CHEERS to Ethel Barkley, a customer-service clerk at Wal-Mart in Plattsburgh. One day last week, a customer approached the checkout section near the store’s grocery section and noticed that the only lanes open specified that shoppers couldn’t have more than 20 items. He had a shopping cart full of food. It was around 8:30 a.m., so the store was not clogged with patrons yet, but a crowd was beginning to build. The shopper noticed the nearby self checkouts, which don’t limit the number of items, but was something of a novice with those and wondered how to proceed. Barkley was in the middle of training a new employee on the ins and outs of the self-checkout machines, but she invited the customer to push his cart over to a machine and said she would run his groceries through herself. He had accumulated quite a number of loose produce items, complicating his self-checkout. Her trainee interrupted her a number of times during the checkout to ask questions about another customer’s situation, to which Barkley directed her attention each time patiently, helpfully. Barkley’s customer was thus able to make short work of the checkout process in spite of little familiarity with the mechanism. She explained what she was doing as she went along so he’d be better equipped the next time. He was most grateful and commented to her that she was amiable and helpful. She said she’d been well grounded in the value of customer service after 34 years as an employee with the now-shuttered Montgomery Ward. The customer was very pleasantly surprised by the depth of her commitment to making shopping as easy and quick as possible. Her bosses should value her attitude, too, as they are equal beneficiaries of the goodwill she cemented.
CHEERS to Plattsburgh resident Walter Chmura, who has shown patience and tenacity as he presses the City School Board to consider a change in health-insurance plans for employees. As a concerned taxpayer, he thinks the district could save money, while still maintaining quality coverage, by switching from Plan A to Plan B. He has been lobbying for the idea at School Board meetings. The change can’t be made because it has to be collectively bargained, he was told by Fred Wachmeister, serving as acting board president at one meeting. But Chmura didn’t think that was accurate. He did some research and emailed Assistant Superintendent Jay Lebrun, who is the expert on the budget, and asked: “In reading the teachers contract, it only specifies that the district offer a comparable coverage as that used statewide by NYS. ... that would seem it could be changed to Plan B by BOE action? Right or wrong or what? Thanks.” It took a number of emails back and forth, but a persistent Chmura finally got the district to acknowledge that he had been given inaccurate information. Because of the questions he raised, the School Board is planning a public forum on health-insurance plans. The Press-Republican has always advocated for taxpayers to attend meetings and participate in this important government function. But few do. So hats off to Chmura and others who ask questions and make suggestions. We hope boards treat them with the respect due to engaged citizens.