In The Game Of Customers, You Win Or You Buy

, , , | Right | May 4, 2019

(My store’s return policy is sixty days. We used to be lax about this and accept returns even outside of that timeframe, but because of how many customers abused this policy, corporate decided we were losing too much money and tightened the policy. Now, if someone comes in with a return that is more than sixty days old, the registers physically will not allow us to process the return, and not even the store manager can override this. When I see a customer come in saying she’d like to make a return, and she pulls out a model of purse that I recognize as being several months old, I think I can predict how the conversation is going to go. I’ve been through it many times by now.)

Customer: “I bought this bag as a gift for my mom a few months ago, and she doesn’t like how the zipper works, so I’d like to return it.”

(She demonstrates that the zipper is a little tough to get started, but still zips up just fine after the first half-inch or so.)

Me: “Okay, just so you know our return policy is sixty days, so if you bought it a few months ago, it may be outside of policy. But let me double check on the register.”

(I scan the bag, and sure enough, a screen pops up telling me that it’s been more than sixty days since the bag has been purchased. Sighing internally, I launch into my usual spiel about how I’m so sorry, but unfortunately, since the bag is outside of our return policy, we can’t process the return, there is nothing we can do, blah blah blah…)

Customer: “But I bought this as a gift for my mom and she doesn’t like it. The zipper doesn’t work. Can’t I at least get store credit or something?”

Me: “Unfortunately, no. Again, the register freezes us out; we physically cannot process the return.”

Customer: *sternly now* “Can I talk to a manager?”

(Using all my willpower not to roll my eyes at the customer, I call my manager up to the registers. The manager arrives and the customer explains the situation again, and again demonstrates the zipper which, despite sticking a little at first, still works perfectly. I expect my manager to repeat what I just said, but instead, she hands me the phone.)

Manager: “Can you call internal customer service and see if they’ll process the return, since the zipper is broken?”

(Utterly defeated to see a pushy customer getting her way, but knowing there’s nothing I can do at this point, I make the call. While I’m explaining the situation to the customer service rep, the customer picks up her very young child, who, up until this point has been sitting in her stroller shrieking loudly over our entire conversation. The child, who can’t be more than two or three years old, finally quiets down in her mother’s arms, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to get through the rest of the transaction a little more calmly now. No such luck.)

Customer Service Rep: “Because the product is defective, I can process the return for you. What is the customer’s loyalty program number?”

Me: *gesturing to the customer, who has wandered off at this point* “Ma’am, are you a member of our rewards program?”

Customer: *coming back to my register* “No, I’m not.”

Me: *to the rep* “She doesn’t have a membership. Will that be a problem?”

Customer Service Rep: “No, I just need some info off the receipt.”

(We go through and get the purchase amount, transaction number, and a few other pieces of info so the rep can pull up the transaction from her records. Meanwhile, the customer has decided to stay near my register, still holding her daughter, which is honestly a relief, because I don’t have to flag her down again if I need more info from her.)

Customer Service Rep: “Okay, I can submit the return, but because it is outside our return policy, the customer will need to create a loyalty account so that we can make all the proper notation.”

(I look up to pass this on to the customer and see that her daughter has grabbed a necklace off of a nearby jewelry display and is chewing on it. Assuming it’s a necklace the customer is planning on buying, I choose not to say anything. I explain to the customer that we need to make a loyalty account for her, and ask her for her ID so I can get the needed info for it — full name, address, etc. She hands me her ID, and I pass the info onto the rep, until it comes time to get her phone number and email, which, of course, are not on her ID. Just then, I hear a loud crash and look up to see that her daughter has pulled down a small rack of necklaces off the jewelry display. One necklace shatter, and beads fly everywhere. While two coworkers rush to clean up the mess I, in shock now, do the only thing I can think to do: get the customer’s attention again so I can finish processing the return.)

Customer Service Rep: *after I give her the customer’s phone and email* “Okay, I’ve put the return through. Please let the customer know that we will email her a receipt, and that she should see the refund posted to her account within three to five business days after that. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

Me: “No, thank you. That’s all I needed.”

(I hung up and looked up just in time to see the customer take the necklace that her daughter had been chewing on for the last several minutes and place it, toddler-slobber and all, back in the jewelry display it had come from. Dumbfounded, and honestly just trying to get this lady out of the store as quickly as possible, I explained to her what the rep had told me. She thanked me and left. Once she was gone, we had to damage out the bag, as well as the necklace her daughter broke and the one she slobbered on. And we had to search that whole area of the store for stray beads so that no one would slip on them. All in all, between the return and the two damaged necklaces, she cost us over $150. I hate when the customers win.)

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