Monday, April 4, 2011

Truth Be Told

There was one particular manager at CompUSA that I always enjoyed working with - especially when dealing with customer issues. He had a name I could pronounce but couldn't begin to spell, so we'll just call him Roy. And Roy was an honest guy.

During that time period, we had a lady who took advantage of the system on a routine basis. See, CompUSA had a policy of doing "Whatever it Takes" to please the customer. Normally, this sort of policy would be a good thing. But any time a business shows any sort of benevolence, there are going to be people who exploit it.

So when word got out about the company's more lenient policies, this lady's eyes turned green.

Her scam was a simple one; a scheme she probably got away with in other stores both before and after us. First, she'd flip through the Sunday paper and check out our weekly ad. Once she located an item with an fairly respectable discount, she'd come into the store and buy it with cash. They weren't excessivly large discounts unless it was a holidy sale. I'd say the biggest amounts were between fifteen to twenty bucks.

This lady would then take the item home and hang onto it until the sale concluded at the end of the week. Then she would return to the store with it. Of course, sometime during the week, her recept would mysteriously disappear.

Every week.

And every week, the same conversation took place. She'd tell us the product isn't waht she wanted. We would ask for the receipt. She'd tell us she lost it. After all, "Who keeps receipts?" We would explain that we normally require a receipt for a return. She'd get angry, demand a manager, and eventually get her product returned.

The scam? Well, let's say she purchased the product at a sale price of twenty-five bucks. The following week after the sale has ended, the price goes back to its normal price of fourty bucks. Without a receipt, we have no idea what she paid, so she has to get the full amount back. Normally, something like that would go to store credit. But she'd use the fact that the items were inexpensive (usually under fifty dollars) to argue the manager into giving her cash.

Thus, she walks away with more money than she paid for the product to begin with.

Now, for obvious reasons, we're not allowed to tell customers when we suspect they might be scamming us. It would cause a nightmare if we were either wrong or unable to prove it. Roy, however, must've reached the end of his patience with this woman.

I was working the cash register next to the customer service desk when she came in. "I want to return this," she says, dropping a mouse on the counter. It had been on sale for ten dollars off the previous week.

"Do you have a receipt?" the customer service employee asks.

"No," she says nonchalontly as though that was the last thing in the world that was important. "I'll just take cash," she adds.

This might come as a shock to some people, but we aren't alowed to let customers tell us if or how they'll be refunded. I was in charge of the front-end at that time, but I was stuck ringing register. So the cashier called Roy.

Roy seemed to be struggling not to roll his eyes as he approached; I assumed he'd dealt with her before. The customer service rep told him it was a return with no receipt and that she wanted cash.

"I can't give you cash, Ma'am," he told her. "The best I can do is store credit." He didn't even have to do that much, but again, CompUSA was trying to be softer about their policies.

"No, no," she said matter-of-factly. "I want cash. I've gotten cash without a receipt before! I don't see why this is such a problem!"

Roy picked up the mouse and examined it. It was still sealed and in good condition. "I'll tell you whatt," he says. "I'll give you cash back for this, but you have to promise me something."

"What's that?" she asks, giving him a suspicious stare. I fully expected him to make her promse to hang onto her receipts going forward.

I was wrong.

"I want you to promise that you'll never return to this store."

My eyes bulged. I was ringing someone else up at that point, but listening intently to the events unfolding beside me.

Not surprisingly, the woman was highly offended. "Excuse me?!" she nearly shouts.

"Ma'am, you and I have been through this before. You're frequently here making returns without receipts. And every item is one that was on sale the previous week. Your business does nothing to help my store, so I'd like you to take it elsewhere."

Inside, I was laughing and cheering. It was something every cashier has wanted to say to a customer at one point or another.

The lady didn't react well to Roy's proposal. "Excuse me!? Who do you think you are?! You can't tell me where I can and cannot shop!"

I've heard conflicting stories over the years regarding whether or not a business can refuse service to certain customers. After one incident with another frequent problem-customer, the police told us that there was no rule that we had to do business with everyone out there regardless of their behavior. At some point after that, we had put up a sign that said "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

Roy pointed at that sign. "I don't care where you shop," he told her. "Just as long as it isn't here."

"This is unheard of!" she explained in disbelief, shaking the mouse in her hand. "This thing is brand new! I didn't even open it! I just want my money back!"

Now Roy smiled. "You're going to get your money. But after that, I want you to consider our business relationship severed. Do you understand?" Before she could argue any further, he thanked her for cooperating and handed the mouse to the cashier. "Return this to cash."

This is unbelieveable," she muttered, pulling her keys out of her purse. "You just lost a customer!"

Roy didn't look back, but he raised his voice for her to hear. "I'm aware of that." There was a bit of satisfaction in that statement.

She continued grumbling as he walked away. I have no doubt she just went to another CompUSA and tried the same thing, but at least she was gone from ours. At least, I never saw her again.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/4/2011: This tip is great when shopping, but also useful for the rest of everyday life. When walking forward, its best to keep your eyes forward. Crazy concept, right? You be surprised how many people can't figure that out on their own.

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