Friday, December 20, 2013

The Last Straw

"I'm just going to call it like it is: I am a CUSTOMER, and you are not being helpful. You are just going to tell me to drive 75 miles to see your store or shop online. I want your name and your manager on the line right now!"

Well that didn't go well. How could I have made it gone better? I watched the blinking light on the phone turn red as my manager took the call. The caller wanted a Christmas gift for his mother, specifically he wanted "the Last Supper" and "Did we have any on the shelves?" I had no idea.  Why didn't I just say "Let me transfer you to someone who might know" or ask him to describe it? That is what I usually did.

Like most stores during the Holiday Shopping Season, ours was overworked, undermanned, and overwhelmed with the demands we simply couldn't keep up with. I knew the department head he needed wasn't in that night, I knew the few people on the floor were really busy and he might be on hold for a while—and I thought I might actually be helpful. It's just that I don't have every item in the store memorized. That's right, I am an actual human. That means I have limitations.

So I was trying to run the sales floor, run a cash register, and act as the Customer Service Manager all the while talking to a man on the phone who repeatedly could not verify if he wanted a framed piece of artwork, a poly-resin relief to be hung on the wall, a poster print or a small statuette. He had no part number or description other than his mother liked it. To me the logical thing to suggest was that he come look at our Inspirational product and try to narrow it down from there. Oops. Apparently that makes you sound like lazy employee who enjoys torturing people over the phone. The red light was still on—this can't be good. This was no ordinary complaint. This costumer was PISSED!

I should have explained what products I remembered us having, I should have asked him to describe it better—maybe with specific questions like "Does it hang on the wall? Or is it in a frame? How big would you say it was?"Finally, sometime later the call ended. I felt my blood pressure rising. Sure enough, my manager was walking towards me—and his face was flushed.

"Hey I am sorry about that," I quickly started talking. "I know that is the last thing you needed tonight, but I have no idea what set him off."

"What set him off was you telling him he needed to drive 75 miles to the store before you could even begin to help him."

"I didn't know he lived far away! After that I suggested he look online to try to visualize our product because I didn't know what he wanted!" I told my side of it—and I could tell my manager was listening, but still it was my word versus the stranger. Besides, he had been able to find out exactly what the man on the phone wanted and assured him that we did indeed have it in stock. Customers get upset. It happens. But when someone gets really REALLY pissed off it is usually because an unfortunate situation was handled badly. There was now a question mark next to my name and I knew it. Was I really cut out to be in this position?

I finished the night fuming at myself for being too tired to think "delicately" with that one customer, wondering if I had actually sounded rude over the phone without meaning to, and angry that an irate person could hold that much influence over my job. The store closed, and collectively the workers muscled up our last bit of nearly depleted energy to begin cleaning the store trashed by frenzied shoppers.

"Know what's Unbelievable?" My manager suddenly appeared behind me with an "If-I-wasn't-so-tired-I'd-be-smiling" sort of face. "You know Mr. Your-employee-is-incredibly-rude-and-unhelpful-and-I-live-so-far-way? Well fifteen minutes after I hung up the phone with him he came into the store and bought the Last Supper."

"FIFTEEN MINUTES?! How in the world did he drive 75 miles—"

"Clearly he didn't. If he wasn't honest about that, there is not telling what else he embellished on. You are good. I just thought it was funny he was all worked up about buying a holy picture and felt the need to get angry and lie about it all."

In his defense—he wanted the picture for his mother. He made no claims to being a prayerful sort of person himself. My blood pressure began to drop, and once again it was just another ordinary night at work.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Beginning to look a lot like—Sexism?

"Pardon me sir, how much of this garland should I buy for my front door?"

I looked down from the ladder I was working on, and below me there was a woman holding several strands of pine garland. Granted, there were two other female employees working on the floor right next to her, but hey, I guess the guy on the ladder ten feet in the air was more accessible.

"Well, I am not sure how large your door is, but I am sure two would be plenty."

"I want to make sure I have enough. How long are these?"

"They are six feet each Ma'am."

"Will that be enough?"

My Assistant Manager looked up from her task "Your average door is about 8 feet. Providing you don't have a custom door, two will be plenty."

The customer nodded and gave a quick half smile in her direction.

"So—SIR, should I buy two or three?"

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The lines to the registers were absurdly long. Every other cashier was busy, "beeping" and "chinging" their own harmonies to the Holiday music playing. I finished counting down my cash drawer, and said "Register 5 is open for the next customer in line." I smiled and pointed to a woman, indicating I would help her.


I looked at the back of the line and saw customers frantically pulling their shopping carts out of the way for an enraged shopper barreling her way through the lines to my register. It was a "get out of my way or I will crush you" charge.

"Unbelievable!" She continued to rant at me "Do you SEE these lines? Nobody has time to wait like this! Unreal. Simply Unreal. I will never shop here again. NEVER!"

Behind her, the lines of customers all watched in wonder at the tirade. The scene made as much sense as a fish exasperated by the wetness of it's pond. Finally, in a convoluted storm indignation, she marched out of the store. The  woman I had originally motioned over began to load her merchandise onto the counter.

"I am sorry for your wait Ma'am.."

"Um—no, you are fine. It is CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SEASON! Has that woman never shopped before? Seriously? Are YOU ok?"

"Of course! I was safe behind the counter, her charging cart never ran into me."

She smiled, "Well—you have a Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you too Ma'am."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Your Card is Not Real Money, It Just Acts Like It.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, your card was declined."

"What? No that can't be. Here let me try it again."

"Sure thing. Go ahead—I'm sorry it's still declined."

She held out her credit card and identification card. "Here, you do it."

"Ma'am? I'm sorry but I can't do it. If your card is being declined, I can't make it work."

"REALLY? You can't???"

"Do you have any other means of payment?"

"No! I do not." She answered while pulling out a twenty from her purse, and then another, followed by one more.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prima Donna

At ten minutes to close, she made her entrance. Her sparkling dress was so tight I thought it had been painted on for a moment. Every tiny step she took in her six inch stilettos showed her undulating form. Slowly, as though under a spotlight, she made her way to the jewelry department in the back.

Closing announcements were made, and other shoppers hurried through the lines, but our statuesque shopper had not made her appearance.  We closed. Still no sign of her. Finally a coworker appeared with an arm full of jewelry items and the woman in tow. Inch by inch she tottered her way up to the front of the store. "I'm coming!" She said playfully, as though we are just all on pins and needles waiting for her again.

Ten minutes after closing, we finally began to ring up her purchases. "Wait, wait!" She said, suddenly pointing to the monitor. "That rang up $4.99, it is supposed to be half off."

"Actually Ma'am this brand is not on sale this week."

"It isn't? I thought everything in that aisle was!"

"I'm sorry, but the signs actually list the brands that are included."

"Well—in that case, I think I will just need to go back there and rethink this. I might have to go a whole different direction with this."


"I'm sorry Ma'am, but we are closed now. The registers are closing. You are welcome to come back tomorrow if you want to shop some more. We open at—"

"Excuse me? How RUDE! I know ya'll are closing but you don't have to act like that. I am a CUSTOMER. I want your corporate number. I am SO going to report you."

Twenty minutes after closing, she inch-wormed her Saran-wrapped self out of the doors. I was only surprised that she didn't take the time to inform my manager that we were not being beaten often enough. It would probably have further infuriated her that was I was later promoted to Customer Service Manager.