|What I'm losing in snarkiness, I'm making up in job satisfaction--what the hell?
||[03 Oct 2006|12:39pm]
I caught myself being Friendly and Professional on Sunday, with a strong undercurrent of Knowledgeability and even some Initiative. I blame Lindee's influence.
On Saturday I answered the phone to schedule an appointment, launching into my vaguely courteous automatic phone spiel where I only half listen to the answers on the other end:
"[Big Stupid Corporation] Grooming this is Emilia how can I help you are you looking for a bath-and-brush or bath-and-haircut what breed of dog do you have are you looking at a specific day or would you like the first available appointment would you mind cracking on just a bit because this dog on my table was supposed to be done five minutes ago and your hesitation is REALLY CRAMPING MY STYLE."
"She was just in for a haircut, uh, not too long ago I think," said the voice on the other end, "so she probably just needs a bath and a really good brush out."
"Uh huh, bath and brush," I said distractedly as I simultaneously jotted her name in an empty bath slot and tried to keep my hyperactive Westie from flinging himself off the grooming table. "And what breed did you say she was?"
"A Portuguese Water Dog. She's kind of matted on her chest."
Suddenly I realized I hadn't quite been listening and didn't remember whether the customer had asked for a bath or a haircut
"Matted on the chest? So...she needs a haircut then, right?" I asked, hoping I wasn't being caught unawares in a corporate mystery shopper call.
"Oh, I don't know, does she?" asked the customer.
(Deep breath, patience.)
"I don't know either without actually seeing the condition of her coat, but mats on the chest are usually bad news. They might need to be shaved out by a groomer. Why don't I book her as a haircut to be safe?"
I booked the appointment in one of my 9:30 am slots and hung up the phone.
The next morning Doce (do-si) arrived with about an inch and a half of coat on her body and at least two inches on her legs. Her chest was covered in those tiny little tight mats that some dogs get, and her right front leg had a nasty clump of matted hair just above the paw. I felt the back legs and discovered more mats on the insides of the legs and on her bum just around her tail.
"Do you brush her at home?" I asked Doce's mom.
"Oh, well, we used to...but my husband and I are both teachers, and it just got really busy for us with the beginning of school and all, so...no. We really don't," she admitted. "And she pants so much when she's in her kennel, do you think that's why she gets so matted in front?"
I looked at Doce's face, which I now noticed was dripping wetly with excessive drool.
"Well, she really does need to be brushed every day. But also, dogs who drool on themselves that much usually get mats on their chest and legs, because those areas are never really dry. I may be able to brush these mats out, but I'm not sure. Is it okay if I spot shave them if I need to, and I can try to blend them to the length of the body? I'll have to price this as a tidy trim, but in addition to the dematting, I can trim her feet, face and sanitary area."
I could hear my voice losing its characteristic bored and indifferent customer tone, and taking on one of friendly authority.
"You know," Doce's mom began, "why don't you just give her a full haircut? I mean, I'd just be bringing her in in another two weeks for that anyway. Can you just do the same haircut you did last time?"
"Of course," I said, checking the notes in the computer file. "It looks like we left her an inch long on the body and a little longer on the legs. Would you like me to try and leave it that long if I can? I can't guarantee that I won't have to shave out the mats on the chest and back legs, but I can certainly try to brush them out, and then we can go from there."
"Yes, okay," said Doce's mom agreeably.
I took Doce over to my table to see how many of the mats I could break up with my dematting comb before I put her in the bath. This worked on her back end, but her face was like a leaky faucet and the front legs were damp and disgusting with nervous drool. No point in trying to brush that out until I could get her cleaned and dried. In the bath, I lathered full-strength creme rinse on her matted areas, then afterwards drenched her with my favorite spray-on detangler, The Stuff. After I got her completely dry, with the exception of the leaky face, I brought her back out to my table and started working on the rest of the mats. To my surprise, the mats surrendered easily to the dematting comb, even the ones on the chest. But my table was soon covered in little droplets of drool.
I grabbed a clean towel and mopped up the drool. Then I wrapped her drippy muzzle and tried to absorb as much as possible before I laid the towel out in front of her to catch the stray drops. I continued brushing out the mats so I could run the comb attachment through Doce's coat without it snagging and snapping off.
I really want to take this dog shorter than an inch, I thought as I brushed. I really, really, really do. She'll probably come in even more matted the next time, because the rainy season is coming, and they still won't brush her regularly. And then she'll have to be shaved down to an eighth inch. I know this and they don't. I wonder if I should just tell her I had to go shorter because she was too matted and I couldn't brush her all the way out? No, that wouldn't be right because it's not true. I'm going to call and tell her that I think she should let me take Doce shorter because she doesn't brush her out and she should just listen to me because I know what I'm talking about. I do know what I'm talking about, right? I wonder if she'll think I'm being cheeky?
You didn't know there could be ethical dilemmas in dog grooming, did you? I mean, it's not exactly on the level of informed consent or right-to-die issues, but the right thing is the right thing. Right?
"Hello, Doce's mom? I've got her on the table now, and even though she was more matted than I first thought, I was able to brush her out completely. So I can leave her longer if you want me to, but I wanted to suggest going a bit shorter today. She's one of those breeds that really needs to be brushed every day if you want to keep it longer. This way it would require less maintenance for you at home, and you could even go longer between haircuts. I was thinking of doing a half inch on the body instead of an inch, and then leaving close to an inch on the legs. Please? I promise I'll do a good job and it won't look retarded."
Actually, I didn't say that last bit, but I nearly did. As it happened, Doce's mom was still very agreeable and seemed to trust my judgment.
"Oh, all right. If you think so. Do whatever you think works."
"Oh my god, really? Sweeeet, thanks."
So I did the shorter cut on Doce, taking plenty of time to even out the body, scissor the legs, and blend the two lengths. When I was done, she looked neat, sweet and tidy. Trimming her face was a challenge because she had not stopped drooling the entire time, and therefore I was stuck scissoring even as the face was dripping. But amazingly enough, it turned out okay.
"Is that length okay with you? I know it's shorter than you wanted but--" I started to explain apologetically when Doce's mom came to pick her up.
"Oh no, it's great. Can we set up another appointment now?"
"Er, okay." This is one of those things Lindee and Bonita do with their request dogs, setting up the next appointment before the customer leaves, getting them on a regular schedule and all that. I set up an appointment for Doce to come see me again in six weeks. She didn't specifically request me, but I figured as long as I'm in control and I had the appointment time free, I'm going to take advantage of it. I will quietly get Doce's mom used to the way I groom, taking care to pay attention to all her niggling little preferences--she wants the ears shorter next time, for example, of which I made a note in the computer file. And then I will eventually become "Doce's groomer"--I think this is what is known as Building A Client Base, and I might just be getting the hang of it. If I don't watch myself, I'm going to start having a Good Customer Service Attitude. That's not something I particularly aspired to, but I understand that it comes with better tips.
I've had at least two request dogs nearly every day for the last week or so of work. What the hell is up with that?