The Aspen Times: Whew! We passed our own test |

The Aspen Times: Whew! We passed our own test

Heather Hicks provides customer service witha smile at the front desk of the Aspen Times. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox

I really didn’t want it to turn out this way. I wanted her to be combative, to glare at me and curl her lip. I tried everything I could to be a nice, but ditzy, time-consuming customer. But that darn Aspen Times front-office woman was nice throughout, although she doled out a little guilt, just like a dash of salt to get the water boiling. Or, in my case, to get me out of the office by 5 p.m. so she could end her day and, I’m guessing, get some margaritas with her fellow employees.The Aspen Times editors hired me to go incognito and report on how the customer service was at their own business. It’s only fair, after all, if you’re putting other Aspen establishments to the test. It’s been awhile since I was a reporter at the competing newspaper, so I was the perfect pick; no one remembered my face and I’d gotten married and changed my name.Knowing that one must get a classified ad in by 4:30 p.m., I arrived at 4:25 p.m. Tuesday. I acted as loopy as I could: I was unsure of what I wanted to say in the ad. How much does each word cost? No? Then how many words are four lines? Can I change it? How long does the ad run? Really, a 15 percent discount? Does that mean starting the second week I run it, or for both weeks? What date is it? So, for 14 days … does that include Sunday? What’s the date again?

The young brunette at the counter took it all in stride, not once rolling her eyes or saying an unkind word. She even had computer problems at the time; her machine was making a high-pitched whine that would drive anyone crazy, but she kept her cool.I asked if I could see the bound editions of the Times dating back to 1995, although I wasn’t sure what month it was, maybe May, maybe June. It was 15 minutes until closing time at this point. The brunette led me downstairs and showed me the bound editions. She left me there, which perhaps she was happy to do.It was 4:50 p.m. when I asked her to print three pages for me. No problem. Ah, but I decided there was a problem. One copy was unaligned and had a shadow on it and not all the print was visible. It was 4:55 p.m. I asked her to print the page again.”OK, but I was supposed to leave at 4:30,” she said, delivering some guilt, but it was pretty tame.

She came back with a perfect copy and said the copies were free.It was 4:57 p.m. I headed out the door, came back and asked for a plastic bag to put my copies in so they wouldn’t get damaged. They didn’t have any. I went out the door, turned around and came back.”Can I just use your phone to call my husband real quick?” I asked.The brunette gave me a look of resignation, but said, “Sure, just don’t use the classified line.”

I called. It was 5 p.m. now. Thanks, I said once more. “No problem,” she said.Oh, that all of Aspen’s employees were so patient and kind. It would have made a great story to write how nasty she was, but it was better that I found an employee willing and able to put up with a “difficult” customer.You may not always agree with what’s written in The Aspen Times, but few will complain about the service when placing an ad or asking for favors at The Aspen Times office on Main Street. Annie Addison is a freelance writer. Contact her at

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