Getting Cagey About Buying A Pet

, , , , , | Right | November 29, 2017

(I am a manager at a pet store. One day when I come back from my lunch break, another manager approaches me.)

Manager: “Hey, we kind of have a situation. There’s a family here that came in looking for hamsters, but they’re not really listening to any of us. We told them that they can’t mix different species of hamsters together, and they can’t put a hamster in with a guinea pig, but they have these two boys that both want something different.”

Me: “Can’t they buy two different cages?”

Manager: “They don’t seem really interested in doing that. I told them that they might be able to put together two hamsters that grew up together, but I don’t know. Hamsters are territorial, so it’s just not a good idea. Plus, the boys keep changing their minds on what they want, and [Employee] is kind of uncomfortable selling to them. Could you go over there and back her up? I really need to do the fish count before my shift ends.”

(I find the family with [Employee]. The family consists of two young boys and three adults who I’m guessing are the mom, dad, and grandfather.)

Me: “Hi! What are you thinking of getting today?”

Grandfather: “Well, we aren’t really sure. We were kind of thinking maybe a guinea pig?”

Boy #1: “I want a hamster.”

Boy #2: “I want a guinea pig!”

Me: “Were you guys thinking of getting two different cages?”

Grandfather: “We don’t really know. What do you think?”

Me: “Honestly, I think your best bet would be to get some of our care guides and take them home. They are free brochures that list how to take care of our different animals, so you could look over them and compare the different pets you like. That way, you’ll have time to think about it and really make sure you know which animal you want. You really don’t want to buy a pet on impulse, you know? Guinea pigs live for seven years.”

Boy #2: “Wow! That’s a long time!”

Me: “Yep! So, it’s a really big commitment.”

Dad: “We’re not going to abandon it! We take good care of our pets! We keep them until they die, and then we bury them in our yard!”

Mom: “Okay, it sounds like we need to take you boys home and really think about what animal you want, okay?”

(I figure the situation is resolved and go track down the other manager, who is visibly relieved when I tell her that I talked them out of getting a pet today. Other than the weird defensive outburst from the dad, I personally didn’t really see any red flags from the family myself, but I definitely trust my coworkers’ judgment. The family hangs around for a while. I later see them talking with [Employee] again, and they eventually leave the store empty-handed. Ten minutes later, I get paged to the front, where the mother is waiting.)

Mom: “I want to talk to a manager!”

Me: “I’m the manager. How can I help you?”

Mom: “My family came in to get a guinea pig, and everything was going fine. We had all kinds of employees coming and talking to us, and it was really good customer service. But then your employee told us that we have to buy the cage first and get the guinea pig tomorrow! Now my boy is crying in the parking lot! How are you supposed to tell a seven-year-old that he has to wait until tomorrow?”

(Right on cue, the two boys come back into the store, both dry-faced. They try to give me the puppy eyes, but it has no effect.)

Me: “Did [Employee] give you a reason why you have to get the cage first and the guinea pig tomorrow?”

Mom: “Yes! She said it was less stressful for the guinea pig to do it that way!”

Me: “She’s right! We like to recommend that people get the cage first. That way you have plenty of time to set it up and have it ready, so the pet isn’t stuck in a box for a long time–“

Mom: “I’ve never heard of that! You know what? We’ll just take our business elsewhere!”

(She ushers out her two boys, looking furious that I sided with my employee over her. Another ten minutes later, the dad comes in.)

Dad: “Where’s the other manager? The one who was counting fish?”

Me: “She went home half an hour ago. I’m the only manager left today.”

(He walks out, and the family finally leaves our parking lot. My dog trainer, who overheard my conversation with the mom, later approaches me.)

Dog Trainer: “You know the answer to her question? The one about how to tell a seven-year-old that he can’t have a guinea pig today?” *squats down until she’s eye-level with an imaginary child* “NO!”


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