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This Is About To Get In-Tents

, , , , | Right | April 24, 2020

I’m working at the customer service desk at an outdoor store alongside two coworkers, including my supervisor, who’s known to be pretty liberal with bending the rules in the name of providing good customer service.

A somewhat gaunt woman with thinning hair comes through the line with a little boy on one arm and the bag for a six-person tent on the other.

Customer: “I need to return this. It has a hole in it.”

She slaps the tent bag down on the table, which is no easy feat considering it’s about twenty pounds of material. I can already tell it’s been used.

Me: “Do you have the receipt with you, or can I get your membership phone number, ma’am?”

She gives me the phone number, and I pull up the tent.

Me: “All right, ma’am. I’m seeing that the tent was purchased four years ago, which means it is, unfortunately, out of warranty. Your best bet would be to speak with one of our repair shop associates—”

Customer: *Instantly irate* “I said there’s a hole. That’s a manufacturer defect! There’s a f****** hole!

Me: “Is the hole in the body of the tent, or on a zipper or structural seam, ma’am?”

Customer: “Well, I don’t know. But it’s there! It’s a f****** manufacturer defect, and you have to take it back! I have a lifetime warranty!”

Me: “No, ma’am, you don’t; you purchased this tent in 2014, and our lifetime warranty policy ended in 2013. Since it’s been used—”

Customer: “But I couldn’t f****** return it in 2014—”

Me: “Please don’t curse in front of your child, ma’am—”

Customer: “I. Have. Lupus!

This response throws me just long enough for the customer to start screaming in my face about how she’s only used the tent twice because of her life-threatening disease, how she’s been in and out of hospitals for that whole time period, and how she needs this tent to work to go camping with her child so that he can have a life outside of the hospitals she visits to deal with her illness.

She’s so angry that she’s physically spitting in my face, and every other word starts with the letter F. After about five minutes of this, I finally get a word in.

Me: “Ma’am… ma’am. Do you know where, exactly, the hole is on the tent itself?”

Customer: *Angrily* “Of course. It’s on the right side, in the back corner, on the floor.”

Me: “Okay, great. So I can go ahead and call for a manager override on our system to return your tent. However, I’d first need to find the location of the hole on the tent itself.”

Customer: “God, f****** finally. Call your manager, then!”

Me: “Not yet, ma’am. First, I’m going to ask you to step over to that roped-off area behind you, so I have enough room to spread out the tent, and we’ll set it up—”

Customer: “No.”

Me: *Pause* “I’m sorry?”

Customer: “Absolutely not. You’ll do it here. And you’re not going to waste my time setting it up, either.”

Losing my will to live, I open up the tent bag and pull out all 200+ square feet of mesh, zippers and tent material. Aside from the body of the tent itself, the door areas and the partition in the middle are all completely unzipped, so I’m left standing there, ineffectually searching with my hands along what body seams I can find, while the customer watches me like a hawk. After about five minutes of this, her phone rings and she abruptly stalks off to answer it.

Immediately, I tell my CS coworker, who’s been watching this whole thing, to tell the woman to meet me at the cordoned area, which is within twenty feet of the customer service desk. On a flat surface, I successfully connect all the zippers and check the tent without tension. I can’t find a hole, so I’ve just laid out the poles to set it up when the woman returns.

Customer: “What the f*** are you doing?”

She slaps the tent poles out of my hand. In the background, her kid jumps straight onto the tent, grabbing at the fabric with his hands and pulling.

Customer: “I told you to just look at it! You don’t need to set it up, you stupid b****!”

Me: “I wasn’t able to find the hole with the tent flat like this, so—”

The customer actually howls with rage and starts ripping at the tent with her bare hands, just like her kid is doing. Surprise, surprise, she can’t find a hole, either. After helping her rezip everything, I grab at the poles and start to put them in.

Customer: “You’re doing it wrong!”

Me: *Exasperated* “I am trained on how to set up our company’s tents, ma’am. I promise you, I know what I’m doing—”

She tries to take the poles from me and do it a different way. It takes a detailed explanation, while showing her pictures of the tent on my phone, to prove that I’m right.

Two of my coworkers in camping, correctly sensing that I’m drowning in fabric and losing the will to live, come over to help me set up the tent. One of them drags the kid away from his screaming mother to entertain him for a bit. The other grabs the tent poles.

Customer: *Throwing her hands up* “Fine! You lot do it.”

The tent goes up in about four seconds.

Customer: *To my coworker* “I mean, obviously, you all have more strength than me… I have lupus, you know.”

My coworker looks unimpressed. He looks even more unimpressed when we search the tent again, with tension, twice, and don’t find a thing. The customer is visibly infuriated with this development.

Customer: “What?! What the… You f****** idiots!”

She starts crawling around the tent at this point, on her hands and knees, pulling the fabric around the body seams so hard both my coworker and I actually reach out to try and stop her from ripping the fabric. She finally pokes at a single tufted black thread, barely visible, on the ceiling of the tent.

Customer: *angrily* “There! That’s the hole I saw!”

Me: “I thought the hole was on the floor, ma’am.”

The customer looks like she’s about to start screaming when her child pops through the door, stopping dead just inside the tent.

Little Boy:Wow! Mom, is this our tent?”

Customer: *Bitterly* “Yes, [Little Boy], it—”

The little boys is now jumping up and down.

Little Boy: “It’s so cool! Mom! We need to go camping!”

Customer: “I mean, if this tent was safe and I didn’t have lup—

Little Boy: *Immediately sad* “I know. It’s cause you’re always in the hospital, isn’t it?”

The customer starts talking down her kid, who looks like he’s about to cry. My coworkers and I back out of the tent.

Kid-Helping Coworker: “D***, [My Name]. You sure know how to pick the wild ones.”

It took the customer about an hour and a half, three employees, and a manager before she let the tent issue lie. My coworkers even managed to sell her some repair tape to reinforce her seams, “just in case.” Even my customer-service-oriented supervisor agreed I should have just let that one go. Mostly, I just feel sorry for the poor, enthusiastic little kid. I hope his mom learned to lay off a little.

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