Thursday, January 24, 2013

Paying Cash at the Kasa

I love paying cash for things in Turkey and this evening rewarded me with the most memorable experience to date. Whether the store is a large national chain or a small mom and pop organization, neither ever seems to be able to make change. A 100, 50 or 10 lire note are all the same in terms of probability that the store will be able to make change. Be it a store cash register, or shoe box, or owner's pant pocket there is never enough change and the clerk usually has go on a treasure hunt.

Tonight I needed new printer cartridge so I walked across the street to Tekno SA, a large Turkish "Best Buy" type computer/appliance store. I took the escalator to the second floor - this is a big store - and was greeted by a cute/handsomeish young computer geek who said the obligatory "Welcome" (Hos Geldiniz) and I replied with appropriate and  polite "Happy to be here" (Hos bulduk) which is really a joke because there are a million other places I would rather be at this moment. Anyway, having bought many ink cartridges here before, I marched over to the display and picked up the HP301 black and looked around for an open Kasa (cashier). I was proud of myself for remembering not to take the escalator to the first for a Kasa because apparently, I need to pay for this upstairs..

The store was not very busy and I spotted an empty Kasa across the room with a clerk sitting at her cash register talking on the phone. I walked up to the counter, placed my box on the shelf and smiled. Never pulling the phone from her ear, she gestured wildly and pointed back to the side of the room from whence I'd just come, and spewed a litany of words. I interpreted her message to mean, "Go back to the cashier over there. It's their department and I only ring up headphones and cameras." But, maybe she said, "Can't you tell I'm in the middle of an important phone conversation with my fiance' with whom I've been engaged for six-years?" I never can tell because my Turkish just isn't very good outside of the context of taxis and homework excuses.

The cashier to which she'd pointed was, unfortunately unmanned (or unwomaned..I didn't know yet.)  I waited patiently for several minutes all the while watching  her phone conversation from across the room. I decided to have some fun.  I waited until she looked up (she was still talking on the phone) and I did the universal "throw up of my arms, point at the empty Kasa, and helpless "What-can an innocent shopper do to get some service around here?" shrug. I hoped she would interpret it correctly and get off her butt, put down her phone and help me. She interpreted half of it correctly. She did get off her butt and she did march across the room. But instead of helping me, she marched into the stock room, grabbed the cute little computer geek who had welcomed me to the store, and told him to get out and help me. (Her phone never left her ear.) Unfortunately, what I could tell, but she couldn't tell because multi-tasking is difficult with a phone glued to your ear, was that he was in the middle of helping another customer.

Cute computer geek politely explained to the customer he was helping  that he would be "right back" and he kindly rang up my purchase. I handed him a 100 lire note (about $60  for a $30 purchase) thinking this was a big enough store and late enough in the day to get me some smaller bills. (Why do the ATM's only disburse these 100's anyway?..They're impossible to spend.) Well, I was wrong. Cute computer geek handed me part of the change. Then he walked to another cash register, opened it and dug through the bills to no avail. (I guess they don't worry about employees having balanced cash drawers.) Next  (and this took a lot of courage) he walked back to phone-glued-to-ear girl and opened her drawer. No luck. After this, he gave me a polite wave and  started jogging down the escalator stairs to the first floor. After what seemed like 5 minutes his head reappeared as he jogged back up the escalator waving the correct change in his hands.

Eighteen months ago this kind of service would have driven me crazy, but today I know to expect nothing to go as expected. The only bummer in this entire transaction was that I couldn't communicate to cute geek that I appreciated his super pleasant, helpful demeanor and that I felt phone-girl should be fired. Unfortunately, based upon my observations of Turkish management styles, phone girl is probably his boss.

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