Some Customers Never Change

, , , | Right | November 5, 2018

(I work in one of the two local branches of a nationwide pet shop company. About the time I started, they were bringing out a loyalty card, one of the selling points being a discount voucher in the welcome pack, but often people mistake it to mean the card gave them the discount whenever they used it. This story is two instances of the same customer, around two or three years after I began working. The customer in question is a middle-aged, reasonably well-dressed lady. She’s hurriedly tying up one of the clear plastic bags we use to put live aquarium plants in when customers buy them. I notice her hands are wet, which means she’s ignored the various notices saying to ask for help with the plants and asking customers to not put their hands into the water.)

Me: *ignoring the plant thing* “Hi there! Have you found everything you needed?”

(This has been part of my training from day one, to always greet customers coming to the till with a question like this, and our customer feedback suggests that a lot of people appreciate it, and a number of customers will either suddenly remember something, or ask for assistance with something they couldn’t find.)

Customer #1: *suddenly defensive and haughty* “What kind of question is that to ask?!”

Me: “I’m sorry?”

Customer #1: “Is that what they train you to ask?! That’s incredibly rude! It’s almost like you’re suggesting we’re incapable of shopping by ourselves! This is horrendous customer service! I wish I could complain to your head office about this!”

(This prompts me to keep very quiet about our online customer surveys.)

Me: *choosing to brush the whole thing off* “Okay, I’m sorry for that. Do you have a [loyalty card] to swipe, please?” *swipes card as it’s presented* “So, that’s three plants? Okay, that’s [amount] altogether, please.”

Customer #1: “What? No, it isn’t; it should be cheaper!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but the multi-buy deal on these plants has always been [amount].”

Customer #1: “No! The card means I get [discount amount] off!”

Me: “Ah, no, sorry. That’s just the one-off voucher you get in your welcome pack. The card itself doesn’t give you a discount; it validates the money off vouchers you’re sent.”

(She then proceeds to huffily pay the full price for the plants, and leaves. I turn to the till next to me, where my coworker and her customer are staring at me, dumbfounded.)

Coworker: “What was her problem? I was embarrassed for you, there! I’ve never heard anyone complain about being asked if they’ve found everything before…”

(A few months go by before the second incident. I’m just beginning to put a customer’s items through the till when the woman from before comes up, moves to the other side of the till from the lady I’m serving, and drops a wet, clear, plastic bag with aquarium plants in on the counter. Once more, her hands are wet.)

Customer #1: “These three plants. They’re [amount]!”

(She places the correct change onto the counter.)

Me: “I’m sorry, but I’m in the middle of serving this lady here.”

Customer #1: “I’ve given you the correct change! Just put it in the till!”

Me: “Sorry, no, I need to put the plants through the tills and give you a receipt.”

Customer #1: “Hmph, you can do that after you’ve finished serving her.”

(I decide that arguing with the woman is going to get me nowhere, so I finish the other woman’s transaction in silence, and put the money for the plants into the till when it opens. The first customer takes her plants and triumphantly scuttles out of the doors. I turn to the customer I was originally serving to pass her the receipt for her items and begin putting the plants into the till, with as apologetic a look as I can manage after that.)

Customer #2: *looking shocked, worrying me into thinking I am about to get chewed out for this* “Well! Wasn’t she rude?”

Me: *exasperated* “Thank you! Not just me that thought it, then?”

(I have never seen [Customer #1] since… fortunately. But, having spoken to my manager, she has confirmed that I can refuse to serve her and call someone else to serve in the tills.)

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