Monday, November 30, 2009

You've Taken it Before

I was minding my own business doing something in the office when I was paged to the front by my cashier. Now this is my not-so-bright cashier, so I fully expected the problem - whatever it was - to be her fault.

There's a little old man with big glasses and a long beard at the counter, and he does not look happy. My cashier points to the screen. "It wants a driver's license but he doesn't have one." In her hand, she's holding the man's check.

Occasionally, our system asks for a driver's license to verify a person's identity. It doesn't do it every time, it's a random security measure. It might come up because of suspicious activity on a person's account, low funds in the account, security alerts put out by the banks, identity theft checks, whatever. So I said to the man, "You don't have a license?"

"I told her. No I don't," he says. His tone was less than understanding.

There are other options. Not everyone has a driver's license. "Do you have any form of State issued ID? Military ID? Anything like that?"

He pulls out a credit card and points to the name on it. "Here."

"No, that's not state issued ID, Sir. I need something from-"

"You've taken my checks before," he says. "I don't see why this is a problem."

I began to explain to him that the company we use to authorize checks has their own security measures in place and that sometimes they'll ask for ID for the protection of both the consumers and retailers. While I'm telling him that, which took no more than four to five seconds, he's standing there just talking right over me, repeating over and over again, "You've taken it before. You've taken it before. You've taken it before. You've taken it before. You've taken it before. You've taken it before." I doubt he heard a word I said.

"Sir, it doesn't always ask for ID, so that's likely why they took it before. Today there is a request for ID verification on this account, and I'll had to see some form of ID in order to process this sale. There is no way to override this in the system. I need to see some ID."

Again, he points to the credit card.

"No, Sir. State issued ID."

"This is rediculous! Why would I lie about who I am?!"

Do you want the long answer or the short answer, Sir?

Eventually he took his check back and left, telling us that all we'd done is sent him to our competition. His purchase? A single pack of highlighters worth less than 4 dollars. Yup, he wrote a check for three dollars and change.

And in case you might be wondering why a bank would require ID for such a small purchase, oftentimes criminals who steal identity information will try a small test purchase out with the phony information to see if it will work. Small purchases, especially ones paid by check, can be quite suspicious to banks since most would simply pay cash for that kind of thing, so many times they'll enact full security measures just to be safe.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 11/30/09: If you come up to the register with a hand-basket full of product, have the decency to empty it out onto the counter for the cashier. Don't make them sit there and unload your products for you to be scanned while you stand there staring impatiently or talking on your cell phone. There's nothing wrong with helping out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Should I Know?

Two days ago, I had a customer come in asking for metal fasteners. You know, those pointed ones that you stick through paper and then fold open to keep the sheets together?

I took him over to the section and pointed them out to him. He said, "Yeah, I already bought those. I was hoping you had some different ones. My daugher is doing a science project, and she's supposed to use them to get the light bulb to light up. But I bought those and they don't work. Do you have something that will?"

...Why yes, Sir, I just happen to be an electrical engineer. How did you guess?

Shopping tip of the day for 11/22/09: Don't complain about anything that's free. EVER. Our company gives $3 coupons for recycled ink cartridges. You can get up to 10 per month for $30 a month, and you can use them on any product in the store. You wouldn't believe the number of people who complain about it not being enough. Even worse is when they complain about it being only $3 for laser toner cartridges, too. I had one lady tell me, "That's hardly even worth it."

Really? Free money that costs you nothing other than a hunk of plastic you would've otherwise thrown in the trash isn't worth it? We're not REQUIRED to offer this convenience, lady. Either accept the generocity or get out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

No Consideration

I was ringing up customers one day when a woman came over from the copy department to pay for something. I honestly don't remember what. Almost at the same time, another woman with two children got in line right behind her.

While I'm ringing her up, she looks back at the copy department then back at me. "Boy, that girl over there is a bitch, huh?"

Again, there were two children standing right behind her. "Ma'am, that's quite unnecessary," I said with a glare.

She seemed legitimately surprised by this. "What? She is, isn't she?"

I rolled my eyes at her. "There's no need to use that kind of language."

The woman almost laughs. "What, you've never heard that kind of stuff before?"

"I have, Ma'am," I said, "but that happens to be a friend of mine you're talking about."

The lady shrugs. "Well, then maybe she shouldn't be acting like a bitch."

Now the woman behind her piped up. "And maybe you should be more considerate of the people around you," she snapped. "My children shouldn't have to be exposed to your foul mouth."

Amazingly, the lady didn't even flinch. "They're going to hear it growing up anyway. That's the world we live in."

"It's a world that wouldn't have to be that way if people like you could learn to bite your tongue," the mother says.

As I handed Foul-Mouth her change, she gives both me and the mother a look as though WE'RE the crazy ones before heading through the door.

Shopping tip of the day for 11/21/09: If you ask me where something is located, let me finished explaining it to you BEFORE you go running off. And if you don't, then don't come back to me with an annoyed look on your face when you can't find it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm a Customer!

One of the first crazy customers I encountered at my current job had one of the biggest temper tantrums I'd ever seen literally over nothing. Apparently, people think they should be taken for their word. I can only assume these people have never worked retail, because if they had then they'd know not to take any customers at their word. That's how we wound up with a returned laptop that wound up being just a bunch of books in a laptop box, old ink cartridges returned in the box of the new, and other similar things. You can't assume anyone is being honest because THAT'S when you get taken.

Most stores now have strict policies against returning open computer programs and/or video games. They will exchange them for the same item if the one you purchase is defective, but no refunds will be given. It didn't always use to be that way. Back when I started my first job, we returned software as long as it was within 30 days of purchase. We had to stop that, however, once CD-Writers became popular. As soon as people saw another chance to do something dishonest, they leapt all over it, and adopted what I've come to call the "Burn 'em and Return 'em" practice. Essentially, you buy a game or a computer program, make a copy of it using the CD-Writer in your computer, then return it for a refund. Now you have the program for free. And back when CD-Writers started getting big, EVERYONE was doing just that. In response, stores put return policies prohibiting the refund of any opened software. Best Buy, Staples, Gamestop, and just about anywhere else that sells these products will not allow you to return them once opened for the above reasons.

So when this lady came in to return QuickBooks software (a $300 value), I began my usual routine of inspecting the box. Often, people will try to peel and reseal the box just so perfectly so that anyone who took a quick glance at it would never know it was open. I've caught a number of people trying to do that. The biggest tell-tale sign that such a thing has happened will be hairs or finger prints on the sticky side of the seal. If it was a new seal, it would be clear and smooth.

I had barely picked up the box when the lady says, "It's fine." Thank you for telling me. I'm still going to look. The dishonest ones will tell me it's fine, too.

So I look at the top seal, and it is clearly brand new. "I'll take a refund," she says. She's quite an impatient and grumpy lady, looking at me as though I jumped up on the counter and shouted, "THEIF! THIS WOMAN IS A HORRIBLE THEIF!!"

I ignore her and look at the bottom seal. It doesn't exactly look as though it was removed, but there was some fuzz stuck around the edges of it. "What was the reason for the return?" I ask. It's a pretty standard question.

She gives me a look like I'm asking why we walk to get places. "Because I don't want it?" she says with her snippy little tone. "Is that good enough for you?"

Now, I'm taking my time. I'd have made sure the whole process went quickly if not for her attitude. Now she can wait. So I keep looking at the seal, trying to decide if it was opened or not. It really didn't look like it had been. I tried to peel up the edge where the fuzz was, and it was solidly adhered to the box. Nope, she hadn't opened it.

"I didn't open it," she says through a snarl. "Why would I lie to you? It's not opened. Get your manager if you don't believe me - he'll tell you to put through my return. I didn't open it."

I narrowed my eyes and shifted my gaze from the box to the woman. "I never said you did, Ma'am."

It is important to note here that I was at the first register with her at the time, but returns are usually taken care of at the service counter. Since there was a transaction going on there that was taking quite a while, I had called her over to help her out. However, by this point in our conversation, the service desk was free, and I had a line of people waiting for checkout. So I looked behind me to the guy who was running the desk and said, "Hey, could you put through this return real quick so I can get some of these people out of here? It's unopened, no problems."

"Sure," he says.

She grunts angrily and walks over to his counter, which was literally no more than five steps away. I go back to ringing people up, and he processes the return. I'm scanning some items for a smaller woman when he finishes, and the lady turns to leave. As she's walking past, she leans next to my ear and goes, "I don't care for your attitude, by the way."

The closest thing to attitude I had given her was when my eyes narrowed out of anger and frustration with her behavior. "I'm sorry?" I said as she headed for the exit.

"You heard me," she says, getting louder as she stopped by the exit. "I don't need your smart-guy attitude."

But there were other customers watching, now. Other people who hadn't seen her earlier behavior who would, as most customers do, likely assume the employee is automatically at fault of any disagreement between a customer and a retailer. I had to be politically correct to portray the company in the best light that I could for the sake of the rest of the customers.

However, I wasn't going to accept blame for something I didn't do. "I'm not sure what you're referring to, Ma'am, but if something I did offended you, then I apologize."

Now she starts yelling, pointing her finger at me like the lunch ladies in grade school pointed at a kid who was acting out. "You know what you did!" she shouts. "You know! Don't do it again!"

"What did I do, Ma'am?" Mind you, my line of customers is now getting held up.

"Don't give me that! Don't you dare argue with me! I'm a customer!!"

Those last three words were nearly enough to make me quit my job and tell her exactly where she could shove her business. But now the lady who I was ringing up is looking back and forth between me and this nutjob. I didn't want to be the bad guy. I WASN'T the bad guy. "Ma'am, I don't know what I did, but whatever it was, I apologize."

I hadn't even finished the sentence when she yells, "Don't you apologize to me! Don't say a word!" Still pointing at me, almost wagging her finger back and forth like Macho Man Randy Savage. I expected her to leave at that point, given I apparently wasn't allowed to talk. But she just stood there, staring at me, arm extended, finger pointing.

So I turned back to ringing up my customer, giving her a look of confusion to kinda say, "I don't know what she wants from me." In return, the customer made kind of a nervous look almost as if to say, "She's crazy."

"That's right," the nutcase yells. "You don't say another word!"

Enough of this. I'm not going to obey her commands like some dog. "What do you want me to do?" I asked while I bagged my customer's purchase. "You don't want me to apologize, so what do you want from me?"

"You want me to get the manager?" she asked, trying to sound threatening. What am I, four years old? Are you threatening to tell Mommy on me? "I'm a customer," she says again. I kinda wonder if she thought that statement had power over me like kryptonite over Superman.

Regardless, I was done with the whole thing. "Have a nice day, Ma'am," I said, turning back to my customer.

"Don't tell me to have a nice day!" she yells. At this point, the guy at the service desk pages the general manager. I looked back and thanked him. The lady is still going on. "Don't you say anything!"

I handed my customer her bags, but she didn't move. She looked uncomfortable with the idea of having to pass this nutcase on her way out the door. My mind raced to come up with some way of getting this jerk to leave. Being quiet didn't work. Apologizing didn't work. "Have a nice day," I said again, hoping this time she'd just take it and leave.

"Don't do it!" she yells. STILL, she's pointing at me. Maybe she thought she was some sort of witch or something and she was trying out a magic spell on me. I dunno.

Finally, the general manager shows up. Our GM at the time was a short little woman who didn't take crap from customers. "What's the problem, Ma'am?"

"He knows," she said, gesturing toward me. "He's knows the problem."

The manager looks at me. I shrug and say, "She came for a refund, and she's been given it. I don't know what else she wants."

The GM isn't in the mood to mess around. She steps closer to the woman in order to herd her out the door. "Is there something else you needed help with?" she asked.

The crazy lady gave me a long glare before finally saying, "No." Without another word, she left.

My manager looks at me, and I started to talk. "Not really sure what happened," I said. I didn't even get to tell her the story - she just said not to worry about it and walked away.

The amazing part of the story (amazing in a good way) was that about five minutes later, our GM got a phone call from the customer I had been ringing up during the whole scene. She was in her car in the parking lot on her cell phone and called just to make sure that management knew I'd don't nothing wrong and had conducted myself very professionally through the whole thing. That shocked me more than the crazy lady because most people wouldn't go out of their way to do something like that. It really meant a lot to me.

Shopping tip of the day for 11/20/09: The garbage can outside the store is not your personal dumpster. Please do not pull your car up beside it and start unloading all your junk into it so that it overflows all over the ground. A cup of soda or a bag from McDonald's is fine, but take your old school books, bottled-water cartons, and other assorted items to a dumpster.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You're Kidding Me, Right?

I was getting ready to leave work yesterday when someone asked me to show them where the book covers were. I told her I'd take her to them, so we headed down the aisle.

Now, our shredder display is right before the section where the grade-school stuff is kept. Don't worry, they're up on a shelf high enough where kids can't try to stuff their fingers into 'em. Anyway, as we're walking past the shredders, I come across to baboons (that's the only way I can think to describe them) who are "testing" the shredders. One of them was a big guy who had pulled the fanciest chair we had outta the furniture department and was just sitting there laughing at his buddy. The other guy - his buddy - was stuffing our identity theft brochures into the top-of-the-line shredder 9 and 10 at a time. They looked like they were between 25-30 years old, but they were both grinning and giggling like they were 13 year old boys peeking into the girls locker room. It was pathetic.

So I stopped for a moment. "Guys, is there something I can help you with?"

Baboon number two stops cramming the brochures into the thing long enough to look back at me. "Nah, we'z just testin out duh shreddah."

Then I look at the shredder. The front of the can has a long clear strip so you can see inside and know how full it is getting. These things are usually empty - customers try them out occasionally, but we clean them out afterward. But these guys had this thing half-full now. We're talking 12+ inches of shreddings had gathered in the can. Not only that, but the majority of the shreddings were all a pale green speckled with orange - the colors of our replacement plan brochures. They had to have already shredded through like two stacks of those. Now, they were layering the top with the black intentity theft pamphlets.

"How much testing do you need to do?" I asked, shaking my head. I look down at his buddy in the chair.

"I don't know him," he says, laughing like a nine year old. "He's messed up."

The guy doing the shredding reacts with this high-pitched giggle. I said, "If you wanted to test the shredder, you should've asked for some paper. These brochures are for customers, not for you to waste filling a whole shredder with."

"Sorry, man," the idiot says. He's still grinning like a fool.

So I continue on my way and show the woman to the book covers. She thanks me, I turn around, and guess what! Baboon #2 is stuffing more of the brochures into the shredder again. I didn't say anything, I just stood there leaning against the nearby ladder waiting for him to turn around. His seated friend spoke up.

"He gun' trow you out duh store, bro."

Again, the idiot turns around and sees me standing there. "Sorry," he says again. Still giggling. Still grinning. I almost think he might have been mentally disturbed.

"Are you guys honestly shopping or are you just wasting my time?" I asked them.

The guy stops giggling long enough to say, "Nah, we'z waitin on somebody."

I took the pamphlets from him and put them back into the display stand. "If you want to test the shredders I can get you some regular paper. But stop wasting our brochures. Those things are for actual customers."

The goon, thinking he was being funny, points behind the display stand at a spare bundle of pamphlets still shrinkwrapped. "Dey's anuddah stack back dare! I can use dem!"

The two of them start laughing hysterically again. They must've been high or something. Regardless, I said, "What's wrong with you?" and walked off.

They reminded me of some kids I knew in high school.

That's not a good thing.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 11/10/09: The store's bathroom is NOT the place to start asking an employee questions about products.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Trust Me, I'm a Customer

I'm often surprised by how many customers seem to think that there is no such thing as dishonesty in this world. Either that, or they think that because THEY are being honest, we should automatically know that somehow and believe them. They wonder why we won't accept a return of a product without a receipt, for example. But do you have any idea how many people come into a store, pick something right up off the shelf, and take it to the customer service counter to ask for a refund? Or maybe they'll put something in their pocket, jacket, harness, or whatever other contraption they've devised (I've got a funny harness story about a computer theft - but that'll be another time) and then take that item to another store within the company to try to get a refund? It happens. A LOT.

That's just one example of dishonesty. There are lots of different schemes I've seen over the years, but you get the idea. Suffice to say, we have to always be on alert with every customer.

So we had an older guy come into the store one night to pick up his delivery order. We asked for his receipt, but he had none. We asked for his I.D., but he had none. Order number? Nope. Confirmation email? Nope.

Anything?

Nope.

When we told him we needed SOME sort of proof that he was who he claimed to be, he got all upset. Of course. He uttered all of the typical lines.

"I can tell you exactly what I ordered!"

"Where's ? He put the order through. He can verify it!"

"Why would I lie to you about this?"

"Give me your customer service number! They'll hear about this!"

For obvious reasons, we can't just release an order to a customer, regardless of its value. We place customer orders in store in plain view of everyone, so just about anyone could watch as a product is ordered and paid for then come in the next day claiming to be that person. Our customer service number would tell him the same thing. As for asking for the employee who placed the order, it's unlikely that he or she will remember. We interact with so many people a day that faces often blur together. I've had customers come in claiming that I'd helped them on the previous day who I don't recognize.

So as he's getting set to leave, a woman appears claiming to be his daughter. She was much more reasonable. "You'll have to excuse him. We've never done this sort of thing before. What is it that we need to bring?" She was pretty understanding, though completing a conversation with her was difficult with her father whining, complaining, and shouting in the background.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 11/8/09: If you see an employee wearing his jacket and carrying a lunch bag, there's a good chance he's either just arriving or leaving for the day. Either way, he's most likely NOT on the clock, so don't ask him for help. A quick question like, "Where can I find this product?" is fine, but don't ask him to show you to them and expect him to answer 100 questions. It ain't right.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm Clearly the Only Customer Here!

We went to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner the other night. It was a Friday, so it was a bit busy. The waiters were doing their best to get to each table in a timely manner, but of course, with the place as full as it was, the wait times were a bit longer than usual.

On my way to the bathroom, I saw one guy delivering food to a table and he accidentally spilled some of the woman's soup all over his own hand as he set it down, slightly burning himself in the process. I felt bad for him.

Later on, two tables beside ours were pushed together to accommodate a large family that was coming in. This lady comes marching through the place with her army in tow, babbling on and on about this that and the other thing. They'd barely reached the two tables when the lady yells, "We need some bread right now! These children are starving!" She hadn't even finished putting her coat on the back of her chair, let alone sit down.

The waiter she'd yelled at? The poor guy who burned his hand earlier.

He, of course, says a quick "Yes, Ma'am" and goes on his way. The family sits down and immediately goes to work decimating the table. Forks on the floor, menus all over the place, etc. The whole time, the woman is going on and on with her husband about how the children better get some food because they haven't eaten in hours.

Eventually the bread arrives. The waiter manages to get away just before she starts going on about how the bread isn't going to be nearly enough to feed them and complaining about the time she'd been waiting for their orders to be taken. Never mind the fact that they hadn't even picked up the menus yet.

And this all happened within the span of a few minutes. And I'm sitting there thinking, "Lady, if you wanted FAST food, you should've stopped off at McDonalds." She didn't look like she was a stranger to the land of the golden arches.

I felt terrible for the waiter who had to deal with her.

Shopping tip of the day for 11/5/09: I know you customers like to be pretty heartless and vindictive when someone so much as looks at you the wrong way, but try to think twice before putting in that hate-filled phone call or complaint letter to our corporate office demanding an employee be fired. Does your minor inconvenience really justify taking away someone's livelihood? The food from their children's mouths? Get over yourself - you're not that important.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Strangest Request

I've had a lot of weird questions over the years, but the most strange to me are the ones where the customer tells me straight up that they're not really shopping for anything at all. I've actually come across customers like the one I'm about to tell you about a few times during the course of my career.

It was another day, another shift. I was in the front of the store when a woman and her husband entered the store. I asked if they needed help, and she said she needed help with computers.

I said, "Sure, what type of computer were you interested in?"

She pulls out a blue packet of papers and says, "I'm not buying one. See this? I need to know the names of three different brands of computers you have. And all the information you have on each."

She doesn't exactly show me the papers, but what I see looks like some sort of homework assignment. Maybe some college research. "Well, we actually have more than three brands. We have Dell, Sony, HP, Compaq, Acer--"

She cuts me off. "Dell. I've heard of them. Who else?" She's got the paper on the customer service counter and is writing Dell on the top of the first page. Now I can see below that there is a list of specifications such as processor speed, memory, software, drive speed, etc. And now, I'm annoyed. I'm not here to do people's homework for them. We're trying to run a business here.

Still, I can't be rude. "HP and Compaq," I tell her, even though HP and Compaq are technically the same company.

She writes those down and then points at the specification lists. "Now, can you go ahead and fill that in for me?"

She's kidding.

She's GOT to be kiddng.

Honestly?

Are you mental?

Seriously?!

I'M NOT DOING YOUR HOMEWORK, WOMAN!

Then it hit me. Windows 7 just released, and the screen saver that we have running on our demo machines lists the specs of each machine. So I took her over to the demos. "The information you need is listed on each of the screens here. You can-"

"Oh, no honey," she interrupts. "You're going to have to write that down for me. I can't see that little print."

Uhm, no.

I told her to hold on a moment and I headed for computer terminal in the back. I chose three random laptops from our website, printed them up, and gave them to her. Whatever specs we had available were on those sheets.

"So this will have the information I need?" she asks.

"Whatever information we have available, yes."

She still seemed determined to get me to do the work for her so she wouldn't have to actually read the paperwork. "So it will show me the processor speed?"

"Yes. This shows you all the available specs we have."

"So it will show me the memory?"

"Ma'am, like I said, all the information is on here."

Finally, I just walked away. I wasted far too much time with that non-customer to begin with.

Shopping tip of the day for 11/02/09: Don't ask us for a catalog. We don't have one anymore. Actually, that's not entirely true. We do have one. It's called our website. Catalogs are obsolete. Sorry.

And for the record, according to dictionary.com, it could be spelled either catalog or catalogue. *shrug* Learn something new everyday, I guess.