Friday, October 22, 2004

Non-adherence to the social contract and a needless waste of time, effort and care

After writing about my loss of words this morning I managed to get to work and, within 5 minutes, get in an argument with a customer that partly resulted from the same problem… and partly resulted from herself being a complete bitch.

The situation was that she had reserved a book to replace a faulty copy which she had bought fromWheelergate. But even when she came to collect the book she was in a foul mood. She then proceeded to have a go at Helen (as though she were at school) when she didn’t find her replacement copy quickly enough. I stepped in (rather ineloquently I must admit) but managed to apologise for the faulty book (not our fault, a publishing error) and explain why we couldn’t post the replacement copy. But she then continued to have a go at Helen and, when I told her I thought it was rather rude to do this, she told me I should attend some customer service training lessons. Again I was not witty with my retort, and simply replied “funny, I was thinking the same about you”, at which point the “I’d like to speak to the manager” card was invoked and I had to walk away.

My analysis of this situation has been veering off on several tangents all day. Firstly I’m annoyed that I keep thinking about it as it was a pretty minor event, although perhaps the most major event in my day. Secondly I’m annoyed that I didn’t manage the convincing and witty reply to this woman’s rudeness that she deserved. Anyone who comes out with “I’ve had to pay bus fare and cancel an appointment” when they’re collecting a £6.99 chick-lit paperback is clearly already far up the spout and only deserves subtle scorn and poor service. Instead I came out with a slightly nonsensical reply which, while getting a vaguely annoyed point over, didn’t stand up as the fair and reasonable response I would have liked. Thirdly, that I experienced such a ‘fight or flight’ adrenaline-fuelled response when I did talk to her. Why can’t my body behave like my mind and realise this doesn’t matter? Getting all worked up is not going to help whatsoever, calm and collected is where it’s at. Fourth, the fact that after being reasonably polite for a reasonable period I’m expected to continue being polite to someone who is needlessly a fuck. If someone has a fair complaint, if I have done something wrong, then fine, I’ll apologise. But why is the customer always right when they storm in and treat you like shit? They’re not, they deserve to be told so. There is a social contract at work here and you can’t just wander around treating people like shit and expect to be treated well in return. FUCKER.



Blogger paulhd said...

I can totally understand why this would continue to bug you, but I doubt there was any 'right' way to deal with it. Some customers just have a low opinion of retail staff and are looking for a fight. My own approach is to usually not say anything particularly derogatory but to use a tone that suggests that they are being dull, stupid and wasting my time with stuff that is not my concern or problem. Even when you explain to some customers that a faulty book is nothing to do with us as we aren't a publisher and when we replace it we are acting as a middleman to make things easy for them they don't seem to appreciate that we are doing them a favour and they should just be grateful. I'm amazed at how many people complain about shop staff but rarely think about their own attitude.
I think you did pretty well in getting involved in the first place and defending a fellow member of staff. As for not thinking of something witty enough, that happens all the time, the french call it 'the spirit of the staircase' (although I imagine use french words) apparently.
The question is, did the manager actually show support for the staff and defend you?

22/10/04 1:50 pm  
Blogger steve said...

"hey george, the ocean called.............they ran out of shrimp!"

22/10/04 4:14 pm  
Blogger Pete said...

The customer is never right when they decide to get aggro for no reason at all. Dealing with women is a bit difficult, because it's wrong to intimidate them (and in any case, nothing is as frightening as an angry woman...), but I once had fun with a male customer who was being a dick, by simply turning the tables on the idiot. After putting him in his place I then told him I'd quite happily get the manager for him as well. He quivered and left me alone, and another customer congratulated me on the performance!

22/10/04 7:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very sorry, but this is definitely the funniest story I've read all week.

Paul S

20/11/04 5:06 pm  

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