Yes, I’m working in retail now. My experience so far: Most customers are decent. Some are awesome. A couple are uniquely dreadful. This week, we’ve had three of the latter.
Customer 1**: Actually came in for the first time a few weeks ago. He bought a laptop computer at one of our other locations and now it’s developed a fault. We arrange a repair for him, all the time trying to fend off his repeated demands for a new replacement laptop. He claims the salesman lied to him about how the extended warranty works. As it wasn’t even purchased in our store, there’s not a lot we can do for him. We offer to take his complaint down separately and send it to the store he purchased from so they can follow it up, but it’s not within our power to do anything about that ourselves, and we can’t honour what he thinks the salesman told him. We call the manufacturer for him and he speaks to them on our phone. He’s told by them that repairs will take about 2 weeks, and we take the laptop and arrange to have a courier pick it up to return it to the manufacturer for a warranty repair. Less than 10 days later he’s back in the store demanding to know why he doesn’t have his laptop back yet. We try to calm him but he leaves in a huff, threatening that he will “take this further”. Today we got a call from the other store - apparently they’ve received something from his solicitor and wanted to find out what happened on our end because he’s named some of the employees of our store, including me… despite the fact that my entire involvement in the mess was to fill in the repair authorisation form so the laptop could be sent away - I guess my name was on the paperwork, so he gave that to his solicitor. I haven’t been informed of the full nature of the communication from his solicitors so I don’t know what I’m supposed to have done, or what resolution he’s seeking.
Customer 2: Walks up to me, points to the 19" monitor at the end of the display and says “I want that one”. I know we’ve been selling them quickly - it’s on sale, and is the same price as a 17" monitor, so it’s been hugely popular - so I say “Oooh… I’ll just check to see if we have any left. I think we may be out of stock”. Customer snaps “You’d better have it. That’s the one my son chose for his birthday”. I excuse myself, slip away and check the computer. Sure enough, we’re out. The little sign that was under it saying “We are currently out of stock” has disappeared but this isn’t uncommon - some customers, for reasons best known to themselves, like to remove the signs (perhaps it’s some cargo-cultish thing; they think taking the sign away will make the stock appear?). I relay the news to my customer who loses his temper and starts yelling at me that it’s false advertising to have a monitor on display if you’re out of stock and how dare we, and don’t we know it’s his son’s 18th birthday in two days and we’d better bloody well get him that monitor because it’s the one the boy picked earlier in the day. I try to ask if he asked for one to be put aside, but I get yelled at and he demands to speak to my manager. I hand him over gladly and the manager orders a monitor to be couriered from another store - something I was trying to suggest to the gentleman, but he wouldn’t stop blustering long enough to listen to me. I’m bewildered that anyone would go absolutely insane because a store sold out of an item that was on sale - especially when we can still get it in at the same advertised price.
Customer 3: Mr Customer is actually the one who placed the call. He asks what we’re asking for a particular Canon printer and the sales manager quoted the price to him. He asked if we do price-matching because our competitor is offering it for $50 less. She says yes, mentioning the price-match policy depends on the competitor’s price being their advertised price (not a special “mates rates” type price) and that they have to have it in stock, and that we’ll need to check those two things if we do price-match it for them. End of conversation. Now, I was only standing nearby so I only heard her responses, not the customer’s questions, but it was pretty easy to follow the gist of what was being asked.
Five minutes later, Mrs Customer and daughter are in the store asking for the printer. I send the other part-timer out the back to look for it while I call the other store to confirm the price-match details - yes they have it for the price she told us, and yes they have it in stock. The other guy’s not back yet but I have a sinking feeling in my stomach so I check the computer and find out we’re completely out of stock. I’m embarrassed to tell them this, knowing they phoned ahead and weren’t told this. From what I overheard it was obvious they didn’t ask about availability on the phone and apparently the sales manager didn’t think to check for them because she went no where near the computer that we use for checking inventory. I apologetically let them know we have run out. Mrs Customer folds her arms in front of her chest and tells me she finds it highly suspicious that we don’t have it when just five minutes ago we did. I try to explain that, no, the sales manager didn’t check the stock and we’ve been out of the printers since at least the previous day but she doesn’t believe me, and accuses us all of trying to wriggle out of price-matching the other store. I assure her that isn’t the case, but she and her daughter won’t let me speak, keep cutting me off and insist that the sales manager said we had them in stock. I know this isn’t true because I overheard the conversation, but I don’t want to accuse them of lying. I try again and again to tell them she didn’t check the system but they just become irate and demand to speak to someone else. I fetch the duty manager (the sales manager having stepped out for five minutes) and explain the situation to her while the customer and her daughter glare suspiciously at us from a distance. She also speaks to them and tries to resolve their complaint but they merely yell and demand we hand over a printer to them now.
Finally the sales manager comes back. The duty manager explains the situation to her and she goes out to speak to the customers who erupt in fury at the “secret conversations” we’re having and accuse us of trying to wiggle out of our own price-matching policy and demand we hand over a printer. The sales manager said she wasn’t asked if the printer was in stock and didn’t say that it was, but she was shouted down by the woman and her daughter who informed her that the call made by Mr Customer was on speaker phone and that 12 witnesses in the room heard her say “Yes we have it in stock”. :rolleyes: (12 people? Wow, parties at my house rarely include calling retail outlets and pricing printers, but perhaps I’m not quite the hostess that Mrs Customer & family are). Had they ever stopped yelling long enough for us to speak, we had been trying to offer to order the printer in from one of our other stores for them, at the discounted price, but they weren’t interested in compromise. Eventually, they left with the phone number of our head office, the sales manager’s name and threats that we’ll soon be losing our jobs and that they’re going to take this to the current affairs TV program. Today I learned that they did call Head Office, and HO offered to let them have the display model (never used, just sitting on a shelf out of it’s box) but they declined, saying they preferred to pursue us through Consumer Affairs. I make no excuses for the sales manager, she should have checked the stock for them while they were on the phone and saved them a wasted trip down to the store - they have every right to be annoyed about that but their reaction was insanely over-the-top, especially their conspiracy theories that we were withholding the printer in order to get out of a lousy $50 discount. $50! It’s worth far more than $50 to our store to stop that kind of ill-will and poor word-of-mouth being spread around.
The weirdest thing? Before all hell broke loose, Mrs Customer was singing the praises of the salesman at the other store - how wonderful he was, how she’d go to him again next time she needed something, how honest and helpful and simply perfect he was. Listening to her I couldn’t help thinking “Why didn’t you buy it from him?”. I mean… we were matching their price exactly, they had it in stock and they are located probably a mile from us - literally just down the road. So… why not buy it from the super-nice guy who works on commission at the other store? None of us can understand that.
Anyhow, I can’t work up any enthusiasm to be furious at these people. I’m just astounded by how some people think, and how they think the world works. Laptops sometimes break down, stores run out of stock and people make mistakes WITHOUT it being a grand conspiracy. Going all Little Boy on the retail drone who’s trying to help you does not make things better, unless yelling at folks who have to try to be polite to you makes you feel better. Plus, sometimes if you listen to what the retail drone is trying to tell you, they may actually have a solution to your problem that you’re not hearing through the shrieking and the spittle and the rapidly rising blood pressure.
I got to have a giggle and a natter with two lovely ladies this afternoon who were looking at printers, and that was a great antidote to the disappointment I felt about the unhappy experiences of the cluster of irate customers we’ve had this week. Contrary to what they might believe, I try hard to give people a good customer service experience. and I feel bad when people walk out disappointed. The ladies this afternoon seemed to enjoy themselves, and I felt all the better for seeing them happy.