Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Disgraceful

Abuse of the handicapped parking spots is not uncommon. There was one guy, however, who seemed determined to use the spot he was not entitled to use despite the fact that it was already full.

See, one afternoon we had a woman who had just paid for her purchase come back into the store complaining that she couldn't get her car out because someone had parked in the way. She makes no mention of the fact that she's parked in the handicapped spot, just that someone had blocked her in. So I follow the woman outside.

To my surprise, she points right to our left. "That's my car," she says, pointing to the silver car in the closest handicapped spot. She had the handicapped plates and the little blue tag on her rear view mirror. "I can't get around this guy," she says, pointing to the other car.

I couldn't believe someone had the audacity to do this. An SUV was parked right in front of hers over the far edge of the fire lane in front of the store. No handicapped markings of any kind, just a big red SUV in the way. I took down the plate number and went inside. At the customer service phone, I got on the loudspeaker and made a request for the owner to come forward.

Two or three minutes pass, and no one comes up. In the meantime, I helped a couple people with simple questions, but I stayed at the front. One guy had a problem with a price that he wanted me to go check, but I sent one of the other cashiers to do it so I could stay up front with the woman. But the owner doesn't show up.

So I made the announcement again. The old woman says she is going to go out to her car to try again to get around him. But I knew that he'd completely blocked her in. I told her that if no one responded within five minutes that we'd call a tow truck.

When my cashier came back up from checking the price, I asked if she'd heard my page while she was on the floor. Maybe the speaker overhead speakers were too quiet or something? But she tells me she heard it just fine. I couldn't imagine who would ignore a page regarding their car. What if it had been smashed or was on fire or something? I made one more announcement.

Then, to my utter disbelief, the customer who'd been waiting on the price check finishes his purchase, picks up his bag, and goes out to the offending SUV without a word to anyone. No acknowledgment to the old woman, not even a glance in our direction. It was as though he believed he'd parked in the most legal spot there was and that whatever was going on had nothing to do with him. I'd been paging this guy for seven or eight minutes when all was said and done, and he'd been standing right there all along.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/30/09: The following are examples of proper places to leave a shopping cart once you've loaded your bags into your car:

1. If the store has a cart corral in the parking lot, that's where it goes. Most are no less than three or four cars away from you. Take the 15 seconds to walk it over there.

2. If the store does not have a cart corral, then you can leave it either in front of your car or along the outer edges of the lot. If there is a curb anywhere nearby, hook the front two wheels over the curb so that it doesn't roll into someone else's car by mistake.

3. If by some miracle you are one of those people who actually wheels the cart back to the front of the store, God bless you. I wouldn't ask this of customers in larger parking lots like supermarkets and malls and stuff, but for the smaller places it really does make a difference to us.

The following are examples of improper places to leave a shopping cart once you've loaded your bags into your car:

1. Behind the car beside you.

2. Behind your own car (I've actually seen this one along with the damage that follows).

3. In the middle of the street so that cars have to weave around it.

4. Haphazardly shoved into the bushes.

5. A different lot. Don't be taking a Walmart cart over into the Staples lot next door. If you know you're going to be making a large purchase that will require a cart, PARK IN THE LOT OF THE STORE WHERE YOU'RE MAKING THE PURCHASE!

6. The highway. Self-explanatory, really.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Subject to Change WITHOUT Notice

A customer came in on a Sunday looking for a printer. He had a printout from our website from the previous day stating the price was $79.99. However, the previous day was Saturday, and all our advertisements run from Sunday to Saturday. Since it was now Sunday, the old ad prices had expired and the sale price was no longer valid.

However, sometimes prices do carry over from ad to ad, so I took him back to the computer terminal and looked up the printer on our website to get a current price. But the price had indeed changed back to its usual full price of $99.99.

"But this is from yesterday," he says, holding up his printout.

"Right," I told him, "but our ads expire at the end of day on Saturday, so that's when this new price took effect."

"What time?" he asks me.

I wasn't quite sure why it was relevant, but whatever. "I honestly don't know. I'd have to assume at 12AM Sunday morning."

He points to the timestamp on his printout. "But this was printed before that. It says 10:43PM on it."

Again, no idea why he thought that was relevant. "Right, at that time, the price was still valid. You could've ordered it from the website at that price at that time."

Finally, he seems to give up. "Well, I'll just order it from HP, then. They have free shipping." We have free overnight shipping on orders over $50, but he didn't really give me a chance to tell him that. "They'll get my business," he says as he walks away.

I shrug and head through one of the aisles toward the front of the store. On my way, another customer stops me and asks me if we have an item in stock. I inform him I have to check our computer system and head up front to do that. The printer guy finds me there.

"Is there a manager here?" he asks. Pretty obvious where this is going.

"He's right over there," I said, pointing to the copy department. Our copy associate was on lunch, and due to restricted payroll, the manager had to cover the department until he returned. The customer heads over there and stands at the counter.

Knowing where this is going, I decided to save our manager a few minutes. While looking up my other customer's product, I picked up the phone and dialed the copy department. When the manager got a break in his conversation with his customer, he picked up. "Yeah?"

"Just letting you know that the guy waiting in front of you there in the blue hat is just going to complain that he missed the ad price on a printer," I informed him. "He's got a web printout from yesterday that he expected us to honor."

"OK," the manager says. "Thanks."

As a side note, we COULD have honored the price. But as I've said before, we have to take profitability into account. Most sales take items below cost - in other words, we lose money rather than make it. If we'd made the exception and sold him the printer at the sale price, we would've lost money rather than gained it. We only would've hurt ourselves.

And yes, I've heard the whole "making the customer happy so they'll come back" speech, but what many people who subscribe to that theory don't realize is that the majority of those customers don't think, "Hey, that store took care of me so I'll do all my shopping there!" Instead, they think, "Hey, that store let me get away with using an expired price because I complained. I'll just complain whenever I want something and they'll give it to me!" I've seen many a whining customer created from that theory (Bernie comes to mind). I really try to treat people fairly, so if we're going to charge the rest of our customers $99.99 for an item, we should charge this guy the same amount.

His attitude didn't help his case, either. Don't threaten to take your business elsewhere and expect me to cower to your wishes. You wanna shop elsewhere? No one's stopping you. Like I said, your purchase would've hurt more than it would've helped anyway.

Anyway, I hang up the phone and go back to looking up the item for my customer. While doing that, I can hear the manager explaining to him that advertisements run from Sunday to Saturday and that the price was no longer valid. That was all I heard.

About ten minutes later I found myself bringing a box up to the front for a waiting customer when I found the guy on our computer in the back studying the terms and conditions of the website. "Where in here does it say that your sales end at 12AM on Sunday mornings?"

"I have no idea, Sir," I told him bluntly. "I know it says it on the paper ads that go out every week."

And in a moment that I'm sure he thought signaled his shining victory, he made himself look even more like a fool with what followed.

"That's all I needed to hear," he says with a proud smile. "That's bait and tackle. It doesn't say when the prices are going to expire, it only says they can change without notice. I'm going to file a complaint," he says, heading toward the front. "I'm filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau against your store."

"Go ahead," I told him, smiling.

"I'm going to do it!" he says as though I had protested or something. "It's my right as a consumer!"

"I'm not stopping you," I said, following him toward the front with my box to where my customer was waiting.

He kept rambling as he finally left the store. I handed the box to my customer and went on my way. As I walked across the front of the store, the idiot's words began to sink in.

...Bait and tackle? I believe you meant bait and switch. Nice try, though.

...Wait, it says prices can change without notice?

I headed back to the terminal and looked at the screen. Sure enough, right there at the end of one of the paragraphs, were the words, "Prices and availability subject to change without notice."

...How stupid was this guy?

He practically TOLD me he didn't have a case! What kind of twisted logic made him think he had any grounds for a complaint against us?

Later on, the manager told me that he was going to offer to match the price, but the guy walked off before he could do so. So apparently, if the guy had just stayed calm and patient, he would've gotten his price.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/29/09: Your precious car is no more important than any other customers'. If you think it's OK to pull up in the fire lane, put your car in park and come in to shop with the engine still running, you're out of your mind. You and I both know that the "one thing" you need to get is going to turn into six items, a number of which you can't find on your own. Then you'll have to wait in line, then take your time pulling out exact change, and argue about the bill before you leave. Seriously, there's no need for that kind of disrespectful and pompous behavior. You'd save money on gas if you'd just park legally and shut off your car.

As for you ladies who send your kids in to do your shopping while you wait in front of the store with the car running, you either need to go park and watch the front door for your kids to return or get off your lazy rear-ends and do your shopping yourself. I don't care how quick you think your visit is going to be. NOTHING makes it OK for you to block the fire lane along with the entrance to the store while other customers who enter and exit the building are forced to inhale the fumes being pumped into the air by your unnecessary SUV.

The sad part about this is that nine times out of ten, there are open parking spots not ten feet away. LEGAL parking spaces.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stupid Question

In the county where my store is located, many other places are closed on Sundays. Don't ask why, I don't know the details. Regardless, our store is one of few that are open.

So of course, we get frequent calls every Sunday with people asking, "Are you open today?"

And every time, I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Nope, they hired me to sit here on Sundays just to tell everyone who calls that the store is closed."

Shopping tip of the day for 9/28/09: We're a business, and like all businesses, we need to be profitable in order to survive. So don't ask me where you can get something we sell for cheaper. You may as well be saying, "Hello, I'd like to take my business elsewhere but I'm not sure where to look. Could you help me with that?"

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Kids

We got this display in recently of several different Wacom tablets for drawning on the computer by using the pen as a mouse. They just finished setting up the display the other day - the top is a demo of the actual units with a little screen that plays a brief video each time you press one of the red buttons below the displays. Beneath that, there are lots of demo boxes of the various models all neatly arranged and priced. But, as usually happens when customers are involved, it hasn't stayed that way for more than a few hours at a time.

Throughout the day today, it got messed up again. Nothing to bad, just boxes that people had put back crooked or backward or whatever. At one point in the afternoon, I noticed an associate had fixed it all up again so it looked good as new.

Not ten minutes later, I'm at customer service trying to clean up another soda spill with my swiffer/clorox wipe contraption when my cashier turns to me and says, "Boy, they like those red lights!" I look up, and she points toward the tablet display. Lo and behold, there are two kids, screaming and giggling, pounding on the buttons like it was a whack-a-mole game. In the process, they completely ravaged the cardboard display boxes underneath. By the time their mother pops out of one of the aisles, the entire display looked like an earthquake had hit. Not one box remained standing.

And, as expected, the mother did nothing to fix the mess her brats had made. She simply took their hands and went on her way... then let go of their hands again when I presume something shiny attracted her attention and she wandered down a different aisle.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/25/09: If you walk up to me with a random item and say, "How much is this?" don't be surprised when I head to the register to scan it and find out. I don't have the time, patience, or interest to be memorizing the prices of every item in the store. Why you expect that we should just know all the prices offhand is beyond me - you can see how many things we carry.

And when we do take you up front to have a cashier scan it, you should know that as you're muttering the words, "Well, I could've done that," we're doing the same.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The following events occurred this morning somewhere around 11:30am or quarter to noon. I'm sure it's going to be funny for you guys who read it, but to actually experience it was priceless.

I was headed for the bathroom when my cashier calls me up to the front for assistance. She then paged another employee to come up help ring people up, so I knew that whatever her problem was, it was keeping her from ringing anyone else up. So I turn around and head up there.

As I round the corner toward the customer service desk, I see that the extra cashier has just arrived and that there appears to be some sort of dispute between two or three of the customers. However, by the time I get close enough to hear what they might have been saying, they stopped. Two of them headed to the other register while the third stayed in line at the customer service register.

I went over to the cashier to see what she needed. It was some kind of glitch in the system - it was saying that the coupon the customer was trying to use had already been applied to his transaction when there was clearly no coupon listed and no discount taken. There was no override option, so I just took the three bucks (that's how much the coupon was) off of the item he was purchasing and sent him on his way.

I decided to stay up front while the rest of the people on line were taken care of because the third customer, the one who'd been a part of the arguing group, was mumbling and muttering under his breath like Bill Cosby making breakfast at 6AM. When he was next in line, I asked my cashier, "Is everything OK with this guy?"

She shrugs and goes, "He's got some kind of problem."

So I look at him, and eventually he makes eye contact. "Is there something I can help you with?" I ask.

His eyes get big and he sneers, "No, there's nothing you can help me with!"

I nod, but I'm not going anywhere. If he's was really angry about something, I was sure he'd let us have it in a minute or two.

Sure enough, when it was his turn, he looks at me and goes, "You know, if you're going to call for next in line, you should take next in line!"

"I'm sorry?" I said. "I don't understand."

"He comes up," the guy says, pointing at the associate who came up to help ring, "and they call for next customer. So I went over there but they told me that they had to take the next person in line, not the next person to walk up."

"That's correct," I told him. "When there is a whole line of people waiting, we take the next person in line."

At this point, my cashier looks at me and says, "When the other register opened up, I said, 'Next customer can go to register one.' He tried to run over, but the lady who was actually next got angry with him and they were arguing."

"When you call for next person," the guy growls as my cashier rings up his items, "you should take the NEXT person who comes up!"

"Sir," I told him, "We take people as they come up to the register. The people who are next in line come first. Of course we're not going to allow you to just jump in front of everyone who had been waiting all that time."

The guy gets all huffy, of course. "You know, in the supermarket, when they open a new register they just take whoever goes over there. There's none of this 'one big line' business!!"

I smiled and shook my head. "Sir, this isn't a supermarket. Here, we take care of people who are next IN LINE to ensure that everyone gets treated fairly."

"Whatever," he says, shaking his head and rolling his eyes like we are being incredibly unfair by trying to treat people fairly.

The incident could've ended there, but no, this guy was determined to put his foot in his mouth. Perhaps both, even. As he's being handed his receipt, he says, "You know, this is the reason our country is in the shape that it's in."

Now I laughed. "Why, because we take people in the order that they were waiting in line?"

With a sarcastic smile and an emphatic nod, he says, "Yeah, because of morons like you!"

My cashier laughs at him and says, "OK, that was completely unnecessary. There's no need to be acting like that," at the same time as I laugh and say, "I'm a moron because I treat people fair? I'd love to hear your logic behind that one!"

He just nods and walks away with his bag, saying over and over, "You're all morons. You guys are such morons." And I watch in disbelief...

...as he walks around to the opposite side of the entrance vestibule and tries to exit through the entrance.

Open mouth, insert foot.

And so, with a giant smile, I lean over the counter and call, "Sir? Sir!!" and when he looks up, I give him the most overly joyful voice I can come up with. "The exit's on this side," I say through my grin. "You have yourself a great day!"

Without a word, he walked around to the exit and left.

We laughed for a good half hour after that one.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/24/09: Consider the possibility that you may NOT know what's going on in the lives of the employees you encounter. We are expected to leave our personal lives at the door, but we are only human, and outside troubles DO affect us. Did that associate who helped you seem distracted or uninterested? Maybe his father is in the hospital and it's making it hard for him to concentrate or ACT happy. You have no idea what goes on in our lives, yet you'll be quick piss and moan if your feet haven't been washed to your liking. Get over yourself. You've got to realize that we're people too, and many of us have enough problems of our own to worry about without you calling our corporate office and demanding we be fired simply because one of us didn't live up to your impossible expectations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You Mean I'm SECOND?

A guy came up to the register with a shredder. This particular shredder had a $15 rebate on it. He asked about the rebate, saying he'd never done one before. As I start explaining it, the lady behind him just yells out, "Where's the register around here?"

I didn't even look at her. "You're standing at it."

Out of the corner of my eye I see a disgusted look. "Oh." I guess she didn't feel as though she'd made her impatience clear enough, because she then proceeded to dump all over her stuff from her basket all over the counter while I finished explainig the rebate. And when I say all over the counter, I mean behind the man's shredder, in front of it, beside it, and some even on top of it. It was as though she thought the man wasn't even there and that the shredder box was just a part of the counter.

Seeing this, I decided to get quite detailed with my description of how the man could submit his rebate online and I even highlighted the website on the form - something I usually don't do. Whatever made the lady wait longer was good enough for me. It surprises me how often people don't even take into consideration the possibility that their bad attitude might wind up making their experience worse than it needed to be.

Then I finished it off by pretty much brushing her products off of his shredder and all over the counter so that the man could take it and be on his way. I'd have sped up if she'd been more polite, but polite customers are just about as rare as honest politicians.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/23/09: In most stores, an aisle stretches for the length of the store. If you ask me where a product is and I tell you it's in aisle three, be aware that you may have to take more than 4 steps into aisle three to find it. Too many people will come back to me and say, "It wasn't there!" and when I walk them over, I get ten feet into a fifty foot aisle and they say, "Oh, well I didn't come this far down."

Why not? Is there a sign ten feet in that says, "Now entering aisle 11?"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joe Schmoe

With back to school having calmed down and business pretty much back at its normal levels, this is about the time of year when the extra help we hired to help with the back to school rush starts wearing out their welcome. One guy in particular - we'll call him Joe Schmo - got on our nerves real quick. This is but one example.

It was the middle of the lunchtime rush when I was called to the front to help ring people up. When I got there, I saw that there was a line of five or six people waiting. Standing beside the line - not IN it - was Joe, holding a bag of beef jerky about five feet away. I assumed he was just waiting for the line to die down, as the general rule in retail is that customers get rung up before employees (unless the employee isn't working that day, in which case they wait in line like everyone else). Whatever the case, I called for next customer in line and walked around to my side of the register.

Joe runs over and drops the snack on the counter. Not only did he think he was going to make all the customers wait, he also seemed to think he was going to cut into a line he hadn't even been a part of. "Customers come first," I told him as the woman who had been next in line crowded in behind him. I pushed the beef jerky back toward him and motioned for the woman to come forward.

But Joe doesn't move. "I just want this," he says, pushing the bag back at me.

"You're not understanding me," I said, shaking my head. "All these people have been waiting and you weren't even in line. Customers come before employees. I'll gladly ring you up once these people are taken care of."

He stands there with this bewildered look on his face. "Technically, I am a customer."

"No, you're not. You're an employee. You can wait until the line dies down." Which usually doesn't take too long.

Finally, he shuffles aside with an assortment of grunts and complaints muttered under his breath that he seems to think I can't hear. The woman who'd been next starts giving me her items to check out, and as I'm bagging them, Joe walks around to the other side and gets in line behind her. Remember, there were another four or five people waiting in the big line that had been there when I walked up.

I didn't want to argue in front of the customer though, so I stayed quiet, checked her out, bagged her stuff, and sent her on her way. Joe comes up again and drops the bag on the counter. "You're not getting it, are you?" I asked. "Customers come before employees."

"I just want this," he says again.

"You have to wait until the line dies down!"

"It'll take two seconds."

He wouldn't move. He wouldn't step aside and let customers go first. He was being an impatient... well, customer.

Clenching my fists, I finally let him buy the stupid jerky only because I was well aware that the time I wasted arguing with him could've been saved if I'd just rung him up in the first place. I got dirty looks from the customers who had been waiting through all this, of course, but to stand there and continue arguing with him would've forced them to wait even longer.

It's ok, though, because Joe Schmoe has since been let go.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/22/09: We're fully aware that the phrase, "Any other store would let me return this!" is a total crock. We're humans too, and we shop too. I've never been to a store with as liberal a return policy as so many of you seem to think exists. We're not a rental outlet where you can pay for something, use it for a few years, and then return it - without receipt and package, of course - for a full refund.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Loving Mother

Today introduced me to one of the more heartless mothers I think I've seen in a long time.

I was standing at customer service when I observed this. There was a young boy, maybe 12 years old, standing in front of the counter. Since the line for the customer service register actually goes around the other end of the counter, our cashier asked if he needed help with something while waiting for his customer to sign for a credit card purchase. The boy kinda stares blankly ahead for moment before saying, "Oh, no. I'm just waiting for my Mom." It was at this point I noticed the boy had a white cane. He then turns away from the counter and quietly goes, "Mom?" Clearly, this boy was blind.

A moment or two passes before a blond lady in line about seven or eight feet away says, "Over here." No emotion. No calling his name. She almost sounded annoyed. The look on her face WAS annoyed. I'm glad he couldn't see it. He takes a couple of timid steps in that direction - not using his cane, I noticed - with a hand extended in front of him. Perhaps there'd been a recent accident which had taken his sight and he wasn't used to using the cane or something. Whatever the case, he's kinda walking past her when she simply says, "Here," and he turns toward her. Again, barely spared him a glance. It was as though guiding him was nothing more than a chore to her. I wanted to go smack her.

He stayed close to her from that point on until they left the store. If he did recently lose his eyesight, then perhaps she's just having trouble handling the stress of being his eyes for now, but I can't imagine how any mother could allow themselves to be so heartless toward their disabled child. It was painful to watch.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/21/09: We've all been in there. You know, that time when you took something from the shelf and brought it up front only to find that the cashier couldn't get it to scan? What did you say? What words burst from your mouth with a giant smile because you thought you were so clever? C'mon, you know what you said. It's the same thing everyone says. No, I mean it. EVERYONE.

"I guess it must be free!"

It ain't free. And you're going to have a hell of a time convincing any cashier that it SHOULD be free just because you suggested it. We hear that day in and day out from every customer every time something doesn't scan or isn't marked with a price. And every time, the customer smiles and laughs as if they've made the grandest joke while their shifty eyes betray their hopes that we'll somehow take their advice and give them the product for free. It ain't gonna happen. And don't look offended when we don't laugh at your attempt at humor. It's hard to laugh at a joke you've heard so many times, especially when it so often STARTS as a joke and ENDS with a customer arguing with a manager.

After all, Mr. Customer, if you were joking, why are you pushing so hard to get it for free?

Friday, September 18, 2009

No Clue

Many of my best stories come from my time at the upgrades counter in CompUSA. We had a cardboard display right on the counter there with some advertisement on it, and we used it as our "Stupid Questions Board." Everytime a customer came in and asked a stupid question, we'd write it down on a post-it and stick it to the back of this board. We left that thing on the counter every day for months, and surprisingly, no customers or even managers ever saw it. When the time came for me to shift out of upgrades and into merchandising, I collected all the post-its, took them home, and typed them up in Word. That's one of the reasons I can remember so many old stories so well - I still have that list.

Today's selection from that list - "Do you have . . . I don't know what it's called."

A lady came into the store looking for something as most customers tend to do. Oddly, though, she had no idea what it was. Even more stunning was the fact that she expected that we should've known. She walks up to the counter and says, "Do you have. . ." and pauses for a minute as her eyes scan the wall behind me, clearly hoping something would jog her memory. Finally, she just says, "I don't know what it's called."

It's easy to forget the name of something - I do it all the time. "Ma'am, what does the product do?"

"I don't know," she says simply. I wait for a moment, figuring she might tell me something about how she wound up looking for who-knows-what, but she just stares right back at me.

So I try to get some information on what kind of job she was hoping this product would help her accomplish. "What does it do?" I ask her.

"I don't know. It's for my son. I think it's four letters."

Simon, a guy I worked with at upgrades, smirks at me from the other end of the counter. I know what he's thinking, of course. "I got four letters for you, lady, but the word they form ain't gonna be what you're looking for."

"OK," I said, trying to figure something out. "What has your son been trying to do? Is there a project he's working on?"

Common sense told me that she had to at least understand that there'd be no real way I could help her if she couldn't provide me with SOME kind of information. What she said next proved me wrong. "I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it's four letters. You don't know what I'm talking about?"

At this point I couldn't help but laugh a little. "Ma'am, we literally have thousands of products in this store. We have everything from games to magazines to video cards. Without any sort of information whatsoever, there's no way I can tell you what you need."

She gives me one of those "What do they pay you for around here?" looks before leaving. Hours later she returned with the name and description of the product she wanted. It was a firewire card for her son's computer. The name of it? Pyro.

Yeah, any idiot would've been able to figure that one out.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/18/09: Ladies - The shopping carts are there for people who need to purchase either a couple of large items or a large number of smaller items. They are not there simply for you to put your purse in while you shop around only to wind up purchasing a mouse pad when all is said and done. Be considerate to the other customers and just throw your purse over your shoulder. Better yet, leave the thing in the car. Either that or take an afternoon to clear out some of the unnecessary junk inside if it's that heavy. Just try to remember that not all stores have an unlimited supply of carts like the supermarket does.

And when you're finished with it, it goes back up front where you found it. Not stretched across the aisle or right in front of the candy racks at the registers. Seeing that kind of laziness makes me wonder how some of you even have the energy to feed yourselves. "Ugh, lifting this spoon is such a hassle! Can't they just make a thing that lifts it to your face for you?! I'm never buying this cereal again!"

But I digress...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Description, Please

I was ringing register yesterday when a woman comes up and asks in a heavy Chinese accent, "Escuse me, where you have a slope-e?" (I spell it like that because I don't know how else to spell it. She pronounced it like the word slope with a long E at the end.)

My brain must've gotten an error message or something, because I stared at her for a good 3-5 seconds before I said, "Excuse me?"

"Iss a slope-e," she says.

"I'm sorry," I say, shaking my head, "I'm not exactly sure what that is."

"Iss a thing you use," she says. Boy, that sure narrows it down.

"What do you use it for?"

She scrunches her forehead as if trying to figure out how to explain nuclear physics to a four year old. "Iss a thing to... uh... for when you want to keep it. Uhh... you know, inna computah?"

Computer. To keep something from the computer. The only thing I could come up with that sounded reasonably similar was a floppy disk. "To save information?" I asked her.

Her eyes light up. "Yes! Iss a like a CD but before."

Before CDs. Gotta be floppies. "Floppy disks?"

"Yes!"

I directed her down the correct aisle and went back to ringing. I kind of wonder how she'd have reacted if I'd figured it out from her first clue alone. "Iss a thing you use."

Shopping tip of the day for 9/17/09: If I ask you a question, let me finish speaking before you respond. I realize that the American public has become so overly impatient that you can't wait more than 2.34 seconds for anything you want, but we're simply doing our jobs. We ask these questions because we want to make sure you get the right thing - we really do care. Know why we care? Because we don't need you coming back an hour later to hassle us about giving you the wrong thing. Best to make sure we give you the right thing from the start to avoid headaches later. Other questions we'll likely ask will involve add-on sales, warranties, or other promotional programs we have going on. We ask because we have to. The least you could do is let us finish speaking before saying no.

A good example would be a customer I had the other day. My question was simply this: "We only have a two week return policy on this printer, but if you'd like to get a two year warranty on it you'll be able to use the full $130 you're spending here today toward a new printer if this one should break." In the time it took me to say that question, the guy had said no 3 times. I wanted to smack him not because he didn't buy the warranty, but because he was just a rude piece of crap.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You Mean I've Gotta Read!?

Quick one today. I was walking across the front of the store when some lady yells from halfway down one of the aisles, "EXCUSE ME!?" I back up and look down there to see this annoyed looking woman standing in front of the calculators staring at me like I should've somehow known not only that she was there but that she needed help. Whatever. I bite my tongue and head down the aisle.

She's staring at a ten dollar casio calculator and she holds it up as I get there. "Is this good for statistics class?"

I don't know how to stress how terrible I am at math. Basic equations throw me off. How am I supposed to know what calculators are right for what class?

Ah, but what I lack in math, I make up for in reading ability!

So I take the box from her and look at the list on the front of the package. Right beside the calculator in big white letters are the subjects that it can be used for. The third or fourth one down was statistics. "Yeah, this will be fine for statistics," I told her.

"Does it have X squared? The professor said I needed X squared."

Again, I'm horrible at math, but I thought I remembered that as being the button with the little x and the 2 over it. I pointed to that on the calculator. "If that function is needed for statistics, then it's gotta be here since the calculator is listed as being acceptable for statistics."

She doesn't look at what I'm pointing at or the words on the box. She just takes it from me and says, "Good," and walks away.

And that brings me to...

Shopping tip of the day for 9/16/09: Read the box. Seriously, read the box. 85% of what I know about computers I learned from reading packages for customers. That's really what the majority of my job is - reading the box for people who are too lazy to do it themselves. If you're wondering whether something is compatible with your computer or if a specific part does or does not come with the item in question, read the box. Nine times outta ten, that's all I'm going to do. I'm a professional package reader.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Suspiciously Suspicious

There are plenty of thieves out there who hit retail locations on a routine basis. Most of them are pretty good at what they do - they hit us and are gone long before we even suspect anything. However, there are those that aren't all that great at being sneaky. They may get away with things, but they could be compared to the bumbling crooks from Home Alone.

Today I was walking through the pen aisle when I noticed that two packages of Waterman pens (expensive pens) were opened. And, of course, they were empty. I took the boxes back to the warehouse and left them on the table for our inventory control guy to cycle out of the system. I then headed toward the front to find him so I could let him know why his recently cleaned counter was now cluttered with empty boxes.

As I walked back toward the front of the store, I noticed that the big ladder in the last aisle was being moved by a customer.

Is there any store out there that allows its customers to climb large ladders to remove items from overstock? I don't know of any. Not Bed Bath and Beyond, not Home Depot, not Best Buy, not Staples, not Office Depot, not Borders, not Barnes & Noble, not anywhere. It would be a security and legal issue to allow customers to climb ladders, and for this reason we place signs each of our ladders stating that they are for employee use only. So WHY OH WHY do so many customers still take it upon themselves to use these giant rolling ladders on their own?

So I headed over to let him know that the ladder was not for his use and to point out the giant sign on the ladder that stated so. As I got closer, he walks away, around the back into the next aisle and then back toward the front of the store. He never looked at me once, but he could've certainly seen me in his peripheral vision. I waited by the ladder for a minute to see if he was going to come back or check on my location, but he didn't look back. Whatever. I moved the ladder back to where it was and headed back to find our inventory guy.

I barely get two aisles over and the ladder is moving again. Very quickly. I head back over and there's the guy, running up the ladder. "Sir!" I yelled in a not so pleasant tone. The other two customers in the aisle looked up when I called, but this guy of course acted as though he didn't hear a thing. He pulls an expensive toner cartridge down from the overstock and climbs down as I get to him. "Sir, the ladders are for employee use only. That's why we post those signs on them saying so. If you need assistance, please ask one of us. Don't climb the ladders to just pull stuff down."

The guy glances at me and at the ladder, takes a step to walk away, then sidesteps back toward the ladder, then takes off in a brisk walk toward the front without saying a word to me. I follow him up and across the front of the store, and to my surprise he heads right back to the section of the pens where I had just found the two empty boxes. His behavior identified him as the thief, but we don't have legal right to search or even detain people. The most we can do is say, "Please don't steal that." Anyway, he started rummaging through the pens on the shelf, but at that point another customer asked for my help. I called one of our other associates over and told him to watch the suspicious guy until he left the store. When I finished with my customer, I came back up front to find the guy being checked out. I asked the associate what had happened when help was offered, and he told me that the guy pretty much ignored him and shrugged him off as though trying to get rid of him. Our associate stuck with him until he finally went to the register to pay for the toner. After a few minutes, he was gone.

I have little doubt that he's the one who took the pens. He may have had mental problems, but then, I could say that about a lot of customers.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/15/09: If you say something to me, and I say, "I'm sorry?" or "Excuse me?" and I lean forward with an ear turned toward you, that means you need to speak at a volume which can be heard by more than just dogs. In other words, SPEAK UP. If you repeat what you said at the same near-silent level then I'm going to keep asking over and over.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lifetime Warranty

Just like most stores, we have our own line of products with our company's logo branded onto them. Of course, we don't manufacture them ourselves; an outside company does that and we slap our name on it. Quite a common business practice these days.

We have staplers with our logos on them. Early in 08, we had a line of staplers with different designs all over them like zebra print or polka dots or whatever. They came with a lifetime warranty on them, and like most products, the warranty was handled by the company that manufactured them. NOT the store in which it was purchased.

On top of that, it covered mechanical failures due to manufacturing defects. NOT wear and tear or customer abuse.

That having been said, a guy comes into the store with one of those staplers - a blue one with black zebra stripes on it. He says it's jammed and won't work. No receipt, and obviously, over a year old due to our not having carried them in about that amount of time. When my cashier attempts to try the thing out herself, the customer screws himself over.

He picks it up, points to the front slot where the staples normally come out, and says, "There's glue in there."

I explained that the glue was probably what had jammed it up. He says, "Well, whatever, I need a new one," and wanders off into the stapler aisle. I had a feeling it wasn't done here, so I stuck around. Sure enough, he comes back with the new one expecting us to give him the new one for free.

"Sir, we can't give you credit for a stapler that you clearly broke. On top of that, we don't carry that particular stapler anymore. And the one you brought up is far superior, capable of stapling through many more pages at once with an easy pressure push top. I can't do that kind of exchange."

"This thing has a lifetime warranty on it," he says, tossing the broken stapler on the counter. "You have to give me another one."

Don't tell me what to do. Most of us in retail are far more willing to help people who are understanding and polite long before we make exceptions for jerks.

"Sir, the lifetime warranty is covered through the manufacturer. Although this has our logo on it, we did not manufacture it. Much like CVS has their own version of Tylenol, we have-"

"It's got your name right on it!" he says, again throwing the stapler on the counter. He fails to realize that he's only hardening my stance with his attitude.

"As I was saying, we don't manufacture anything. We're a retail business. Another company manufactures these and we put our name on it. It's common practice. Your lifetime guarantee is through that manufacturer, not us."

Now he's flailing his arms around like an idiot. "And how am I supposed to get in contact with them?!"

I know full-well that he doesn't have that information, and that makes my next statement quite enjoyable for me given his attitude. "All products with lifetime warranties come with the warranty information in the package. All you have to do is contact the company listed in that paperwork, and they'll fulfull their obligations under the warranty."

He starts shaking his head and shrugging, standard body language for, "I threw all that stuff out because I didn't want to be bothered with even the most minimal effort to ensure my protection under the warranty."

"No!" he says, "You're supposed to replace it. You're supposed to give me a new one because it's got your name on it. It's YOUR lifetime warranty."

I almost laughed. "Sir, a lifetime warranty is not a license to just continue bringing back staplers you break with expectations that we'll replace them for free every time. That's not how it works. We're not a manufacturing company, we're a sales organization. You warranty is with the manufacturing company."

Finally, he picks up the stapler and drops it on the counter again. "Then this is my gift to you!" He heads for the door, and I take the stapler and toss it in with the damage returns. Silly me, I thought he was done.

"You aren't honoring your warranty!" he yells. I turn around and he's back at the counter again. "You're supposed to give me a replacement!"

I shook my head. "I'm not denying you the right to take advantage of the lifetime warranty, Sir. I'm simply explaining how you go about doing that, and you're refusing to follow the instructions."

"I'm not coming back here," he said as he left. Did he think I cared? It's funny how some customers think that just because they're customers, we MUST HAVE their business. The guy looked vaguely familiar only because I seemed to remember him giving us trouble about something before. Meanwhile the amount of money we would've lost if we'd consented to giving him free products everytime he broke his would've hurt us more than help us.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/14/09: The question "Do you have a rewards card?" is NOT the same as "May I have your phone number so I can look up your rewards card?" Answer the question, don't just start spitting out a string of numbers. And when I do ask for your number, understand that I have to type it in as you say it, so rather than mashing it all into an unintelligible single syllable word, try saying each number clearly so that I don't have to have you repeat it twice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bernie the Agitator

At my last job, we had a customer named Bernard who frequently visited. And every time he came it was to pick a fight about something. Either it was that our sale flyer was misleading or that we didn't have a product in stock or that our people were rude or whatever. He became affectionately known simply as "Bernie."

I have plenty of stories of Bernie's visits to share with you, one of which ended with the police escorting him from the store. Today's, however, is one of the most unbelievable.

The cashier system at my last store worked a bit different than my current. There were people specifically trained for cashier and that was it. That meant that no one from another department could just hop on register to help out. The idea behind this was to assign responsibility for the store's cash to as few people as possible. The less people who had access to it, the less chance there was for a cash shortage. This definitely helped us when trying to track down cashier mistakes, but from a service standpoint, it was a nightmare. Still, it was company mandated procedure, so we had no choice but to go with it.

On top of that, we had the same payroll constrictions and lack of telephone operator that we have at my current job, so there was immense pressure on the customer service cashier. About 80 to 90% of the time, the customer service cashier was the only cashier (no calling for backup), doing purchases, returns, and exchanges. Top that off with answering the phones because the only phone that rang when customers called was the customer service phone, and you've got one stressful and overwhelming situation.

Especially for kids getting paid $7.50 an hour. If they were lucky. Try to get a high school graduate or college student in that kind of position to really care about their job or customers. Some might be up to the challenge. At least until they met Bernie.

I was Front End Manager at the time. Most of the time I was in the cash office filing reports, filling out gift certificate logs, researching chargebacks, sending out check refund request forms, or any number of other things I had to get done. When I could, I'd log into the second register, but that wasn't all that often.

So, now that I've set the scene, here's what happened. I swear to you that this actually happened - I'd never make a story like this up because I'd never expect anyone to believe it.

It was a busy afternoon with a long line at the customer service counter and no available backup cashier because corporate was too cheap to shell out the money for additional cashiers (they actually wanted us to cut back on staff most of the time). The girl at the service desk is doing her best to handle everyone. Bernie enters and immediately gets on line. He's got no product in his hands, just a cell phone. He opens it up and dials. The phone at customer service starts ringing. The cashier, tied up in conversation with her current customer about an exchange, is unable to answer the call.

Between customers, my cashier calls the office to let me know that Bernie was there. Expecting a battle, I came up to the front counter as my cashier finished with the customer just before him.

Bernie shakes his fist in the air like an evil villain cursing the valiant hero for vanquishing him. There was no beating about the bush; he begins shouting right away. "I'm filing a complaint with your corporate department! You people ignore customer phone calls! I've seen it with my own eyes! I just came into the store and called your number and the girl didn't answer! You're all lazy and don't have a care in the world about customers!"

I wasn't interested in faking concern for Bernie's frustration. He knew full well how we all felt about him. "What do you need today?" I muttered.

"Oh, I don't need anything from YOU!" he yells. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be filing a complaint with your corporate office about the horrible service in this store!"

I gave him a flat look. "That's what you came here for?"

"You bet I did!" He sounded so proud. Stupid, but at least he was proud of it.

I nodded with pursed lips. "Have a nice day, Sir."

He screamed at us all the way to the door but we ignored him. I've always wondered if he's got mental problems, and I'm willing to bet he does, but suspecting that never made dealing with him any easier.

The scariest part? My current job is a good 45 minutes to an hour away from that place, but Bernie has visited us at least once that I know of. I warned everyone about him, but he didn't get out of line that day. Sometimes I wonder if he just hated my old company, but whatever the case, I'm just glad he's not a regular in my store now the way he was back then.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/11/09: If a demo model doesn't work, it's safe to assume that other customers broke it. Why is it still out? That's simple, really. An opened product is not worth nearly as much as a sealed one. If companies opened up new machines everytime a customer broke one, they'd never turn a profit on sales. I realize it's difficult sometimes to purchase something you haven't seen in action, but again, we don't really care about whether you purchase the thing or not. What we know is that our corporate office will come down hard on us for breaking the seals on so many expensive products that could've been sold to other customers at full price.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stop Whining and Ask Your Question

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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just Too Lazy

We offer faxing services at our store. It's a self-serve machine labeled with instructions in big black letters right in front of it. It's quite simple - Place your pages in the tray face down, dial the number, press start, wait for confirmation page to print. Not rocket surgery.

Of course, most people immediately shout out, "Can someone help me out with this?" when directed to the machine.

And instead of saying, "You're an idiot," we have to smile and be polite and help out. Of course.

Anyway, I had a woman come in who needed to send a fax. I happened to be working on something near the machine at that time, so I directed her to it and turned to go back to my work.

This conversation ensued.

Customer: "I don't know how to do this. I've never done it before."

Me: "Oh, it's quite simple." I point at the instructions in front. "The instructions are right here. You just place your papers face down in the tray, then dial-"

Customer: "I just don't understand this! You're going to have to do it for me!"

No attempt. No effort. Not a care in the world. She was another customer from the, "I'm a customer so you should wash my feet for me," crowd. I didn't say another word, I just put her fax through the machine and went back to my work.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/09/09: When you're in a store, you're not shipwrecked on a barren planet. Standing in the middle of an aisle and just screaming, "Hello? Is there anyone who works in this store?" will not only increase your wait time, but also ensure that the service you get is terrible. If you want employees to treat you with respect, you're going to have to muster up the will to do the same for them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Candy Dilemma

At my last job, I worked for a while at our computer upgrades counter. It was a department that ran along the far wall to the left of the registers. We were about thirty feet away from the cashiers, so for most people, there was no confusing us. Still, some people would walk up and ask if they could pay there. No big deal, we simply told them where the cashiers were.

One lady, however, did something that still puzzles me to this day.

Like many retailers, we had candy racks by the registers. BY THE REGISTERS. This woman entered the store, walked around for a bit, went up to the registers and picked up a Snickers. Then she proceeded to come over to the upgrades counter and ask, "Where do I pay for candy bars?"

.....Perhaps at the register where you picked it up?

Or maybe you'd like to make use of our special candy bar register in the back?

Shopping tip of the day for 9/08/09: You may take good care of your personal hygiene, but we come across plenty of people every day who do not, and sometimes we can't tell which catagory you fall into. Don't hand me your greasy cell phone and expect me to put it against my ear to talk to someone who knows what you want better than you. They should've come to the store themselves or you should've written down a better description of what they wanted. Or at least SOME description. Likewise, I will not be putting on your bluetooth headset. You can keep your earwax and whatever else you got goin on to yourself. Thanks.

Monday, September 7, 2009

An Unnecessary Thorn

To this point, my stories have been about how customers have driven me to the edge of insanity. However, as most customers will be quick to mention, there are plenty of dimwitted retail employees out there, and if you've worked retail, chances are you've dealt with your share of idiot coworkers that have only served to make your life even more miserable. There are a couple of those where I work, however the most notable is one of my morning cashiers. Keep this in mind as you read: She's worked for us for over a year and all she's ever done is ring customer service register. To put it simply, she's always done purchases, returns, and exchanges.

I was ringing up customers as the spare cashier while my customer service woman was handling an exchange. As I'm checking people out, I hear her customer just beside me.

"No, these are cheaper. You shouldn't be charging me any more."

The customer was calm and polite. My customer service rep was not.

"I don't know, I just scanned everything and that's what the computer says," she just shrugs without showing any amount of compassion.

"But the ones I returned were more expensive than what I'm purchasing. There should be an amount coming back to me."

Again, our service lady shrugs. "I dunno, I just scanned everything up here and this is what it says you owe me."

While the two of them go back and forth, I call our inventory control associate to the front. When he arrives, I motion toward the customer service register. "I've got a bit of a situation brewing here. Can you take over?"

He nods and takes over my register so I can go see what's going on with the exchange. So I walk up and say, "What can I do to help out?"

My cashier huffs and says, "OK, look. She's returning these here." She points at three spiral notebooks on the counter. "And I put them through as a return." Points at the return on the screen. "Then she wants to buy these." Motions to the three smaller notebooks in the woman's hands. "So I scanned them." Points to the new notebooks on the screen. "And now it says she owes me this."

She points to the total on the screen. -$6.42.

MINUS six forty-two.

I said, "That means she gets BACK six dollars and forty-two cents."

Now, we all have moments where we do something stupid. We don't pay attention to what we're doing or we just simply make a mistake. If my cashier had looked at me and gone, "Oh! I didn't notice that! Why didn't I look at that? I'm sorry for wasting your time," or something along those lines, I would've been fine with it.

But no, she acts like this is something brand-new that I'm teaching her. "Oh, so that means I give it BACK? So when there's a minus I have to give it back?"

I rolled my eyes. "Yes, that's a refund."

But she's not done. "So the drawer is going to open and I have to give her that money?"

Again, let me remind you, she's been doing nothing but purchases and returns for over a year.

"If it was a cash purchase, it will." I push the proceed button, and the total comes up as being refunded to an American Express card. "No cash," I tell her. "All you had to do was push proceed and you'd have been done."

I apologize to the customer and hand her the receipt. I walk away with my face in my hands as my cashier writes all this down as though I'd just taught her a brand new return procedure.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/07/09: If you are pulling out cash or a credit card from your wallet and my hand is extended to accept it, don't drop or throw it onto the counter.

This especially applies to you customers who want to pay with 89 cents in change. If I put my hand open on the counter as I often do, don't place the change onto the counter BESIDE my hand as you so often do. Now I've gotta pick all that up again, and unless I had nails like a dancer from a rap video, I'm gonna have to struggle to get each of those pennies up.

Piles of random crumpled bills haphazardly shoved in my general direction aren't appreciated either. My hand is out. Treat me like a respectable human being and hand the payment to me. Don't make me gather up and organize your money because you couldn't be bothered to place it in my hand.

Friday, September 4, 2009

No More Registers

With back to school, we generally have had large masses of people just crowding around the registers. To fix this, we moved some displays and organized everyone into one long line to cut down on the confusion. We set it up kinda like Best Buy. Additionally, we finally convinced corporate to send a technician to fix our fourth register - a register that hasn't really worked in the two years I've worked there. The register went down again later in the day, but this happened before it gave out on us.

So for the first time today, we actually had all four registers working along with the register in the copy department.

So I'm directing the line, and I'm explaining to people that we're doing one line and just sending the next person to each register as they open up. Of course, someone else thinks they have a better idea. This old guy rolls his eyes and says, "You need to get more service people up there."

For a second I was confused. Did one of the cashiers walk away without my noticing? I looked up front, but all four registers were still manned, each one ringing someone up. "Sir, every register we have is open and taking customers."

He rolls his eyes at me and huffs and puffs a bit as if to say, "Yeah, sure."

I got the feeling he wanted me to say, "Of course, Sir. Let me just build a couple more registers real quick and you'll be all set to go." That brought visions of Lego Star Wars into my head - I got a vivid picture of me tossing together parts to build new registers in seconds just like how you build things in the game. And I'm still standing next to the guy as I'm thinking this, so I'm trying not to laugh in his face because, obviously, he'd take that the wrong way.

Gotta love impatient people.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/04/09: Contrary to popular belief, we do not have a bench behind customer service where cashiers are lined up just waiting to be called into action. If you feel it necessary to shout out, "Can we get another register open here?!" there's a good chance we've already realized the need for one. But in most cases, our spare cashier will be coming from another department, and if they're with a customer at the time, then it's going to be a few minutes before he can get up there. Understand that most companies will cut their stores' payroll to bare minimum whenever possible, so no one is really going to have an abundance of employees just strolling around waiting to be needed.

Yelling out, "Can we get another register open here!?" is pretty much the same as saying, "Excuse me, I'm an impatient jerk, and I just wanted everyone to know that!"

Oh, and if you're second in line and have the nerve to ask for another register, expect to be ignored. In fact, there's a good chance that the cashier might just take their sweet time getting to you just to piss you off.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Uh... What?

Short and sweet today.

A guy comes up to the front with a lamination machine and says in a heavy accent, "Can you tell me how much is machine? I cannot find price anywhere on shelf."

I scan the box and it comes up at $62.99. "This one is $62.99, Sir."

He shakes his head. "No, on shelf it says $49.99."

...What?

Shopping tip of the day for 9/03/09: Most people don't seem to know this, so I'll explain it here. The "Telephone Operator" position was eliminated from most retail stores long ago. When you call a store, you're most often getting the Customer Service cashier. And in some cases, that cashier just might be the only cashier working that shift. That means that the person you're talking to on the phone more than likely has at least two or three customers right in front of them that they're trying to ring up while talking to you. And, of course, those customers are getting angry that the cashier is too busy talking on the phone to help them. So if you call a store and the person on the other end sounds distracted or uninterested, there's a good chance they've just got too much going on at once.

Here are some simple tips to help make calling a store easier for everyone:

1: Start by asking for the department you want. If you have a question about a bicycle, ask for someone who knows about bikes.

2: Keep it simple. When you do get transferred to the proper department, the person who answers will likely also have customers waiting on him. Don't give him the history of how you learned to ride a bike or tell him your whole story of what made you purchase your latest one. Just get to the point. "My bike chain broke. Do you sell replacements?" Easy enough.

3: Don't shop by phone. If you want to know if something is in stock or if they have a large selection to choose from, that's fine. But don't expect the person on the phone to sit there and compare the features of each model with you. If you have that many questions, come into the store and see for yourself. It's a general rule of retail that the customers who got off their butts to come into the store are considered more important that those on the phone.

4: Don't get too technical. Unless you're calling a store that specializes in one particular type of product (a bicycle store, for example), don't expect the person on the other end to know all the technical terms of each component or the specifications for every random product they sell. Remember, if we knew all the technical information about these products, we'd be putting that knoweldge to use to get higher paying jobs than retail sales.

5: Don't complain. We've got customers in the store to take care of. We can't exactly ignore them, but we can easily put you on hold and never come back to the phone. We have customers who actually came into the store to spend money. Of course we'd rather handle them instead of listening to you blame us for not mentioning that shredders weren't designed to shred license plates.

6: Call the right people. If you have an HP printer that won't turn on and it is within the return policy or you bought the extended warranty, call the store. If you have an HP printer that is outside the return policy and you didn't purchase the extended warranty, call HP.

And there you have it. The bottom line is that if you call a store, you're not going to get dedicated assistance because that kind of a position just doesn't exist in most places anymore. If you're on the phone, you're second to the customers who are in the store.

Thus ends the longest tip of the day ever.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

That's OK, No One Else is Waiting

During back to school, it's normal for our registers to be backed up with long lines. And because we're severely understaffed due to payroll limits, it's not uncommon for me to find myself as the secondary cashier for the majority of the day.

So I'm ringing up customers and have a long line backed up (as all the registers did) and these two young girls come up and drop several items on the counter. They couldn't have been more than 12. This isn't uncommon - parents send their kids up front with money quite often. One of them is on the cell phone speaking a language I don't recognize, and the other is jabbering in her other ear. I scan and bag all their stuff and tell them the total. It was around $25. Neither one of them acknowledges me for a moment as the one girl keeps babbling into the cell phone. Again, I tell her the total. After a moment, she gets off the phone and says, "Yeah, she's coming with the rest of the money," and points out the front window.

My first instinct was to throw their stuff off the counter and move on to the next customer. Of course, I can't do that. I look to the parking lot and see no one coming, and the thought crosses my mind that it wasn't someone IN the lot they were waiting for. It could've very well been someone who dropped the kids off to do the shopping and was coming back for them. But after a few moments I see a woman headed toward the store. There was no indication that she was who they were waiting for, but I figured if she wasn't I'd tell the girls they'd have to wait and get back on line. Of course, the long line of customers is staring at me expectantly because obviously it was my fault that these girls waited in line, had me ring up their junk, and didn't have the money to pay.

Thankfully, it was the woman they were waiting for. She comes in and gives me a nasty look with a mumbled apology. I figure she'll just pay and they'll be on their way, but silly me, I expected too much consideration out of a customer.

Instead, she starts slowing pulling every item out of the bags and arguing with the girls over each one. And it all goes on in their foreign language, so I have no indication of how long any of this is going to last. And still, the line of customers waits. Then the lady pulls out an item and tells me to take it off the sale. Fine, done. They go back to arguing. Another item off. More arguing. Customers are tapping their feet, huffing and puffing, staring at their watches, looking to the other registers, and some are leaving. Then the lady pulls out a five-pack of white-out tape.

"How much was this?"

"$11.49," I tell her. Hey, I don't set our prices.

"No, at your other store two days ago it was $4.99."

I look at the girls. "What did it say on the shelf?"

They don't answer. Instead, they go back to babbling to who I presume is their mother in their language. The mom looks at me again. "No, it was supposed to be $4.99."

"Ma'am, there are any number of reasons why it might have been a different price at the other location. My guess is that they forgot to remove an old sale tag. But the item scans up here at $11.49, and unless it says something different on the shelf, that's the price."

More arguing amongst the family. The mother starts going through the bag again. At this point, I'm just about ready to tell them to get out of line if they're not done shopping. But the lady finally shoots me an evil glare and hands over the cash.

There are few things that bug me more than when people come up to the register, wait in line, but still aren't finished shopping. Then they expect you to wait while they go get the rest of what they want - and many take their time strolling through the aisles. On more than one occasion, I've had people come back to the register ten minutes later to find that their sales have been voided and their products pushed to the side.

And they look at me in surprise like, "But I was here first!"

Shopping tip of the day for 9/02/09: If I ask to see your credit card for security verification purposes and you refuse, don't look surprised when your sale is declined.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Common Courtesy

While making way to the front of the store, I came across a large soda spill in between two of the back to school displays. One of the other employees was already working on mopping it up, so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way. Later in the day, when I walked past that same area again, I saw that the mop had mixed the soda with the dirt on the floor to leave a large stain of sticky black swirls across the tiles. I had been cleaning the front registers with Clorox wipes at the time, so immediately I thought they would do a good job cleaning the floor. I also knew we had a Swiffer in one of the offices, so I grabbed that, wrapped the Clorox wipes around the head, and ran it across the floor.

The stain came up relatively easily. That is, the small section of the stain I could get to. Since it was between two of the back to school displays and that's what most people are coming in to shop for, customers were making it difficult for me to get to the whole thing. I mean, I understood that the people who were already there had a right to finish shopping without me pushing them out of the way. I waited for those who were already there to clear out, then went to work on the floor. It was maybe a 5 foot section, nothing too big. You'd think that new customers would've seen me cleaning the mess and thought, "Hey, let's stand back a minute and let him finish." After all, a minute is about all it would've taken. But nope, they trampled their way right in, walking all over the dirty parts and tracking footprints onto the small section I'd already been able to clean. I tried to work around them, but they nearly stepped on the Swiffer a couple of times. There was no way they hadn't noticed or seen what I was trying to do - I was less than two feet away from them! But no, they're customers, so their shopping is more important than any amount of courtesy.

Gotta love the "I want what I want and I want it NOW!" mentality of society these days.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/01/09: No, I don't speak Spanish. And I have no intention of learning, either.