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If It Drives, It’s Fine

, , , , | Working | June 24, 2022

This happened in the 1990s in a country that used to be in the Warsaw pact. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Western firms would go east to seek new markets; however, since information between the east and west was restricted for decades, there were some stereotypes. One such stereotype was that eastern people would try and get as much of the fruits of capitalism as possible — huge houses, shiny cars, cool new machines, etc. My father was working for a western company that sold industrial printers.

My father was the IT guy, and he was tasked with fixing customers’ printers that they had purchased at the company. Since he didn’t have a car of his own, he would use public transport or the salespeople would have to drive him across the country. After gathering some data about how much time and money this arrangement cost, he put in a request with management for either a raise to afford a car of his own or at least a company car.

A few weeks after the request, the head of the car fleet came up to him.

Fleet Guy: “Are you that IT guy who requested a company car?”

Dad: “Yeah.”

Fleet Guy: “Management told me to get you a brand new car. I can order it today, but it will take months to get it.”

Dad: “Better than nothing, I guess.”

Fleet Guy: “Also, one of the salespeople quit, so his car is currently unused.”

Dad: “Can I get it?”

Fleet Guy: “Management needs to sign off on it, and they insist you get the new car.”

So my dad went to management. 

Dad: “I heard you have a car available. Can I have it?”

Manager: “You mean the salesperson’s car? It’s used; we’re getting you a new one.”

Dad: “Wouldn’t that take forever?”

Manager: “But it’s brand new.”

Dad: “What’s wrong with me taking the car that’s available right now?”

Manager: “It’s used.”

Dad: “According to the fleet guy, it works perfectly. That’s good enough for me.”

Manager: “But it’s used. We can get you a brand new one.”

Dad: “I don’t care if it’s new, or fast, or fancy. I need it as a tool to get to the customers to do my job.”

Manager: “But… it’s used. How can anyone accept a used car?”

Dad: “Just let me use the used car until you get the new one.”

Manager: “that can work. But will you be okay driving around a used car?”

Later, my dad was talking to the fleet guy.

Fleet Guy: “Management signed off for you getting the used car. The guy had it for two weeks and hardly drove it, as it could get dirty. Also, management still wants me to get you a new car. Do you want it?”

Dad: “Only if this one breaks down.”

The used car didn’t break down, though my dad would drive it all the time. Also, the fleet guy must have “forgotten” to put in the request for the shiny new car, but no one cared enough to notice.

Wanna Bet They Never Forget Their Pocketbook Again?

, , , , , , | Working | June 22, 2022

I’m at the store buying groceries and a cider.

Clerk: “That will be [total].”

Me: “Oh, rats, I forgot my pocketbook on my desk. With all my cards in it. Well, that’s okay; I can pay cash,”

Clerk: “In that case, can I see some ID?”

The policy is to card people who look under twenty-five. I’m forty-one. But okay, it’s your job.

Me: “Well, obviously not. I forgot all my cards.”

Clerk: “In that case, I cannot sell you this.” *Points to the cider*

Me: “Yes, I understand. Would you put it aside for me? I work on the other side of the same building; I can go get my pocketbook in a minute.”

Clerk: “I cannot sell you this without ID.”

Me: “I understand; I wasn’t arguing. Could you please put it aside for me for five minutes while I go get my ID?”

Clerk: “But I cannot sell that to you without ID.”

Me: “We established that. Could you please put it aside for me? I can get my ID in under five minutes.”

Clerk: “But I cannot sell this to you without ID.”

Me: “Yes. I know. Which is why I am now going to go and get my ID.”

Clerk: “But I cannot sell this to you without ID!”

Me: “Yes. I forgot my ID on my desk. I will go get it now. I am merely asking you to put my cider aside, so I don’t have to look for it again.”

Clerk: *Agitated* “But I cannot sell it to you without ID!”

Various versions of this go on for a good while; I don’t want my cider returned to the shelf as it is a rare sort and hard to find. Eventually, I just leave — literally to the other side of the building — fetch my pocketbook, and hope my cider will still be there. It is in the stack of “return to shelf” items.

Clerk: “But you have ID? Why?”

Me: *Sigh*

If You Can’t Please Anybody, Please Nobody

, , , | Right | June 16, 2022

I work in a store where we sell handmade items from Africa — furniture, decorative items, porcelain, lamps, etc. The owners themselves go to Africa to buy products for the store and see the working conditions and such. It is very poor where they buy from, and they have happily seen how they and others with similar initiatives have been able to create more work for people.

I repeatedly have people complain that the prices are too expensive, and I have to explain that the products are handmade and shipped from southern Africa and that both the store and those making the products need to make a living. Some people want to get extra good prices if they buy two plates, for example, to which I know the answer is no. If they are to make a really big order, we can ask the owners, but that is significantly more than a few plates.

However, sometimes there comes a customer who complains that the prices are too low, that we can’t possibly pay them enough in Africa, and that we are using them, to which I have to explain that the owners themselves go down to see that everything is handled properly and that I have been along for one of those trips myself. It is true they are not paid as much as people are here, but it is a good salary for where they live and they are very happy being able to get a job.

Having these discussions over and over can make the head spin, especially as I try to make it so the customers are all feeling heard and try to take their opinions as valid points, even though I’ve heard them a hundred times over.

At one time, we had these handmade baskets that were made by women who were able to make them while caring for their families at home, which is important in their culture. It gave them the opportunity to get a salary while caring for their children. Together with that, we had a few pictures the owners had taken when visiting them. In a few cases, the children of these women also helped, wanting to do what their moms were doing. This, of course, caused a customer to accuse us of using child labor.

Customer #1: “This is horrible! It is child labor! I will never shop here again!”

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that. It is actually the women who do the work, but sometimes their children want to help, too. The owners visited them themselves and saw no signs of the children being forced to do it.”

Customer #1: “And these prices, they are far too low. Are you even paying them enough?”

I am just about to get into that when another customer interrupts us, showing me a bowl.

Customer #2: “This is really too expensive for a bowl. How can you take such high prices for this?”

Customer #1: “What? No, that is way too low a price. Don’t you care for the people making these things? It should cost a lot more!”

Customer #2: “Are you kidding me? No one can afford this!”

I tried to interrupt, but at this point, they were ignoring me, and since they were still keeping a civil tone, I actually let them have their discussion, excusing myself as customers were waiting to pay for their purchases. They continued for a while before they broke off. I thought for sure they would both leave, but they actually both made purchases in the end.

It was a very weird, yet satisfying day for me.

Was This Their First Call, Or What?

, , , | Working | June 3, 2022

This story was related to me by an American friend who was living in an Eastern European country in the early 1990s.

He had received a notice (and heard from various coworkers) that the telephone system was being revamped and that everyone would be getting a new phone number as a result. One day, his phone rang.

Friend: “Hello.”

Representative: “Hi, I’m calling from [Telephone Company].”

Friend: “Yes?”

Representative: “We wanted to let you know that you have a new phone number!”

Friend: “Okay! What’s my new number?”

Representative: “Um, I don’t know.”

Friend: “You don’t know?”

Representative: “I don’t have that information.”

Friend: “Well, how did you call me? What number did you dial?”

Representative: “I’ll have to call you back.” *Click*

We Have A Lot Of Questions

, , , , , , | Working | April 26, 2022

I work for an online shop that sells to most European countries. You can buy clothes, shoes, and accessories from us. A customer has contacted us by email because when they received their order with two bags in it, they found a small handbag in one of them. This handbag turned out to contain a few toiletries — and a huge amount of pills!

The customer is, of course, outraged (for an obviously good reason).

Customer: “What it is that you’re planning on doing here?!”

The normal procedure is to contact a manager and get a case like this dealt with properly because it’s a serious issue and a potentially huge health hazard. Imagine if a kid thought it was candy!

But unfortunately, one of my coworkers either doesn’t think it is serious, read the email wrong, or is on total autopilot, since their answer is rather… not good.

Coworker: “I’m sorry this has happened to you. You are welcome to return the article to us.”

And that was more or less it. Try to guess if the customer was happy about that reply. 

Yes, I did forward the case to a manager who would take care of the background part. I was given the task of answering the customer with “a tiny bit” more concerned email and getting all the needed information from them.