Tuesday, June 2, 2009

She Said What?

When I was in high school, I worked in retail. First I worked as a cashier in the neighborhood supermarket, then I moved on and worked in a stationery store for a number of years. When I was in college, I worked summers at Old Navy and then as a receptionist in a hair salon. Through it all, I was always taught one thing by the person I worked for - always treat the customer nicely, even if they are the worst customer you've ever had. Smart thing to teach to someone who works for you in retail, someone who is representing you to your customers. It really should be the number one rule in any retail store. Today really had me wondering.

A few months ago, I went into this store with Camryn and my mom. Camryn is 3 years old and wants to touch things. Okay, she wants to touch everything. I tell her no, show her what she can and can't touch, always teach her to treat other people's things with respect and she's generally okay. This time, she was fine and we were there for a long time. The woman who worked there was very nice to us and to Camryn, talked to her, played a little, just generally nice. We bought our stuff, spent a significant amount of money and left.

This morning I realized I need to get gifts for Camryn's teachers and figured I'd go back to that store, but this time, it was just me and Camryn. As soon as we walked in, it was a different experience. Same lady working there, only this time, well, she wasn't all that nice. She was clearly less than thrilled that Camryn was in the store, even though she wasn't misbehaving in any way. I asked her where I could find good teacher gifts and she waved her hand toward a corner and said, "There's stationery over there," and then turned around and walked away to sit behind the cash register. Thanks for the help. I looked around a little bit and Camryn saw a small teddy bear sitting on a teddy bear sized couch next to a display of shoes and sat down to play with it. She was sitting very nicely and playing for about 5 minutes when she got up to tell me something and accidentally left the teddy bear on the floor instead of seating it back on it's chair. Before I could even tell her to put the teddy bear back on the chair, the woman comes out from behind the register in huff, comes over to me and says pretty loudly, "You know, she really can't just leave these things on the floor like that." Wow, really? I said to her, "I was just about to tell her to put them back, sorry," but before I could, she rolled her eyes and picked up the teddy bear, bringing it behind the cash register with her so Camryn couldn't touch it again.

As tempted as I was to just walk out the door, they did have gifts I wanted to buy at pretty decent prices, so I picked up Camryn and held her the rest of the time I did my shopping. All 31 pounds of her. I picked out three gifts for her teachers (you can see them here and here) as well as a pair of shoes for me (greatest flip-flops ever) and brought everything to the counter. I waited about 10 minutes while she helped another woman and then it was our turn. She rang our items up, we paid and she handed me the shopping bag. Unfortunately, my credit card decided that they needed additional authorization on this transaction so she had to call the credit card company to get the number to put the charge through. Transaction done, thank you - I really couldn't wait to get out of the store.

"Oh, wait," the woman says. "I forgot to add this," holding up (of course) the most important teacher gift that we had wanted to buy. She then goes on to say, "You don't really need it, do you?"

What?? Yes, she really did say that. If you think you didn't read that correctly (because I certainly thought I didn't hear it correctly), she said "You don't really need it, do you?"

"Yes, actually I do need to buy it," I told her.

Her reply? "Really? You know we're going to have to go through this whole thing all over again, right?" By whole thing she meant swiping my credit card. I didn't realize it was that hard to do.

Now the ridiculousness of the whole transaction is killing me, because I am about 98% ready do say forget it and just walk out the door. But that would mean taking Camryn to yet another store, picking something out, paying - basically going through this whole day again, just for one thing that I had already picked out! Talk about frustrating - I'm thinking about how I am standing here, holding Camryn and trying to explain to this woman why I need to buy something I had only not bought the first time due to an error that she made!

Biting my tongue, I said, again, "I do need to buy it," and she rolled her eyes and rang it up. When I was done, I took my things and walked out the door.

I know I'm not alone in having a bad experience in a retail store, but this annoyed me on a few levels. First and foremost, this employee was no teenager. Although she behaved like she was about 16 years old, she was a grown woman, probably in her early to mid 60s. Certainly she should know proper manners. Second, the last time I was in this store and spent a significant amount of money, she didn't care that Camryn was playing with a teddy bear on the floor. This time, it seemed like she couldn't be bothered with my lower spending. Right now, one side of my mind says that I should never step foot in this store again, while the other side says that I probably will find myself there again because of the things they sell.

At the end of the day, what did I learn? Something not so new - some people just aren't that nice. Or maybe she was having a bad day. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but this one is tough. As a business owner, I like to think that the people who are out there representing me are treating people the way that I would think they should be treated. But I do know that one person's bad experience with a business can cause that business to lose more than the one customer, a situation I'd never want to be in myself.


  1. Wow, that was pretty bad. I think I would have been tempted to find one more thing that I wanted to buy after she'd finished the 2nd transaction. I'm a stinker that way.

  2. Yikes, that interaction would tempt me to write a letter to the owner. Unless she was the owner... ;) I'm totally with you about the importance of good customer service - we're a dying bread! Take care!

  3. I think I'd write a letter. Seriously. That's INANE.

  4. I would totally write a letter.. or call.. or do both.. that is terrible..

  5. All I have to say is good thing it wasn't me because I'd have been far too stubborn to give them nickel of my money after being treated that way.


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