Customer Service From the Other Side of the Counter
Categorizing the Worse
I worked at a drugstore for two years. In that time I have met some of the most decent people I have ever known. I always great customer service, made friends with many of the regulars and yet for every ten customers I liked there was always one who had to make trouble.
Some are unique. But almost all of them fall into one of three categories listed below and the subsequent tales that follow are usually about one of the three:
The panhandlers: These people annoy me to no end. We can only tell them to leave if they're standing right in front of the door, or if a customer complains to us. Otherwise the cops can't arrest them and they're free to sit on the side of the building and bother people for change all day long. Unfortuantely, so many well wishers pass them by and throw them a dollar or two, which justifies them sitting there and they wind up making more money than I'll ever see in a week.
Think I'm exaggerating? One such guy whom I've seen there consistently begging came into the store and paid for a bunch of items. I happened to glance at his wallet and saw two credit cards, a debit card, and a wad of large bills (tens and twenties).
Another gentleman, about my age, was sitting out in the front as a coworker and I were returning from the bank after making a deposit. After I told him (for the second time in two consecutive days) that he wasn't allowed to panhandle there he said and I'm quoting him, "Fine, I'll just go down to Church Street and make money for free while you work all day."
Oh, the urge to beat him the heavy backpack full of change was so strong that day.
2: IDiots. It's the best word I can come up with for this kind of customer, because they encompass a wide range of people that come into my store, time after time, after time to buy tobacco and alcohol without an identification. There are big signs taped to the counter people! And there's a big one right behind me for all to see. If you look under 27 I am legally required to see a non-expired Driver's Liscence, Or a Non-Driver Photo identification to sell you tobacco or alcohol! I don't care if you come here "everyday" or "all the time" to get your buzz, you're not the one who has to pay a fine I get nailed in a sting. And yes, no matter where you buy alcohol in the state of Vermont, if you're in the company of a teenager or a friend who is under the age of 21, I'm legally unable to sell it to you.
"I'll Be Right Back". You know who I'm talking about. They bring an item to the counter and leave it there so they can get something else. Or you ring up an item and they say, "oh, I forgot something, one moment please," and leave to shop some more when there's a line of people behind them.
Okay, this one varies. As is, I don't have the power to void a sale, so if I've begun a sale and the customer leaves the register I can't just void it and ring the next one up. I need to wait till he comes back, or get a supervisor to the front, both of which is time consuming to the customers in line, especially if there's only one Supervisor in the store at the time. And I can't leave the register when I'm the only one on the front end, unless it's to call for backup, but then I can still keep an eye on the register and the exit.
Either way, it's gotta be simpler to just pay for your items and then go back into the store to get what you need. Or just come back into the store a little later. No one will judge you, I promise.
So, there's my short list. It's not over by a longshot, but I don't want to overstay my welcome just yet.
When We Do This To Each Other...
Two customers come to my register today with a bottle of Tropicana Orange Juice and a bottle of water. It's important to note that one of them was wearing his name badge from the Outdoor Gear Exchange, a shop right next to ours where you can buy stuff for camping, hiking, and outdoor living. I later found out that the second one worked there as well.
The purchase came out to 3.67.
"Oh come on man," the first guy said, in a tone that was both whiny and sarcastic. "That shit's expensive man."
I shrug as he takes his time counting out three dollars in cash, and fifty seven cents in change.
"How much am I short?"
"One dime sir."
"A dime? Can you just take this?"
"No, I'm sorry sir."
He calls the other guy, the one with the namebadge who only has a couple pennies.
"Man, this place is expensive," he complains.
The entire time I get the feeling that they expect me to just give in and let them take it. If as person is homeless, or just obviously down on their luck, sometimes I let a few pennies slide. Or if a customer leaves behind change, which they often do, I'll throw that into the money they give me to balance it out. But obviously they were pretty well off and I really didn't feel like shorting my drawer that day over one dime.
I give them their change and tell them to have a nice day, but it doesn't stop there. The guy leaves the pennies and says rather snottily, "Here, you can take these in case someone else doesn't have three cents."
You know, when customers do it to us it can be expected. But when people from other stores do this to each other it's just tragic. And it's pretty lame considering we're apart of the Church/Cherry Street shopping center and we should be sticking together.
A woman comes in with a thirty pack of beer. Unopened. She has her receipt, but both myself and my supervisor tell her that by state law we are not allowed to accept beer returns. She leaves with the beer case and the receipt.
About three hours later, a man walks in with the same case of beer.
When my supervisor asks him if she can help her he says, "Yeah, someone sold beer to my MINOR son lastnight. My wife came in here earlier and said you wouldn't do anything about it. Now if you don't give me my money back I'm going to call the alchohol and tobacco agency on you."
Supervisor takes the receipt and says, "Well, let me talk to my manager."
You have to understand off the bat that most of us were well aware that this was a scam. I told the manager on duty that this woman didn't mention her "MINOR" son and that I'd bet my next five paychecks that he was just trying to intimidate us into getting the money.
Of course, when I get back from my lunch, I discover that the LP manager had agreed to give the man his money back but he had left with both the beer and the receipt before he could get it. He must have figured we'd catch on eventually.
Not only can I be fined but I can be fired.
Busy day in the store a couple days back. The only manager on at the time is Steve and of course there's Chris, the LP guy whom I'm more than happy is working with us. (Shoplifters actually get busted when he's here)
While they were outside this woman and her daughter brought her basket up to my register. I didn't notice the bottle of wine until the very end of the transaction at which point I asked to see their ID's.
Older Woman" OW
"Little" Woman: LW
Steve the Manager: StM
OW: *sighs* Would you get my purse from the car please.
LW runs out to the car. I should point out by now that LW is obviously old enough to be carded and I point this out to OW.
OW: Uh, why do you need to see the ID of my small child.
I was about to point out that her "small" child was just a foot shorter than her and that she sent her "small" child out into a busy parkinglot to get her purse, but I thought better of it.
Me: I'm sorry ma'am, but she clearly looks old enough that I need to see if she's under 21.
OW: *snobbishly* Do you mean you check the ID's of everybody's children when they come in here.
Me: If the children seem about the age to drink then yes ma'am. That's state law.
LW comes back in and after she fails to produce an ID I put the bottle of wine behind the counter. OW demands to see my manger.
Steve and Chris were just outside the door having a smoke break and I explained the situation to both of them. Steve came in.
OW: (on seeing StM) So your cashier refuses to sell me a bottle of wine because my daugter is with me.
StM: Correct. That's state law.
OW: So what, you never sell alcohol to people when they bring their children in.
Steve takes a look at the daughter.
StM: Ma'am, your daughter looks old enough that we need to see her ID if we're going to sell alcohol to you.
LW: (Matching her mother's tone of voice tit for tat) What, even though I'm 17?
OW: Oh, so I could just server her alcohol at my house and that would be okay? That's not right. I want to talk to your DM.
StM: Fine it's 1-800-*****. I'm not breaking state law.
LW: I want you to write it down.
I fight the urge to roll my eyes at this point. What she does in her own house is her own business, but I made it clear to her that I wasn't going to sell it to her. I wrote the number down just to get rid of her and I told her to have a nice day. But that wasn't the end of it.
LW: So you mean to tell me you never once sold alcohol to a parent when their children were nearby.
Me: *firmly* No.
She stormed out with her daughter and I haven't heard anything from her since. I really don't know what she expects to hear from the DM except that I was following state law.