Yesterday I stopped in our cash office to get change for one of the registers. While I was in there, the phone rang. I answered with my usual greeting while sorting out the cash. The woman who responded says, "OK, I've been on hold for fifteen minutes and then I got disconnected. I just want a simple answer to my question! I don't know what's so hard about that!"
As I've previously mentioned, it's difficult to answer phones during busy times like back to school and the holidays. Corporate only allocates us enough payroll for 5-7 employees per shift (on a good day, bad days are 3-5 employees to cover the entire store). How a company expects its stores to perform all of the maintenance of keeping the place clean, stocked, and organized while handling upwards of 75-100 customers in the store at once is beyond me, but then most retail employees will be quick to tell you that 99% of corporate employees have never seen the inside of one of our stores.
Anyway, it was busy when this lady called, so it was no surprise that she'd been holding for so long. I was politely diplomatic. "Ma'am, I do apologize, but we have a ton of customers in the store right now and only so many people to handle them."
Think she accepted that? Of course not. "Well I've been on hold for fifteen minutes! How could someone not answer the phone? This is rediculous!"
This happens often. A customer is so rediculously irate about not having their feet kissed that they completely ignore the fact that they finally have someone on the phone to help them. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but it is back to school time and we're trying our best to get to everyone."
She wasn't done. "Yeah, it's back to school time, all right. I just got my son's list and I'm trying to get what he needs but nobody there will answer the damn phone!"
As usual, honest answers start popping into my head. Well Ma'am, maybe if you'd get off your lazy butt and come into the store like all these other people did, you'd have a better chance at finding what you need. We can't put anything on hold for you because products are first-come, first-serve, and my telling you what is in stock is in no way a guarantee because it could very well sell out before you finally grace us with your presence!
Instead, I simply asked, "What is it that you're looking for?"
"I want someone to help me out instead of putting me on hold!!"
I take a deep breath. This is her last chance, and one she doesn't deserve. "What is it you're looking for?"
"I want a pocket thesaurus."
Are you kidding me?
We went through all of this over a stupid $2 thesaurus??
Because I'd been helping people find stuff all day, I knew that we had it in stock. "Yes, we have that."
"Are you sure?"
I grit my teeth and resist the urge to ask if she'd like to be placed on hold while I go look. "Yes."
"Good. I also need a pocket spanish-english dictionary."
Those were all sold out. "I'm sorry, but we don't have that one."
Of course, that's my fault too. "How could you not have them!? It's back to school time! How can you not have school supplies!?"
Now, one would think that if she was so certain that we'd have them, she would've just come into the store. But such logic is lost on customers. "Ma'am, our store has been a mob scene for the past week and a half. Many schools opened last week and a number open this week. We're running out of a LOT of things."
"This is absurd! How can you be out of supplies everyone needs!"
"Because everyone has bought them, Ma'am."
"Yeah, everyone has bought them? I just got this list today!"
I'm completely done with this phone call. "I'm sorry, but other customers have already purchased them." I was ready to ask her if she'd like me to try to scribble down the few spanish words I know onto a piece of paper so she could give that to her kid. Something is better than nothing, right? :P
"Fine, I'll just go to Walmart." And she hangs up. Meanwhile, my cashier has been paging me angrily waiting for the change I'd come into the office to pick up.
The poetic justice, however, is that Walmart is sold out of just about everything as well - customers keep telling us that. I wished I could've seen the look on her face when she found out.
Shopping tip of the day for 9/10/09: Be considerate of others. Leaving your shopping cart full of junk stretched across the entrance to an aisle while you browse in the next aisle is not acceptable. If we find it, we're going to take all that stuff and put it back on the shelves. Don't act surprised when it happens, either.