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Customers Have A Very Particular Set Of Skills… They Will Find You…

, , , | Right | May 22, 2022

I took a job working as a buyers’ assistant at the corporate offices of a major retail chain. We have stores all over the US, Canada, and Europe under six or seven names, and our stores sell mainly clothing and/or home products. My buyers all buy for the stores that only carry home products.

I normally have no contact with customers. I don’t work in the retail division of the chain, I’m not in customer service or support, and customers generally shouldn’t know about me at all. And yet…

One of my buyers forwarded me an email from one of the vendors she buys furniture from. The vendor had forwarded an email from a customer, who was complaining about a set of the vendor’s chairs that she had bought from one of the other stores in our chain.

My buyer just wanted me to find our branch’s customer service phone number and send it to the vendor, asking her to instruct the customer to contact them. I did this and expected it to be the end of it.

I found out a few days later that after not being satisfactorily helped by our customer service — maybe because she didn’t buy the product at our store and it wasn’t one of our purchase orders but another division’s? — the vendor gave the customer my contact information. You can guess that I wasn’t happy about that.

The customer emailed me and wanted me to refund her money. I informed her that I could only direct her to customer service or the manager of the store where she bought the items, as I am not the customer service department, have nothing to do with money or store operations, and frankly, have no real authority within the company.

She replied that if she could just get the chairs that were damaged replaced, she’d be on her merry way. So, she said, I should look up what other stores were carrying these chairs, and if that didn’t work, I should get the vendor to send her some.

I let her know that I was unable to do this and, again, referred her to customer service or the store manager.

She left a very angry voicemail informing me that I needed to fix this and asking why there wasn’t a warranty. I called her back and (thankfully) reached her voicemail. I left a responding message, letting her know that we cannot offer warranties because we do not make the furniture, and we often buy closeouts, meaning we buy a very limited stock from our vendors. And because it’s closeout, not only is it limited stock, but often, the vendor won’t be making more.

Again, I referred her to customer service and/or the store manager, explaining that because I was not in the customer service division myself, I was unable to assist in any other way with this matter. Per my supervisor’s advice, I suggested she try to get her money back, as we do have a generous return policy at our stores, especially for defective merchandise, or possibly contact the vendor again, requesting replacement parts. She didn’t call me back (again, thankfully).

I was nothing but polite during these exchanges, but there was really nothing I could do about it. I’m not supposed to have contact with customers at all, and again, these chairs didn’t even come from the store division I am employed in. Frankly, I was still unhappy that the vendor gave the customer my contact information.

What did I receive a few days later?

An email forwarded from the vendor, from the customer. It read that we had all been very rude to her and that there was no reason we shouldn’t have been able to help her. We gave her terrible customer service, the chairs were shoddy, and — ready for this? — she was going to sue both the vendor and my company.

I guess we’ll see what happens with that.

Question of the Week

What is the absolute most stupid thing you’ve heard a customer say?

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