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Their Behavior Sets The Tone

, , , , | Right | February 10, 2021

I am a monotone introvert by nature and working retail or anything customer-service-oriented can be difficult at times. I have to make a conscious effort to put some emotion into my voice and have learned through trial and error over the years how to deal with customers.

I have just come on shift and relieved a coworker for her break. My first two customers are an elderly mother and her middle-aged daughter. The daughter tears off something from a product.

Daughter: “Here. This has a coupon.” 

Me: “Sure thing. Let me scan it through.”  

I scan the product and then unfold the coupon to put it through, as well. Immediately, I receive an error. That’s not a surprise, as the coupons only work about 50% of the time for various reasons; I’d just been hoping this wasn’t one of those occasions. I look closer at the coupon and realize at once what’s wrong.

Me: “Ah… I’m sorry, but this coupon isn’t for the product you’re buying.” 

Cue simultaneous squinting of narrowed, angry eyes from both mother and daughter. I quickly show the coupon to them and start explaining.

Me: “It’s for other products by the same manufacturer. See here? It gives a list of other options you can buy.” 

I’m talking quickly, forgetting about any type of customer service voice, because they’re both still glaring at me, but there’s not much I can do about another company’s coupon. So, they apparently hone in on the only thing they can think to complain about.

Daughter: *Snatching the coupon back* “I don’t like your tone of voice! You need to learn better customer service! Just ring everything else up so we can get out of here.” 

I stay quiet and go through the task of scanning their many groceries, not bothering to make eye contact if I can help it. They stand there, the daughter muttering to her mom, while I work. At one point, I’m carefully placing a particular food item in the bag when I hear the mother speak up. But she is talking so faintly, even though she’s standing a few feet away, that I can’t hear what she says and assume she is speaking to her daughter. I don’t look up but stay focused on the bagging. Big mistake.

Daughter: *Scoffs loudly* “She’s not even paying attention to us now!” 

Me: *Inwardly cringes and looks up* “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear—”

Mother: “I said for you not to bag the pie sideways! Bag it flat!”

Me: “Oh!”

I lift up the bag to show her.

Me: “I already did. I—”

The daughter snatches this, too, out of my hand while leaning aggressively close to my face.

Daughter: “Don’t argue with customers!” 

I considered telling her that I wasn’t arguing and just reassuring her mother that I had already done what she wanted, but I realized that in itself would be arguing and it really wasn’t worth the headache.

The rest of the transaction was awkward and tense and they were still grumbling to each other after they left my line. I saw the daughter less than a minute later up at the customer service desk, presumably to lodge a complaint against me, but I was never approached by a manager about it. That’s not the worst experience I’ve had with a customer, but it makes me very glad to have found a non-retail job that requires very little interaction with the public.

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