Saturday, April 30, 2011

Classy Lady

I've got a pretty long list of stories regarding in-store theft. While a good portion of the theft I've witnessed has come from employees, I'd have to say that the majority came from customers. Some were stupid, some were brazen, some were slick, and some were planned.

But nothing tops the story of the harness.

I wasn't present for these events, so I can only tell you what I was told. I can say that a piece of me has always wondered if this story was true. But after seeing a recent episode of Worlds Dumbest Criminals, I have been convinced.

Basically, a large woman stole a demo computer from the next CompUSA nearest to our own. The theft was discovered when inventory control associates did their weekly counts of computers and laptops. When they found they were missing a desktop computer from the demo shelf, they loaded up the surveillance tapes.

The video shows a rather rotund (very fat) woman and accomplice enter the aisle. While the accomplice stands at the end of the aisle watching for employees, the woman can be seen yanking the plugs out of the computer (this was before we put alarms on desktop units), pulling it off the shelf, and shoving it...

...under her dress.

Then she waddled out of the store like nothing was wrong, her accomplice close behind. I'm sure the way she was walking might have raised eyebrows of some, but I don't think the average person would've thought, "Hey! She's got a computer between her legs!"

She was caught, if I remember right, though I don't remember how. I just know that the report later revealed that the woman had a harness between her legs that she was able to fit the computer into so that she wouldn't have to hold it with her hands as she left the store. It was definitely the most creative theft I'd ever seen or heard of.

But again, I questioned it because it sounded too crazy.

Not anymore. Go to Youtube and look up videos of the TV show "World's Dumbest." There's an episode where a woman steals a giant case of beer by slipping it between her legs under her dress. Then she just walks out. Crazy stuff.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/30/11: While stealing is always a bad idea, you highly increase your chances of being caught by stealing from your own workplace. Don't think for a second that you're safe; you're not. Don't assume no one will suspect you; they will. And most retail stores will prosecute employee theft further than external theft for the simple fact that these companies put trust into their employees and they don't appreciate your spitting on that trust.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Included Means Included

I'm sure I've mentioned before that we are professional box readers. Well, never was that made clearer to me than on this day at CompUSA.

I was walking toward the front of the store when a customer stopped me. He was holding a floppy disk drive in his hands (look it up, kids). "Does this thing come with interchangable faceplates?" he asks me. "I have a black case. The picture is white. Does it have a black faceplate I can use?"

A fair question. The item was a generic CompUSA brand drive, and most of their units were plain white. But, as always, the only way I know how to answer the question is by looking at the box. I didn't have to look for long.

Right on the front, in big black letters across a yellow star, were the words "BLACK AND WHITE FACEPLATES INCLUDED." To top it off, an image of both colored faceplates was pictured right below the text.

I just pointed at the picture and handed the box back to him.

"Nah, I know that," the customer says. "But they're in the box, right?"

That's what "included" means, Sir.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/23/11: No, we cannot honor your expired coupon. The expiration dates are not "suggestions" to try to make you come back within a certain amount of time. They are deadlines. And if we make an exception for you, we have to make it for everyone. Most coupons last months; that's plenty of time for you to make use of it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Really? REALLY?!

Frequently, customers leave products anywhere and everywhere around the store. If they decide against buying that fresh beef, they have no reservations about leaving it in the cereal aisle. Why should they have to worry about putting away the products they picked up? Common courtesy isn't necessary when you have store associates to clean up your messes. That's what the employees are there for!

No, it isn't.

Although it is part of our jobs to keep the store neat and clean, we are not your personal butlers and maids. There is no reason other than laziness that you can't put something back where you found it.

But as bad as that kind of behavior is, it's nothing compared to what one customer did right in front of me.

I was helping him with a CD-ROM drive (this was years ago). He picked one up and looked it over for a few minutes. "Will this work on my PC?"

I explained that it would and told him that it would slide into the same drive bay as the old one. Then he saw the price. "I'm going to have to come back," he said.

Then he did something that made me want to wrap my hands around his neck. Rather than put the merchandise back in the open spot on the shelf from which it game, he reached up and dropped the box behind the other products on the top shelf. It honestly took far more effort to do that than it would've to put the thing back where he'd found it.

Then, when he saw me staring at him with wide eyes, he said, "Oh, sorry." He had to stand on the tips of his toes to retrieve the box and return it to it's rightful place on second shelf right in front of his chest.

Some might give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was just trying to make sure it would be there when he returned. But I have two problems with that. First, there were at least seven other drives of the same make and model. Second, when you want to know if a store will hold a product for you, you just need to ask. As long as it's not a sale, most companies are willing to hold products for customers for up to twenty-four hours or sometimes more.

Seriously though, clean up after yourself. This is another one of those things that will help you get better service. After all, the more we have to clean up after you, the less happy we will be to help you.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/16/11: Got some groundbreaking mind-boggling logic for you here. Are you ready? See if you can wrap your head around this.

If the door had a sign that reads "EMPLOYEES ONLY," then only employees of the store are allowed to enter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gossip Trumps Everything

As I'm sure most of you already know, one of my biggest pet peeves is customers with cell phones glued to their ears. Not only is it rude when an associate or cashier is trying to help, but it often causes a detachment from the rest of the world. This lack of consideration is even worse when their attention is desperately needed elsewhere.

I was working register at Staples when a man came up and placed a mouse pad on the counter. I took it, scanned it, and told him his total.

He just stared at me.

I assumed he hadn't heard me. So I gave him the total again. He points at the mouse pad, then starts rummaging through the little bins of impulse items on the counter.

"Did you have a question?" I asked him. I really wasn't sure what to do. He took a pen out of the display and put it on the mouse pad. I scanned it and gave him his new total. Still no response.

Next, he added a pack of gum. Not knowing what else to do, I scanned that too. He kept staring at me. And by this time, he'd built up a nice line behind him.

Then, out of nowhere, a woman on a cell phone comes up and takes the man's hand. "Come along, Jeffrey."

Now the pieces fall into place. Jeffrey has some kind of psychological handicap.

He picks up the mouse pad and shows it to her. "No," she says. "Put it down. That's not for you." She takes it from him and drops it on the counter, not once even making eye contact with me. To top it off, she's still got the cell phone to her ear. "I'm sorry, Margie. Just give me a second here."

I don't know why I allow people's inconsiderate behavior to surprise me, but I was honestly stunned by what I was seeing. This woman was so wrapped up in herself and her phone call that she wasn't paying any attention to this poor guy she was supposed to be caring for!

I took Jeffrey's items off the counter, returning the pen and gum to their displays before placing the mouse pad on the shelf behind me. When I turned back around to take the next person in line, I was astounded to see that Jeffrey had already vanished again. The woman was standing by the far side of the counter, babbling away on her cell phone about some he said/she said nonsense. That's right; she was neglecting this poor guy for gossip!!

I shook my head and worked through the line of customers. As I did, one of the other associates came up to the front. "Keep an eye out for a middle-aged guy in a striped shirt," he told me. "He's acting weird and rummaging through all the shelves like he's looking for something."

That was Jeffrey. I explained to the associate and asked him to keep an eye on Jeffrey since his caregiver was busy catching up on the latest rumors amongst her circle of friends.

"I hope she's gonna clean up the messes he's making all over the place," the associate muttered, heading back onto the sales floor.

Not 5 minutes later, I spot Jeffrey. He was headed up to the register with a purple ruler in his hand. Just as he was about to put it on my counter, the woman snatched it out of his hand, dropped it on my counter, grabbed him by the wrist, and practically dragged him out the door. She never looked at me, never muttered an apology, and never got off the phone.

You know how truck drivers have those signs on the rear of their trailers that say, "How's my driving?" with a phone number? Well, I wish she'd had a sign that said, "How's my caregiving?"

Sadly, that would not be the last time a mentally challenged adult would be neglected in our store.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/12/11: The furniture department is not a customer lounge. Don't recline in one of the chairs with your feet on the desk while you have a leisurely cell phone conversation. Don't unload 4 bags of Burger King to have a ncie little lunch with your gang of friends. And don't come in on your lunch break with a pile of office paperwork and set up shop at one of our display desks to get your extra work done.

Yes, I have witnessed all of these and more.

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.

Friday, April 1, 2011

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