Othar, Friend Of Boris, First Of His Name

, , , , , | Working | February 18, 2019

(Our crew is doing the finicky task of sticking plant cuttings in soil. [Coworker #1] drops one, leans down to pick it up, and bumps his head on the table.)

Coworker #2: “Do you remember your name?”

Coworker #1: “Why, I’m Othar Tryggvassen, gentleman adventurer!”

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Good Customer Service Doesn’t Grow On Trees

, , , , , | Hopeless Right | December 26, 2018

(I work in a garden centre. Due to being the on-site horticulturist and having a very even temper, I end up getting the complaints and difficult customers, even though on paper I am not officially responsible for complaints or refunds. It is close to Christmas, and we are working flat out, hauling real Christmas trees about when my radio phone rings.)

Coworker: “[My Name], sorry about this, but I’ve got a really angry customer who wants to speak to someone about a tree. She’s shouting really loudly. Can I put them through?”

Me: “Go ahead; I’ll do my best.”


Me: “Hello. This is the plant department. I’ve been told you’ve got a problem with a tree?”


(I realise from her tone of voice that she isn’t angry; she’s really, really upset.)

Me: “Oh, dear! What kind of tree is it, please?”

Customer: “I bought a Christmas tree from you, and I brought it inside, into my living room. A few hours later, all these beetles crawled out of it, and now my house is now full of them!”

Me: “Wow. That sounds… absolutely horrible. I’m so sorry! We definitely need to sort this out for you.”

Customer: *much calmer now* “Yes, so I was wondering… do you have any artificial trees? I’d like to buy one. Could you reserve one for me?”

(I pause to process what she just asked. Yes, she doesn’t want a refund. She isn’t threatening to get us fired. She wants to buy a replacement. Buy.)

Me: “Madam, I can assure you that you are well-deserving of a refund in a situation like this. This absolutely should not have happened at all, and I’m horrified that it did. We need to get that tree back here to examine it, and also a sample of the beetles. If you can’t bear to touch it, I’ll arrange to have our delivery driver pick it up for you, free of charge.”

Customer: “So… you’ll give me an artificial tree in exchange? I’ll have to get a smaller one, since they’re much more expensive.”

Me: “Well, this is an exceptional situation, so I’m going to stretch a point and say that as long as we get your tree back, we will do a straight swap: the same size artificial tree for the real one.”

Customer: “You’d do that? That would be great! I’ll get my husband to bring the tree back.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll make sure a similar artificial tree is put on one side for you. Could I take some details, please?”

(I take the details, and put a nice artificial tree on one side. It’s twice the price of the real tree she bought. I also plant up a small pot of primroses as a complimentary gift for her, and quickly wrap a red bow around it. The husband brings the tree in, and it is infested with Cinara piceae, a kind of big, ugly aphid. The warmth in her home had no doubt made them wake up and become active. I’ve never seen this happen before in Christmas trees, but her story all checks out. I give the go-ahead for her to get her refund and replacement tree. Unfortunately, I am with another customer when she comes in, but apparently, she bursts into tears when she is handed the complimentary pot of flowers. Slight overreaction, I think, but okay. Some people are just made that way. Fast forward to a little after Christmas. We have a visit from one of the directors. She is known for being strict but fair, and also a stickler for rules.)

Director: “[My Name], I had a letter about you from a customer. I wanted to discuss it with you.”

Me: “Really? What was it about?”

Director: “A lady said she had a tree full of beetles…”

Me: “Oh, the beetle tree! Yes, I remember all about it. I realise I went against refund policy by giving her goods worth twice the amount of the diseased tree, but I felt it was a very unusual situation and could have become a complete PR disaster.”

Director: “So… Do you think you made the right decision?”

(Okay, I’m in trouble. “What the heck?” I decide. “I might as well stand up for myself.”)

Me: “Yes, I do.”

(The director suddenly smiles and hands over an envelope.)

Director: “She sent you a Christmas card. There was a letter in it that told me about the tree. Her son had a bad motorbike accident earlier this year and is spending his first Christmas in a wheelchair at [Customer]’s house. They wanted to give him the best Christmas he could have. She said that you saved the day.”

(I can feel my eyes tearing up.)

Me: “Oh, right.”

Director: “So, well done. You did the right thing and saved us from a seriously embarrassing situation!”

(And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I got promoted: by breaking the rules! I’m very happy to add that I have handled tens of thousands more Christmas trees since then, and have never seen a “beetle tree” again.)

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The Tree Is Real And So Is The Anger

, , , | Working | December 25, 2018

(Christmas is very important to me, so I want my first Christmas in my new flat after graduating from university to be special. I decide to buy a Christmas tree. I go to a garden centre to buy one and am greeted by an employee.)

Employee: “Good morning! Are you looking for a Christmas tree?”

Me: “Yes, I am.”

(I tell him my budget and what I’m looking for, and he leads me over to the trees.)

Employee: “Ah, this one is beautiful!”

Me: “Oh, actually, as I said, I’d prefer a fake tree. I can’t touch real ones or—“

Employee: “Nonsense! No one should have a fake tree. How about this one, then—“

(I am dragged around the garden centre for ten minutes as the employee shows me various trees, all real, before I finally snap.)

Me: “Excuse me; I have told you repeatedly that I would prefer a fake tree. I am—“

Employee: “What? No! Fake trees are awful! All plastic and ugly. You don’t want a fake tree! Only lazy people have fake trees. You need a real tree—“

Me: “NO! Listen to me. I do not want a real tree; I want a fake tree. If you had listened at all when I told you what I was looking for, you would know that I cannot come into contact with pine or fir trees because I am allergic! I have been trying to tell you repeatedly for almost fifteen minutes now. Now please take me to find a fake tree.”

(The employee ran away, tail between legs, and I was helped by another employee who said that the employee had been trying to sell nothing but real trees because he got a better commission. I got a discount for the trouble, and have been happily coming into contact with my fake tree for six years.)

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U Gotta Be Kidding

, , , , | Right | October 17, 2018

(I am the customer in this one. I go up to a garden center employee looking for garden staples, but can’t remember what they are called.)

Me: “Excuse me. Could you help me real quick? I am looking for an L-shaped thing—” *makes a U shape with my hand* “—to hold something down in my garden.”

Employee: *looks at me strangely* “You mean like a stake? We have some with a head on them to make them kind of L shaped.” *hands me a flat-headed stake*

Me: “No, that’s not what I am looking for. I know I got them here before. They’re L-shaped…” *makes U shape with hands again* “…and are used to hold things down like soft fences and things.”

Employee: “This is the only L-shaped thing we have for that purpose. What did you need it for again?”

Me: *getting frustrated that I can’t think what they’re called* “It’s an L-shaped piece of metal.” *makes U shape with hands* “That you can push into the ground to hold something down, like a garden lining. I need it to secure a piece of fencing!”

Employee: *gives me a long look, then picks something else out from the shelves* “Is this what you’re looking for?” *holds out garden staples that are a full U-shape*

Me: “YES! That is exactly what I am looking for! I just could not think of staples! Thank you!”

Employee: “Oh, good. You really threw me off with the L-shaped thing.”

Me: “What? These are L-shape… OH!”

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Listening Is The Best Solution

, , , | Right | October 12, 2018

Customer: “Which of these two weed-killers is better to use on my lawn?”

Me: “Actually, neither of them. They will kill the grass, also. Try this product, instead.”

Customer: “Why is the little bottle so much more expensive than the big bottle?”

Me: “The smaller product is concentrated; it will make thirty-two gallons of solution. That’s why it costs more.”

Customer: “But why is the bigger bottle cheaper than the smaller one? Is the smaller one better for my lawn?”

Me: “The smaller bottle is concentrated. They are both the same chemical. The big bottle is mostly water.”

Customer: “But which one of these two is better to use on my lawn?”

Me: “Don’t use either of them. You’ll kill the grass. Try this product, instead.”

Customer: “What? But that costs twice as much as the big bottle of weed-killer.”

Me: “It’s the right one to use on your lawn. The others will kill the grass along with the weeds.”

Customer: “I’m going to go with the big bottle. That’s the cheapest one out of all of them. It’s good for my lawn, right?”

Me: “Will that be cash or charge, sir?”

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