I was looking around for a new cat, and went to several shelters today. Let me start out by stating the following: I have the highest respect for shelter-workers. It’s a hard job, the pay is low, the work can’t be entirely pleasant and most shelters are understaffed. Frankly, it’s not a job I could do.
That said, despite the hardness of the job, I expect basic professionalism and courtesy, even in the face of hard working conditions.
I went into the shelter at 10:10 am. The posted opening time is 10:00. I tried to enter the dog and cat area, and found the door locked. A bored looking guy (not a worker) told me that “they” had said that they were still cleaning the cages. I asked him if he knew how long it would be. He shrugged and said “I barely got told that they were cleaning. I haven’t seen anyone since.”
I went to the counter and (eventually) the worker stopped answering incoming phone-calls long enough to address me “What do you need?” he asked, without greeting or introduction.
I asked him if he knew how long it’d be before the shelter would be open. He shrugged and said “I dunno. Maybe 5 more minutes?”
I thanked him and sat down to wait. 20 minutes later, I was still waiting (along with a small crowd who’d gathered. Apparently the day after a holiday is a popular time to adopt.) I asked again, he again said “I dunno. Maybe 5 more minutes?”
At 10:50, the doors finally opened and everyone who hadn’t left (about 4 groups of people) poured into the shelter. I tried to look at the cats around the 3 people who were changing their litter, giving them food and water, etc. Apparently they were just starting on the cats.
I wrote down the number of several I was interested in getting more info on and went back to the front desk, which now had a 6 person deep line. There were three workers there (plus one in a back office). One was filling out some paperwork for a customer, two were answering phone calls and one was actually helping people. After about 20 minutes more in line, and the line only having shrunk by one person who’d gotten tired of waiting and left, I got disgusted myself and walked out.
I went to the Denver Dumb Friends League shelter where, although I didn’t find the right cat, I had an exceptional experience with an employee there who was knowledgeable, courteous and helpful.
I know which shelter I’m going back to.
The customers who are there are more important than the customers calling in. If one of the two must be sacrificed (ideally, neither would, but it’s better to pay attention to the customer in your store, not the potential customer), don’t get the phone.
If there’s a wait or a problem, let the customers know. In the 40 minutes I’d waited, the guy behind the desk never once apologized for the delay, gave us an update, etc. A little info or just a “I’m sorry, we’re having some unexpected issues. We’ll be open as soon as possible” would have gone a long way towards appeasing those customers who’d left.
Suggestion 3: The way this shelter was set up, it would have been easy as pie to only allow access to some of the cages. Why not? For that matter, why not let people into the cat area while the dog area is being cleaned? (Although I grant that there may be safety considerations I’m not aware of.)
Suggestion 4: The number one goal of a shelter is to adopt pets, I assume. Given that, again, all the other crap should be secondary. It doesn’t take 3 people to clean out litterboxes in the cat room. Even if the people weren’t trained to do the actual adoptions, they could have gotten two of 'em up front answering questions, looking up histories of the animals or even answering the phone.
At least six people/families didn’t adopt at this shelter who might’ve otherwise done so if a bit of common sense was used. Most people don’t mind waiting if they’re kept informed (I recall a study by an airline about this. In one case, they handed out free snacks during a delay, but didn’t say anything, in the other, no snacks but lots of info on why there was a delay and what was being done. The people who were given info were much happier than the people who were given snacks and rated the quality of the service much higher.)
What’s funny is that I saw 4 of the 6 people/families who’d walked out at the second shelter. I struck up a conversation with one of 'em who said much of what I’d said above.
There are asshole customers, no doubt about it. But I wasn’t and neither were the other people who’d left. It would have taken so little effort to appease us, I can’t understand why they didn’t.
Fenris, bracing himself for the inevitable “Customers SUK and it’s HARD to deal with the public. Plus they don’t get paid much” rebuttal