Sun 4 Jan, 2004 01:49 pm
For the past six years, I have been working in retail and have seen all sorts of people: retail is the place where people often demonstrate their worst traits.
Yesterday, I helped a very nice man with the purchase of a new product. We spent several minutes, while the store was not very busy, figuring how to package it so it would be easy to carry but not waste materials that have an impact on the environment. As he departed, without looking up at the lay of the land, I was presented with an attractive, beautifully dressed middle aged woman. She was smiling and happy. I greeted her and immediately typed in my employee number to begin the transaction only to hear a loud and angry voice ring out:
"Incompetent cashier! Hold it! You're being rude to people standing in line."
My store, WiliamsSonoma in the Burlington (MA) Mall, has a centrally located "cash wrap desk" with four registers, facing in two directions. Customers generally form two lines, one on each side of the desk.
As the screamer was speaking, I scanned the one item held by the customer before me. The beautifully dressed woman asked whether she should leave the front and stand at the end of the line. "I thought this was like the supermarket, where you stand at a cashier." She was embarrassed and humble, sure signs that she had made an honest mistake. I told her since her transaction was simple and already begun, I would just ring her in and assured her it was alright, that she had made an honest mistake.
The loud mouth, a short thick-set woman with an broad unattractive face, screamed, "Listen, bitch, you are apologizing to the wrong person. Don't apologize to her, she's helping you be rude. Apologize to me."
The lovely woman in the peach sweater apologized, probably a bit afraid for her life.
At that point, the second person in line went to the other cashier to my left and I took the loud mouth, smiling broadly and saying, "I'm sorry,but I had a complicated transaction and I often don't look up when the store is busy."
"save your lies for someone who believes them," she screamed.
The woman presented three pieces of merchandise, a paper gift certificate which we formerly issued and a new gift card. I looked at the stuff and said that I would ring in the paper certificate first.
"Because it is older."
"No, you won't. Use the card first."
"Although I can not imagine why you want me to do this, I will but it is not logical."
"Do as I say, the customer is always right."
She held back several other pieces of merchandise and frazzled me so that I forgot the sequence for ringing in the 10% discount card that accompanies holiday season purchases of gift cards and had to void the sale. I told her to fill out the form authorizing the discount. She scribbled a name that looked like JOANN HYMEN, then drew a line through the mailing info space. Since I could not believe her name was Hymen, I asked her spell it.
She said put what I wanted to as she wanted no mail from us. I was tempted to write Ima Pig with an address of 4 UR Difficult and the control needed not to type that in made me shake.
A colleague, who happens to be Chinese, spoke to her in defense of me and she told him he had no policy making ability. The way she spoke, I could tell she stopped just before calling him a chink.
When I re-issued a merchandise voucher for the change, she demaned cash. I said that I could give $10 or less in cash, not the $40 she had coming. She demanded a manager, screamed and called me names.
Other customers started ridiculing her.
I hope she is on able to know.
I wonder whether she was simply an insane bitch or whether she was creating a distraction while a partner shop lifted.
I've worked in retail. Sometimes customers can make you so angry, that you wish you could just tell them where to put it. I have learned that some people are just plain cranky and probably very unhappy souls. This woman probably upsets people everywhere she goes, so don't take it personally.
Perhaps she was a "Secret Shopper" from company headquarters, checking to see how you handled difficult customers?
If so, you may have earned a tangible bonus as well as gold stars in your heavenly crown.
Hold your dominion.
"Secret shoppers" are not allowed to be offensive in any way. Do you know some secret shoppers have hidden video cameras on their persons?
Perhaps the fates swapped karma and gave you a nasty shopper instead of a drunken driver?
PoM - what a hideous creature!
They have secret shoppers?
Where I worked we called them "Edward Shoppers," because that was the corporate owners name. Some of these people would stick out like a soar thumb, and tended to be in need of acting lessons.
Oy veh! Customers! Don't start me.
You poor lovey!
Now see, if you were working in a restaurant you could have spit in her food. (OK, I AM just kidding... but it IS nice to dream of ways to get back at those kinds of customers.)
Just be glad you're not her -- she has to spend all her time being with her own nasty self.
You handled the situation very well! It's better not to tell the customer what you think of them because you'll come up with many more creative insults later that are sure to give you a smile.
No doubt, Piffka..
Some people are just born miserable and are not happy 'til were all aboard.
The question is what was her game?
when I was in college, I worked as a cashier at the JLHudson company during my senior year. A man bought shoes for his child and paid with a check, giving as identification his driver's license and his faculty identification card at Wayne State University. As he wrote his check, he remarked to his wife that the shoes were quite nice. His wife launched into a tirade about a woman, and although she gave this woman a definite name, I don't remember it, who told, "J. L. Hudson what prices to charge for things" whose "pants were full of piddle." The woman then began marching back and forth to all of the cash registers, yelling "piddle pants" and kicking over waste baskets. The husband sighed, made no eye contact, accepted his receipt and his merchandise. This woman was obviously crazy and, at the time, I my heart went out to the man. The other employees were concerned about me and how I felt after dealing with her.
Looking back, I wonder whether the man was able to leave his children with her while he worked. They seemed to be school age kids, but how did he handle after school? Did they have help? This was the 60s when day care did not exist, or at least, was not widely evident.
While the woman from Saturday wasn't as extreme as the woman from long ago (possibly, because medications are better today), there was a similiarity in the way the outbursts were triggered.
...possibly, because medications are better today...
lol -- Maybe that's it!
I hope these incidents are the only ones you ever have to deal with. I'm sure many customers are jerks. It wish your store offered some way to interact with them so that you would feel more empowered and less abused. It is awful for the other customers as well and not a good store policy to allow it.
If a customer is abusive, they can be escorted from the store, but only by a manager. I wish I knew that when this woman came up to the desk. The lead sales who acted as floor supervisor gave into her just to get rid of her and that is like re-inforcing a toddler's tantrum.
Well, that's good news... there is a policy in place.
(Bad that it wasn't handled that way by the lead sales person.)
This reminds me of when I was in college and worked as a hospital cashier part time. People had to deal with their bill as they left the hospital. We would figure out what the insurance would pay on the charges and people had to write checks for the difference or make a payment plan in another office. This was not a happymaking situation - in the time just before credit cards came into use - to be a cashier in. Not only did people have to pay serious money, they were often still sick. I remember having cash thrown in my face.
On this recent woman, POM, I am wondering about the old and new certificate cards; I am not clear. Were they rung up separately for separate items and the one with the most value used for the least pricey item so that she would get cash back? Anyway, you handled it well.
Holy jumpin!!!! You did good. I don't think I would have handled it as well.
Until this fall, WilliamsSonoma issued paper gift certificates, however, since the "industry standard" is the plastic gift card, the chain switched to gift cards.
When we had the paper certificates, we could return change up to $20 in cash. Because it is easier to register a balance with the plastic cards, we now can return amounts up to $9.99.
This woman had a paper certificate from the previous Christmas and a plastic card from this most recent Christmas. Both were worth $75. She bought about $110 worth of merchandise.
I have been thinking of other bad customers and decided this woman was not the worst I have seen, only the worst I have dealt with. When I started at the store, one of the lead sales was a young woman of 26. A natural blonde with blue eyes and a flawless complexion, she had a size four figure and regular features. In other words, attractive by most people's standards. She also graduated from Johnson and Wales and could discuss culinary matters with customers with great authority. At the end of a particularly long transaction, the customer, a man, thanked her for her pleasant demeanor. "It helps, because you sure are ugly." She replied, "Thank you, sir. Have a nice day." I did not hear this exchange but my daughter, who was Christmas help, did. Whether he was trying to be ironic (doubtful) or whether he really found her repulsive, is unknown, but working in retail is not fun and people like these make it less so.