you.

  3. Mazal tov on the Superpharm victory!! A funny read seeing as I’ve had a near similar experience there!

  4. Too funny! I wonder if there is a pharmacy fun scale somewhere and working the register is at the bottom? Something I’ve never really considered before…

  5. I do not see what you are complaining about. The woman was really doing her job, at least like what she sees as her job. She never grew up in a different customer service environment… besides ain’t it fun to get a little excitement from time to time, geting to win small victories?

    A small tip for ending, next time when you want to have something done do not try to put it in soft words – you should use the israeli way: “nu”, “yalla”, I want to pay, “ma kore”, “Are you kidding me?” etc.
    Although, I remove any guarantee as if you get punched in the nose… 🙂

  6. I think my personal norwegian favorite was waiting in line at the office where you register so you can work, pay taxes, etc. Took a number (norwegians are big on numbers, like at the deli, only it’s everywhere…), waited for over an hour, got my number called, explained that I was just moving to the country. Woman looked annoyed that I wasn’t just looking for a form or something and said that she couldn’t help me because her lunch was starting in five minutes. Tried to inform me that I would have to take a new number because mine had already been called. That went over well. Needless to say, she had a late lunch. And an earfull from me!! Unbelievable… service minded is not the descriptive word that comes to mind when dealing with the norwegian beurocracy.

    🙂

  7. rr: Exactly! I wouldn’t have even bothered if there’d been other people waiting for medications, but there was no one else around. I couldn’t believe this asinine exchange was actually happening, and the first thing I thought afterwards was, “I have to blog this! It’s unbelievable!” I felt like I was in a Seinfeld episode or something.

    kat: I was astounded by her behavior. The exchange was like something you’d expect to see on television.

    Glad you’ve been enjoying, and thanks for the well wishes. I also look forward to seeing where the writing winds take me. 🙂

    israelrealitytruth: Welcome to something something. I’d be willing to bet that most people in Israel have had an experience that was similar to this one, unfortunately. I’m sure if I were to wrack my brain, I could come up with a few more as well.

    beth: Hmmm… Does fiddling with natural granola bars rank higher than ringing up a transaction, do you think? Interesting concept…

    arik: Perhaps she needs someone to help restructure her job priorities, in other words, remind her that live customers who want to pay are more important than granola bars.

    Oh, and trust me. I threw in the rude sarcasm as necessary. Have you ever seen me when I get annoyed? I think you’d be rather impressed! 🙂

    nrg: Ooooh! Go you! The “numbers game” is very popular in Israeli offices, banks, etc. as well. Israelis also employ another tactic whereby they enter the establishment, find out who the last person in line is and announce to everyone that they are behind that person. Then they run out to take care of errands and return in time for their turn, and nobody says a word, because this person “was there before”. It’s accepted practice. How scary is that?

  8. That would never work here, we’d have knock down, drag out fights!! But, if you take a number, well, that’s a different story…


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