Systemic Failure

, , , , | Working | July 15, 2018

(I work in customer service, where I mostly process returns. Our return system is slightly different, depending on whether or not returned items are marked out of inventory. Due to an update on the return system, employees are encouraged to use a manual backup system to process mark-out returns. Once the system is updated, both systems are still in place, and there is no clear consensus on which one employees should use. It’s a minor issue that doesn’t change anything from a customer’s perspective, but since several of my supervisors can’t agree on which system to use, it’s been a huge hassle for customer service staff, leading to some uncomfortable interactions in front of customers. During this interaction, I’m in the middle of running a return for a customer who also wants to order a replacement. Early in the interaction, it comes out that the return item is used, meaning I need to mark it out of inventory. It’s also worth noting that, though I’ve been working this job for a while at several locations, I have a very young face, so it can be hard to get customers to take me seriously.)

Me: “All right, sir, if I could just have you sign on the pin-pad real quick to authorize the return to your card. Oh, [Supervisor], do you have a second?”

Supervisor: *bypassing me entirely* “Sure! What seems to be the issue here, sir?”

Me: “Um… There’s no issue here. I was just running this mark-out return, and I was wondering if you wanted me to mark the item in the backup spreadsheet, as well as the new system. [Supervisor #2] told me last week the new system was up and running, but since [Supervisor #3] told me yesterday to use the backup, too–”

Supervisor: “Oh, I see. Well, first, you’re going to have to cancel this transaction.” *to the customer* “Sorry about this, sir, but I am going to have you press that red button there, instead. It looks like it didn’t go through the right way in our system the first time around.”

Customer: *confused* “Oh, okay.” *cancels the refund*

Supervisor: “Yes, perfect! All right, [My Name], so what you’re going to do is…”

(She keeps talking, walking me through the return I just ran. In the end, she has me print out a pre-refund receipt to show the customer before having him sign, a cosmetic choice that changes nothing about the return. At the end of it, she leaves me to deal with the second part of the customer’s transaction without answering my question.)

Customer: *slowly* “So… I guess this place has a high turnover rate, huh?”

Me: *annoyed and trying not to show it* “Not really, no.”

Customer: *still trying to figure me out* “Right. Do you usually work in this department?”

Me: “Yes, sir, I’m one of our full-time customer service staff.”

(At this point, a store manager happens to be walking by my station. I flag her down just as the customer is signing for his order.)

Me: “Hey, [Manager]. I’m running this order exchange here, and I had to mark this item out of inventory. I’ve already marked it out in the new system, but should I mark it out in the backup spreadsheet, too?”

Manager: “Nope, the new system’s finally good to go! If you wanted to use the spreadsheet, you still could, but it’s a little redundant at this point.”

Me: “Yeah, I figured, but I wasn’t sure. Thanks!”

(I turn back to my customer to give him his receipt. He has the grace to look a little sheepish.)

Customer: *pointing at my supervisor across the room* “She didn’t answer your question at all, did she?”

Me: “Not in the slightest.”

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