Driving You Around The U-Bend

, , , , , , | Right | April 17, 2018

(I’m the manager of the plumbing department at a hardware store. I’m also female, which has lead to some customers thinking I couldn’t possibly know anything about plumbing. Often, I pull out some knowledge so that they actually ASK their questions instead of grumpily sending “the girl” away. One day I walk up to one of our customers in the PVC pipe-fittings area. He’s holding an object wrapped in a plastic grocery bag.)

Me: “Good morning! Is there something I can help you with?”

Middle-Aged Man: “No. You wouldn’t know the answer. I can find it.”

Me: “Well, sir, you’re looking through our toilet flanges. Do you know if you have 3″ or 4″ PVC? Are you replacing a cast iron flange?”

Middle-Aged Man: “No! It’s not iron! It’s plastic!”

Me: “Okay, so do you know if it’s 3″ or 4″? We have one right here that will fit either, if you’re not sure!”

Middle-Aged Man: “No, that one won’t fit! It doesn’t match this one!”

(He holds up the item in the grocery bag. It’s a used toilet flange. Toilet flanges are what sit underneath the drain from your toilet. All of your waste passes through it.)

Me: “I’m sorry, sir. I have to ask you to take that item outside. It’s a biohazard.”

Middle-Aged Man: “No! They said I could bring parts inside! They said it was okay!”

Me: “Sir. We sell food here. That is a biohazard. It has been in contact with human waste. You have to take it outside.”

Middle-Aged Man: “They told me it was okay to bring parts in. Where is your manager?”

Me: “Sir. I am the manager. You still have to take it outside. Now.”

(At this point, he storms over to the Guest Services desk. I calmly follow him.)


Me: *staying calm* “Sir, you can bring in a part, but the poop has to stay outside.”

Small Talk Means Big Problems

, , | Working | April 17, 2018

(This is mostly my fault, but it blows up because of the customer’s attitude. I am working as a cashier in a hardware store when a customer comes to my register with a flat cart loaded down with bags of mulch. He tells me how many bags he has, and I nod politely, say, “Thank you,” and start scanning each bag individually, counting them as I go.)

Customer: *repeats* “There are 16.”

(The customer seems tense and his voice is gruff.)

Me: “Thank you for letting me know. I do have to count them, though.”

Customer: “Do you think I’m a thief, or do you just not trust that I can count?”

(Here’s where I make a big mistake. I jokingly say, “Both,” while smiling, and trying to lighten up the mood a bit. I can tell it’s not working, so I say:)

Me: “It’s just a loss-prevention measure. It’s to make sure we are scanning the right number of bags, and that they’re all the same, because sometimes two bags look similar but aren’t the same item.”

Customer: “I spend over ten grand in this store every month, and you’re accusing me of theft. I want to talk to your manager!”

Me: “I was trying to make a joke. I don’t think you’re stealing. I’m just trying to scan items the way I was taught.”

(The customer insists that I accused him of theft, and tells the same story to my manager. I am honest. I tell the manager about my bad attempt at making a joke, and that I didn’t actually accuse the customer of anything. The manager sides with me, especially once the customer starts raving about how much money he spends in our store.)

Manager: “That’s interesting, because I’ve never seen you here before.”

(The customer finally leaves, still in a rage, even though I apologize multiple times. He emails corporate and insists that I be fired. The manager and I have a talk where he tells me he has to write me up, but that he doesn’t want to. He also tells me just to let go of any sense of humor I might be tempted to have while at work.)

Manager: “Smile, be polite, and be helpful, but don’t talk to customers beyond what’s necessary for business.”

They Are What Is Wrong With Signs, Personified

, , , , | Right | April 13, 2018

(Our store has a separate counter for plumbers and electricians. One Saturday I am covering this counter when an older man comes in.)

Me: “Are you registered with us, sir?”

Customer: “No.”

Me: “Are you a qualified plumber or electrician?”

Customer: “No.”

(I check the public counter; it’s empty.)

Me: “Sir, this is a counter for tradesmen in plumbing and electrics. If you go through that door on the left you’ll go to the public counter.”

Customer: *irate* “I came here to buy electrics! Your front door is misleading!”

Me: “Sir, it says, ‘Plumbers & Electricians,’ not, ‘Plumbing & Electrics.'”

Returning To What Wasn’t Being Asked

, , , , , , | Right | April 10, 2018

(I work at the customer service desk of a hardware store. The returns registers are located behind the desk. There are two returns registers, but there is usually only one cashier stationed there since it doesn’t get super busy. If a line does start forming at returns, a service desk associate will step over to help out. At this specific time, I’m working the service desk alone, as the mid-shift hasn’t arrived yet. A few customers show up to make returns at the same time, so I step over to help the cashier out. The cashier and I are each in the middle of a transaction when a customer waiting in line — a customer who’s well-known, and not for good reasons — speaks up. The customer I’m currently helping is only returning a single item, and the well-known customer is the very next person in line.)

Customer: “Hey! Are you open over there for returns?”

Cashier: *looking up from her current customer* “Excuse me, sir?”

Customer: “Ugh. Are you open over there?”

Cashier: “Sir, I’m open right here, but I’m with a customer.”

Customer: “I didn’t ask that! Hey!” *I realize he’s now trying to get my attention* “Are you taking returns over there?” *pointing to my desk that has no one standing near it*

Me: “We’re taking returns right here, sir, but please give me a moment. I’m still helping this customer.”

Customer: “Ugh! That’s not what I asked you! Are you open over there for returns?”

(I look behind me at my still empty desk.)

Me: “No. I’m open right here taking returns. It will only be a moment.”

Customer: “That’s not what I asked!”

My Current Customer: “Unbelievable. I really feel for you. I worked retail for way too long, so I understand!”

Customer: *talking to himself but loud enough for us to hear* “This is just f****** bulls***.”

(The transaction that the customer was complaining through took maybe two minutes. Luckily, I was needed at the desk, and a different associate showed up to relieve me just as I called the rude customer to my register.)

Avoiding Mounting Problems

, , , , | Right | April 3, 2018

(Our store primarily serves tradesmen building or renovating homes, but we’re open to the public doing DIY, too. I’ve been tasked with helping customers find the products they want. These customers are a couple.)

Me: “Hey there. Are you guys doing okay?”

Customer #1: “Yeah, we’re looking to mount a TV on the wall. It’s a bit old, though.”

Customer #2: “It’s not that old; it’s about eight years old.”

(My own TV is about the same age, so I have a guess as to what its shape is like.)

Me: “Do you know how much it weighs?”

Customer #1: “I know the mounting points are 20 centimeters apart.”

Me: “But not how much it weighs? I’d strongly suggest putting it on your bathroom scale before mounting it, in all honesty.”

Customer #1: “I think this one will be enough.”

Me: “With all due respect, sir, I’m going to tell you what I think as a person: when it comes to your home, do not settle with, ‘I think.’ Go with, ‘I know.'”

Customer #2: “You’re a really smart girl, you know that? What is it with men and just going with what they think?”

Me: “My boyfriend doesn’t do it, especially something that can cause a lot of damage if it’s done wrong.”

Customer #2: “That is why you two are in a relationship!”

(I wound up telling not only my assistant manager, who laughed, but my boyfriend, who took it as a compliment.)

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