Hello, America. Yes, I'm talking to you. It's time we had a chat. Can we all just sit down and pay attention for a minute? Put your iPhone on silent (or at least vibrate), put down the TV remote and turn off the Xbox. This is important.
When was the last time something went awry during one of your shopping ventures? Maybe you couldn't find what you were looking for. Maybe your coupon had expired. (Oh, the horror.) Maybe the cashier accidentally scanned something twice and you didn't notice until you got home.
We've all been there.
How do you tend to respond to these unforeseeable roadblocks?
I hope that, for the sake of everyone within your immediate vicinity, you do not respond like this woman. I'll call her "Linda."
You see, I had the misfortune of meeting Linda a few days ago. Linda spent a little over two hours trying on jeans, swimwear and a random assortment of summer apparel at a particular fashion retail store. This might have annoyed her preteen daughter, but the poor girl was too busy trying on school uniform pants and shirts. Together, they wreaked havoc upon the fitting room, leaving a trail of unwanted apparel, discarded tissue paper and broken hangers in their wake -- a mess so large it took two associates to remedy it.
Before reaching the register, Linda managed to verbally lash out at three separate associates for the store being out of a particular item and for two of her items not being on sale until the following weekend -- all in front of her daughter. Little did I know that I would be the next innocent bystander slated to endure her apparent socially-uninhibited wrath.
As she barreled toward the front of the store, nearing what we in the retail business like to call the "cash wrap," Linda stopped to pick up an additional five items. She was unresponsive to our customary friendly greeting: Hi, how are you doing, ma'am? Were you able to find everything okay today? In fact, she barely made eye contact, but did grumble under her breath about the store not having her size in a particular pair of jeans.
Linda and her daughter had accumulated over $300 worth of merchandise (which included several sale price items.) Upon hearing her total, Linda didn't bat an eyelash and proceeded to pull out her iPhone to retrieve a digital coupon from her e-mail inbox. The coupon was good for $30 off of a purchase of $75 or more and was exclusive to our cardholders. As a cardholder discount, it will only work if the items are purchased with said credit card.
Linda was smart enough to know this. She was also smart enough to know that we always check ID for credit cards. Linda was your average white middle-aged woman. The woman on Linda's driver's lisence, however, was obviously in her eighties.
"Is this your card, ma'am?"
"No, it's my mother's card. Most of what I'm buying today is actually for her. She just wasn't feeling up to getting out today."
"Oh, I completely understand, ma'am. Unfortunately, I won't be able to let you pay with this card unless your mother is here with you. That's just our corporate card policy. Do you have an alternate form of payment you would like to use today?"
"What? I don't understand. I have her ID and her card. And you're telling me that I can't use it?"
"Yes, ma'am. I really am sorry. It's just our policy. If you like, I can put your merchandise on hold until tomorrow."
This is where things went south.
"What kind of f*cking sh*t is this? This discount is the whole reason she's letting me use her card. No, I don't want to put anything on hold. Can I call her and put you on the phone with her? She'll tell you it's her card."
"I'm sorry, ma'am. We're not allowed to do that either. She has to be physically present with her ID and her card."
"That's f*cking ridiculous! I do this here all the time and I've never had a problem! Are you new?"
"No, ma'am. I've been with the company for over five years. I'm sorry, but any associate who has let this slide for you should honestly be fired. It's our corporate card policy."
Linda's uniquely sophisticated use of the English language caught the ear of a passing manager, who calmly assessed the situation and essentially repeated everything I had already told this customer from Hell.
Linda didn't care that the information was now coming from someone with more authority. She also, apparently, did not like the fact that this manager was black.
"It's just the color of my skin, isn't it? That's why you aren't going to let me use this card! It's just the f*cking color of my skin! You know if it was one of your cousins up in here, you would let them do this! If it was one of your f*cking cousins, you wouldn't have a problem! I just came in with the wrong color skin today! It's why I can't ever get decent customer service anywhere! This is some racist bullsh*t!"
Is this really where we are as a society? Credit card policies are now racist? And in Linda's case, the policy was only suddenly racist when it was repeated by someone of a different ethnicity.
Linda, perhaps the reason you cannot get "decent customer service" anywhere you go, is because you behave like a hateful, malicious person. Maybe you get horrible customer service because you're a horrible customer.
I understand that in the world of retail "the customer is always right." I've worked in this world for over 12 years. Trust me, I get it. But that doesn't give you the right to behave like a psychopath when something doesn't go the way that you think it should. It doesn't give you the right to use profanity around your daughter and other customers. And it absolutely doesn't give you the right to accuse someone of being racist just for doing their job.
You may have left the store thinking "At least I gave them a piece of my mind," but honestly, Linda, people like you usually provide entertainment and humor for store associates. You'll be the topic of their break room conversations for the next three days.
We all run in to unforeseeable shopping annoyances every now and then. But most of us manage to handle those situations with maturity and, well, sanity. Most of us don't feel the need to berate a cashier who was just following corporate policy -- a policy that he or she could be fired for violating.
Maybe you get terrible customer service because you behave like a terrible person.
If you're still reading this post, you can turn your cell phone back on now.
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