Monday, April 2, 2012

Are You Not Being Served? 4/2/12

La La means I love you – and, hopefully, haven’t lost you.

Yes, there are many things I miss about Los Angeles since returning to the UK full time in November. I miss not being in a one-industry town in which nearly everyone you meet lives, breathes and talks TV and film (well, apart from the realtors who are too busy whingeing about the lack of tenants).

I miss the sun, the palm trees, the outstanding drama on telly, sunsets over the Pacific – leaving these things behind has been a real wrench.

But the thing I miss more than anything is the service.

The phrase that drives me nuts in the UK is the one on the other end of the phone when I call to complain that my latest purchase – let’s just pick a vacuum cleaner at random - isn’t working. “It should do” is the inevitable response.

Yes, I know it should work; that’s why I bought it. It’s a vacuum cleaner. I didn’t buy it to place on my mantelpiece and admire it from afar.

Having established that said vacuum cleaner should work but doesn’t, the next question is invariably: “Have you turned it on?” No, because I have managed to get through 50 plus years on the planet without understanding the basic rules of electricity.

This is all supposing that you can get someone to answer the phone in the first place, of course, and the verbal obstacle course just gets worse with every communication. “You have four options”, so I press number one. “You now have six options”. So I press number three. “You now have 12 options”. Finally, after you have endured three birthdays and whittled your options down, there is light at the end of the tunnel. “You now have two options”. Could it be, at last, that a human being is imminent? The tension is unbearable. I press two. “You now have 103 options” - and you’re back where you started.

Personally, I blame the music that now pollutes almost every working environment; it just isn’t conducive to concentration and putting the customer first. Lloyds Bank in Queen Street might as well have “Disco” tattooed on its black horse, so ridiculously loud is the noise throughout the entire branch.

In Starbucks, you need a megaphone to get yourself heard above the racket. A visit to O2 requires you to down Valium if your nerves stand a chance of surviving the background – or, more accurately, foreground – music. As for Mocha bar, a 60 piece brass band would be drowned out by what they play there.

This has been a traumatic week, as I ventured into town to sort all sorts of problems and suffered the musical ear-bashing in every place I visited. There was, however, one glorious exception – an oasis of calm for my otherwise nerve-racked body: the Apple Store in St David’s 2.

I have to confess I am an Apple girl through and through. My loft is an Apple cemetery, stacked with every Mac that has hit the shelves since day one. The turquoise desktop like a finely carved torso; the blue laptop that could pass for a handbag; silver laptops whose beauty brings tears to the eyes – I have loved them all. And now, in the Apple store, there are more of these divine creatures: a sea of white and silver like a heavenly host, reaching out to welcome me and starve my purse of the little money I have in it.

The store also has the best and most knowledgeable staff of any Apple store I have ever visited. They really are geniuses at the Genius Bar, and if I could pocket Nick and carry him around in my bag, always at hand to sort my computer problems, I would.

He has made me promise to stop using the word “nightmare” in relation to the numerous difficulties I have been having with my new computer and the Lion operating system. I just want Apple to promise to pick up the damned phone when I call. It doesn’t take a genius to do that.

Of course, as readers of this blog will know, there were things that drove me mad in LA about the service – not least, when people promised they could do things and either couldn’t or didn’t; and I always said that the slogan most suited to Best Buy was Best Buy Somewhere Else.

But, for the most part, service in LA was in a different league. Lucky my stuff is still in storage over there.

I am never more than a hair’s breadth away from my next Virgin Atlantic flight – all supposing I can ever get anyone to answer the phone at the damned place, of course.

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