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Published:April 18th, 2011 10:22 EST
The Deli Wars: A Lesson in Customer Service

The Deli Wars: A Lesson in Customer Service

By Donna Cavanagh

Usually, when I do my big  shopping, I ask my husband to come along so we can split up the list and get out of the supermarket as quickly as possible.  Our first stop was the deli counter. Since the store was packed, the line for the deli was long. I ripped off a ticket from the number dispenser and it said 38.  I looked up and the now serving sign read 22. This was going to be a long wait.  I am not a patient person when it comes to the deli line.  I am going to say something that you might not like, but I can`t stand waiting in line behind all the senior citizens, and yesterday, the majority of that line consisted of senior citizens. 

Don`t get self-righteous on me. I have my reasons why I have no patience with the seniors in the deli line. First, they take ten minutes sampling everything before deciding what they want. Then, after the deli person prepares their order, they examine each piece of meat to see if it is sliced to the right width.  God forbid, one piece of low-sodium ham is thicker than the rest because if that happens, the order gets tossed, and the deli worker has to start all over again.

I know that many of you are saying that senior citizens do not mean to keep people waiting, but I think you are wrong. It is my sincerest belief that the goal of senior citizens in deli lines is to drive the non-senior citizen population insane.  I think there is a secret AARP chapter whose main mission is the slow mental annihilation of the non-senior citizen masses, and their main weapon of choice is the supermarket deli line.  

Anyway, when I saw the line at the deli counter and who was in it, I decided to use the ordering kiosk.  The little computer with the touch screen takes my order, prints out a receipt and in about 20 minutes, I go back to the deli and find my order in a special bin. It`s a great idea which has saved me a great deal of time and possibly the lives of many older Americans.

Yesterday, my husband selected turkey breast and American cheese. American cheese is an amazing product.  Where I grew up, yellow American seemed to be the more popular color choice for cheese. I never asked why it was yellow. I thought that yellow was the natural color of cheese. When I moved to Philly years ago, white American was the most popular choice of the citizenry.  So, wanting to fit in, I started to buy white cheese. 

I couldn`t find my order in the bin. There was a bin with turkey and cheese but it was yellow cheese, so I asked the lady behind the deli counter if my order was still waiting to be done.  She asked for my receipt that the kiosk printed out, and I gave it to her.  Keep in mind that I was very polite, and up until this point, I did not sense any hostility from her.

She took the receipt and pointed me to the bin that had the yellow cheese.  I should have just kept my mouth and ate the damn yellow cheese, but no, I had to say,

"Oh, yellow cheese, I thought I ordered the white.  Can I get white instead?"

A look so evil came over her face. She leaned her head over the counter and said,

"If you didn`t want the yellow cheese, you shouldn`t have ordered the yellow. Can`t you read?"

Yes, I can," I said pointing to the receipt.

"But I sliced yellow."

 I thought this was kind of rude. A few years ago, my first reaction might have been to leap over the counter and fight it out, but as I enter middle age, I am trying to become classier and take the blame, so I said,

"I am sorry. I probably screwed up but it`s only freaking cheese."

"Do you think we have nothing but time here to redo orders?"

"I don`t know; I was guessing it was your job."

Finally after I got my white cheese, I headed to the checkout line and told my husband the tale of how the deli lady yelled at me.  He just shook his head, but he was pretty impressed that I didn`t clock her. 

Would my encounter with the rude deli woman stop me from going to that supermarket?  No. I am not a grudge holder. She was already angry before my cheese incident,so something set her off. Who knows? Maybe she had just waited on a bus load of senior citizens who wanted their low-sodium ham cut just right.