Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Two-Way Street

If you have ever worked in retail, you know that customer service is one of your most important responsibilities. You need to build rapport with each customer, approach them with a smile and a friendly greeting, offer help in any way, and take all the bull s*&t they throw your way. Wait... Why the last part?

I'm not referring to the part where you have to take it, because honestly, you kind of do. The customer is always right, almost. It's rare where there is a case where they are not, so you pretty much always do have to take the shit they throw your way. But I'm referring to the fact that some of these monkeys are picking their butts and deciding to direct their shit at you. That's just unfair.

I have countless stories I could share, including ones from my time as a Telemarketer(I dealt with English "shit" and Spanish "mierda") or at my current retail escapades at Whole Foods. But I have a had a few from my current job that have just shocked me that some people ask for help in the ways that they do, making sure to degrade you as much as they can before requesting a favor.

(Please know that in no way does it ever anger me. I'm not an expert, but my studies in communication make these experiences fascinating for me so I am pretty good at the whole "smile and nod" thing)

Yesterday a tiny, ancient Asian(Chinese I believe) woman approached me and asked me if we have Organic Chai concentrate. I told her I knew we had conventional, but would have to check for the organic. Unfortunately for her, we did not. So in response to this, she slowly got down on one knee and started removing all of the conventional Tazo brand Chai concetrate containers from the shelf and setting them on the floor, absolutely sure the organic version had to be there somewhere. As I assured her that we didn't have any because there wasn't a price tag for it, here are some of the responses:

"I drive very long way for organic chai,"
"How can you no have organic chai? Ridiculous"
"What wrong with this store,"

(Those are direct quotes, not racist embellishments. It just makes for an even more interesting story, adding some comedy to the insults)

I'm pretty sure she even accused me of having some incapacity as well, but who knows. Once she was convinced I wasn't lying, just incompetent, she begrudgingly left.

The other one that got me, though, was back in the heart of the holidays, a time where all customers are on the tops of their respective bull shit games. A woman called to place a special order(a service we offer where customers can order a case of a product and get 10% off the whole case). At that time, this service was very inefficient, and actually this interaction caused me to take responsibility of this part of our department and it is now a very efficient service. I'm not asking for applause, however, anyone would have done this if they spoke to this woman.

Anyway, the woman called and instantly I could tell she was going to be a fun one. She started telling me how she had been ordering this specific cereal for about 6 months(a case a month) and every time it was a hassle. She would never get it when it was promised her, information was lost, wrong cereal was ordered, blah blah blah. She started rattling off names, all venomously pronounced, and that's where I'll pick up her quote:

"I've spoken to Charlie. I've spoken to Zach. I've spoken to Andrew, Chad, James, and I don't know how many others. I must have gone through you're whole department. What's your name? Jeremy? I mean seriously Jeremy, you can't all be this stupid!"

Yeah, she said it. I covered the receiver and my throat began to grind in my pathetic attempts to stifle my laugh. She may have caught a little bit of it, because it was so hard to control. Still covering the receiver, I told Andrew what she said and his eyes went ballistic as he told me to hang up. I told him to calm down, that this kind of experience is gold to me, and I would handle it. 

I got all of her requests, clear and concise, and had the product ordered quickly. We got it faster than she had ever had before but I didn't get to see how she acted when she got it. Very entitled, I presume. 

Lesson is though, most people will react like Andrew, and they have a right too. There are more responsibilities to a retail job than most can understand, so when interacting with "us who can only hold a job at a grocery store," know that we are people too and when you are friendly, we will do what we can to make your experience better. Customer service is a two way street, customers.   

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