All we ask is a tiny smile

   Every morning before dropping my 10-year-old daughter off at school, we drop by the local convenience store and pick up a donut and something to drink.
   The sun may be shining, birds chirping, the scent of a fresh, wonderful day in the air. We bring our morning treat up to the cash register, happy to be alive, and run smack into Grizelda, the surliest cashier to ever walk the earth.
   "Good morning!" I sing, thrilled at the prospects of the coming day.
   No answer. She silently rings up the few measly items and announces the total. I hand her the money and she mechanically counts back the change.
   "Thank you!" I gush, knowing the donut was now all mine and I would be devouring it momentarily.
   No answer. Grizeldaís eyes move to the next in line. She quickly rings up their purchase, announces the amount and sticks out her chubby little hand.
  My daughter and I walk out of the store, the day slightly less bright than it was before we entered.
   Customer service. Grizelda, an employee in her early 20ís, has no clue what it means. And that means neither does its owners and management.
   Consider this: I spend about $3 every school day in the convenience store where Grizelda works. Thatís $15 per week, approximately $600 per school year. If I continue doing it for all my kids over the years, I could easily buy $10,000 worth of coffee, doughnuts and juice in that den of depression.
   I could also weigh 372 pounds, but thatís another story.
   As a customer, I have a lifetime value that few businesses appreciate. If I can be worth $10,000 to a convenience store, think of my value to a grocery store, or better yet, a fast food outlet.
   Office of Consumer Affairs statistics reveal 68 percent of all customers who do not return to a particular business do so because they perceive an attitude of indifference or discourtesy.
   They must have met Grizelda in other forms. So far, I have continued to return to the convenience store where she works for one reason and one reason only Ė itís convenient.
   If there was an option, Iíd take it in a second. Since my lifetime value as measured in morning donuts has many years and dollars and pounds yet to go, I would certainly shop around for a place that appreciates my business.
   But with nowhere else to go, at least for the moment, Iím forced to deal with Grizelda. Thatís why my daughter and I embarked on a quest last week to see if she was human.
   "Good Morning!" I chirped as she rang up our coffee and donuts last Monday.
    "$2.93," replied Grizelda, hand out-stretched.
   On Wednesday, we brought Barney the Dinosaur with us and my daughter and I sang the Barney theme song: "I love you, you love me, weíre a happy family."
   "$2.93," replied Grizelda, hand out-stretched.
   Thursday we went all out. My daughter dressed up in her gorilla costume and I came in a dress and high heels, full make up and a lampshade on my head.
   "Good Morning!" I sang in my highest octave as my daughter growled and jumped up and down.
   "$2.93," replied Grizelda, hand out-stretched.
   We walked out, thoroughly beaten. The woman had the personality of a slug, the mannerisms of a robot. Nothing could warm her, nothing could make her crack a smile.
   By Friday we had given up. We entered in a somber mood, got our donuts and drinks and shuffled to the counter for our daily beating from Grizelda.
   "Hi." she said.
   We were stunned. We both said "Hi" back but immediately worried whether she heard us.
   "$2.93," she said hand outstretched.
   She had said "Hi" to us. She was our friend. I had to please her. The only thing I could think of was to hand her exactly $2.93, which I did, saving her from making change.
   "Thank you," she said, a tiny smile (although weíre still debating) forming on the right side of her mouth.
   "Thank you!!!" my daughter and I cried in unison as we skipped out of the store. "And see you on Monday."


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