The Customer Is The Defective Blower

, , , , , | | Right | May 14, 2019

Two days ago, an elderly customer came into the farm store I work for. He approached the information desk and explained that he had bought an inexpensive, single-stage snow blower from us the previous fall — it’s September now. By all indications, it had worked well for him last winter, but when he brought it out of summer storage a few days ago, he claimed it wouldn’t start for him. In spite of the fact that it never snows in lower Michigan until at least late November, he seemed stressed to be left without a functional snow blower in early September. He even made reference to the fact that it probably wouldn’t snow for “a couple more weeks” but he wanted to be prepared.

I never make assumptions about anyone’s mechanical ability, so I started with the basics, making sure he knew how to start it. He seemed a bit foggy on how to use the key start. I made a few suggestions, and he thanked me and left to give them a try. A couple of hours later he was back, rolling the blower in question through the store to the information desk. He said he still couldn’t get it started and wanted to have us run it through service.

Our store doesn’t have an in-house service department, but I assured him I’d happily run it over to the local dealer we use for this type of thing the following day. He quizzed me extensively on what I thought the problem might be. People always try to get a down-to-the-dollar quote on repairs before the item goes in for service. I told him I couldn’t be sure until we got an estimate from the service center, but that we would call before going ahead with the repair.

I took down his information and promised I’d be in contact as soon as the unit came back from service. Later that same afternoon, I was in the back room with the blower. Call it being soft, but I really wondered if it wasn’t just a simple starting issue. I got the impression the guy didn’t have a lot of money, and I would have felt bad if he got charged a shop labor rate of $70 an hour for not knowing which switch to flip, knob to turn, or something simple like that. I primed the machine a few times, grabbed the starter rope, and pulled.

To my shock, it fired right up and ran perfectly. I shut it off and repeated the procedure… several times. Each instance, it started on the first tug. Happy for him, I called the man and said his blower was all ready to go. Inexplicably, he wasn’t thrilled. He said it never started for him, and wanted me to still take it to the service center for a “checkup.” I didn’t argue; it was his money. I was just trying to save him a few bucks. I did, however, explain that since the unit was running perfectly, there really wasn’t anything to fix. He still expressed his desire to have it looked at. I told him I would.

I went to lunch after that, and upon returning a half hour later, I found him standing at the desk waiting for me. He wasn’t very direct with what he was saying, so it took me a minute to figure out that he was having second thoughts about having it taken in for service. I took him in the back room and, to put his mind at ease if he decided to take the unit back home, demonstrated how easy it started.

Again, instead of being happy that his blower was running like the proverbial fine Swiss watch at zero cost to him, he mumbled something about giving us some money back so “it would be worthwhile to us.” I didn’t follow and asked him to elaborate. To put it simply, he now wanted to return the blower and get his money back!

Store policy states that gasoline-powered sales are final. We will stand behind the unit 100% for warranty service, but once a customer has used an item, we can’t take it back. To make matters worse, even if I had the authority to override this, the blower was covered in mud and barn dust and looked as though it’d had a few foreign objects run through it. There was no way this thing was re-saleable.

I explained this, and he threw a fit, telling me what “poor business” it was, and that he wanted to speak to my boss. I told him the policy wasn’t mine; it was mandated by the owners of our chain. After telling me several times that “the other guy who works here” would have given him his money back, he changed tactics. He told me to sell the unit for him and just give him the money. I explained that we’re not a consignment shop. I recommended Craigslist or even our store message board.

He was furious, explaining again what “poor business” we were conducting. I kept trying to steer him around to the fact that there was nothing wrong with the blower, but he avoided the facts and continued to rant about how unjustly he was being treated. Eventually, I was forced to pose a question: What store would allow a customer to return a year-old, dirty, used unit that still functioned perfectly, for full credit?

After getting nowhere with the guy, I gave him the store phone number and told him when the store manager would be in. He walked away, grumbling under his breath. I promptly dialed the store manager’s cell number and explained what had happened. To my relief, he posed the same question I had to the customer and told me there was no way we could take the unit back.

Every time I try to do someone a favor, it ends up like this. Maybe someday I’ll learn!

Might Want To Sit On Your A** For This One

, , , , | Right | April 27, 2019

(I’m out on the floor stocking when one of our regulars approaches me. I inwardly roll my eyes because she’s always a problem customer. She’s always in a terrible mood and treats employees like crap. Today is no exception.)

Regular: “You f****** people are always f****** moving s*** around! I can’t ever find what I want in here!”

Me: *gritting my teeth and hoping it comes across as a believable smile* “What can I help you find?”

Regular: “Where the f*** is the A** BLACK?”

Me: “I’m sorry?”

Regular: “You know, the A** BLACK!”

Me: “I’m not familiar with the, ah…”

Regular: “A** BLACK?”

Me: “Yes… that. At the risk of sounding stupid, what is it used for?”

Regular: “Jesus Christ!” *gives me a look like I’m the dumbest thing on two legs, then screaming* “IT’S A STARTER FORMULA!”

Me: “Starter formu… Wait a second. Do you mean Esbilac? For puppies?”

Regular: “Yeah, exactly what I said, the A** BLACK!”

Me: *biting my lip hard to keep from breaking into gales of hysterical laughter* “Ah, sure. It’s right over here!”

(I take her to the aisle and show her the formula. In a true change of habit, she thanks me and is on her way. I go our information desk where a coworker is standing.)

Coworker: “I heard all that yelling; what was her problem this time?”

Me: “She couldn’t find the A** BLACK.”

Coworker: “The WHAT?”

This Guy Blows

, , , , , | Right | April 24, 2019

I was working the sales floor one day when I was approached by a gentleman wishing to purchase a two-stage snow blower. He explained that he needed something heavy duty because he had a business and had contracted to clean the sidewalks for our city. It’s important to note that we live in a very small town, so it was likely the blower would get much use.

After chatting with him, he settled on a 30-inch, top-of-the-line model. We prepped the unit and he was on his merry way. The “merry” part didn’t last long, however. The following morning he was waiting for me when I came in for my shift. He was furious and explained that he’d had problems with his “defective” blower. I asked what was wrong and he told me the “feet” on it were defective.

Each blower has a pair of plastic, or metal — as on this guy’s blower — feet that the snow-catching part of the blower rides on. The intention is both to set the blower to the desired ride height, but mostly as a sacrificial wear item so the actual blower isn’t getting ground away. In my entire career selling and maintaining these blowers, I’d never seen feet worn down more than an inch or two at the most.

When this guy showed me what had just yesterday been a brand-new, top-of-the-line blower, I was speechless. The auger looked as if it’d been chewing cinder blocks, and the discharge chute was full of dents and bends. The most perplexing part: both feet were ground off completely, along with the bottom two inches of metal of the bottom of the blower. Imagine this thing having been dragged on a giant cheese grater for several miles and you get the idea.

The customer insisted he’d only been using it for “light sidewalk cleaning” in town and claimed the damage had been as a result of “defective equipment.”

To make a long story short, I tried to uphold company policy regarding returns on equipment that was obviously abused and not being used for its intended purpose, but he threw a fit and I had to get the store manager involved. He eventually caved and the guy got a replacement blower.

The following morning, you guessed it, he was back and the replacement blower looked the same as the first. This time, the manager stood his ground and wouldn’t let the guy have another one. The man threatened to get our corporate office involved and get us “shut down” but quick thinking on the manager’s part — a call to the office to warn them of the impending call — prevented any further shenanigans.

To this day, I still can’t fathom what the guy must have been doing with that poor blower… dragging it behind his truck?

Family Business

, , , , , | Related | September 27, 2017

Friends, relatives, and being a store employee do not mix. Everyone is friendly when things are going well, but the first time you’re out of an item, those closest to you become horrors.

I work in a farm store. One day, a fairly distant relative of mine stopped by with her elderly father, intent on purchasing a tiller to go on the back of his tractor. I greeted them extra-warmly and gave him my discount, which I’m not even supposed to do for extended family, based on the store rules. Everything went fine until I accompanied them to the front parking lot to assist in loading.

These implements come in wood crates. Typically, we unlock the item and then use a forklift to load said item into the back of a pickup or onto the bed of a trailer. Liability prevents us from helping the customer tie the item down or handle it in any other fashion. Most of the time this is no issue and both parties leave happy.

Back to our situation: We were barely out of the building when I noticed they had driven the actual tractor to the store, and fully intended to hook the tiller on and haul it home that way. I shouldn’t have even offered to un-crate the item, but did because after all, they were family. I did, however, tell them that I cannot help hook the tiller up to the tractor. The relative’s father would have to do it on his own. That’s when all hell broke loose. Once the old man got wind of this, he let loose with a string of obscenities that would have made a sailor blush.

Being confronted with such rudeness made me want to bend the rules for them even less, so I stood my ground and told him that our insurance carrier would not be pleased if I (or he) was injured due to an accident hooking the item up. His daughter stood silently as he rained F-bombs on me, referring to me as “stacked s***” and other cute terms of endearment, offering nothing in the form of an explanation or apology for his actions. To make a long story a little shorter, he begrudgingly pinned the tiller to his tractor himself, cursing me out the entire time, and then recklessly drove out of the parking lot as fast as he could go, barely missing other patrons’ vehicles.

A few weeks later, his daughter came in the store by herself. As luck would have it, I was running register and she ended up in my lane. I did my best to make small talk. God only knows why she thought I would care, but she brought up her father. I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist. I said, “Oh, by the way, how is he doing? In good health?” She looked at me strangely and said that yes, he was okay. I responded with, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry to hear that; hopefully things will turn around soon. Have a nice day!” She gave me a blank stare and then walked out quietly.

Drowning In Bad Customers

, , | Right | August 21, 2017

(The weekend leading up to July 4th is always interesting. We sell farm supplies, but since we’re the only game in town open on the holiday weekend, we get a lot of unrelated requests from campers, boaters, or people leaving on vacation that planned poorly and didn’t get what they needed ahead of time from a sporting goods retailer. The requests don’t bother me as much as the rude responses. Today I approached a couple on our sales floor and had this exchange:)

Me: “Hello, folks. How are you today?”

Customer: “Yeah, where did you guys hide your life jackets?”

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, we don’t carry life jackets.”

Customer: “Wait, what? You don’t carry…” *puts his hand over his face in exasperation and sighs deeply through it* “You. Don’t. Carry. Lifejackets?”

Me: *a bit apprehensively* “No, I’m sorry, we don’t carry boating supplies.”

Customer: *turns to wife* “What are we gonna do now? Seriously, what the f*** are we going to do?” *she doesn’t respond and they both turn to glare at me*

Me: “Might I suggest [Boat Dealer four miles from here]? I think they’re open today.”

Customer: *yelling* “Well, that doesn’t do me a whole lotta f****** good standing here, now does it? We’re not headed in that direction! We’ve got friends coming over in two hours to watch fireworks on the boat. This is going to ruin the whole evening! Just how is it you people—” *he spat out “you people” with a look someone getting a surprise mouthful of dog s*** might wear* “—get away with not having what the customer needs?”

Me: “Maybe because we’ve never heard of a farmer falling off his tractor and drowning in the dirt?”

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