Monday, November 26, 2007

The Inconvenienced Poopyhead

Tis the season for poopyheads.  

I have an ongoing conversation with the customers about the holidays.  It's a strange conversation, because for me it's all the same, long discussion but they only participate in thirty second to one minute snippets.  A particularly brilliant customer pointed out that she far, far preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas.  No pressure to get the right presents or feel a need to overspend to make others feel loved, no overcommercialization outside of the constant push to buy your entire meal pre-prepped at your local grocery store, etc.  Just family and friends getting together to feast, and maybe watch a parade or football or a holiday classic.

I really like that observation.

Contrast this to my poopyhead customer yesterday.  She wheels up an overflowing cart full of Stuff and Things and starts unloading it, scowling.  Why she came to my counter I'll never know--my station that day is the smallest and is meant for fast transactions and tobacco and razor sales, though we don't have a sign up or anything.  I'm completely unable to help unload, or reload, bags.  She doesn't wait for me to ring things through but keeps loading until it starts to fall over, and then she barks at me to help catch it so it doesn't all tumble to the ground.  Then she scoots over and tells me she wants all her stocking stuffers in one bag.  That would really help.

Eager to improve her mood and keep myself in the running for queen of customer service, I do my best to obey.  Problem is that she has things like sample sizes of baby powder, toothpaste and such included as stocking stuffers along with the traditional chocolates and beanie babies.  Rather than sort them into piles or something she just waits for me to ring them through and impatiently rearranges things from one bag into another when I guess wrong. 

I'm almost done when she says she wants me to call someone to help her out.
"Sure!"  I tell her.
"Call them now."
"I'm not supposed to do that until I'm done ringing the purchase through."
"Well I don't want to wait here for ten minutes while they get around to coming up here.  I know how this works."  Okay, now I'm steamed, so I smile at her and page housewares.  Carrie, bless her heart, is there in ten seconds.

And this isn't even the beauty part.

She tells me "I have two of those and two of those, and I want them rung at the end."  She hands me an organizer of plastic drawers such as a crafter might use.  I obediently follow her command, only to find while I'm bagging them up that the two organizer drawers are *not* the same.  They're about the same size, but one is three drawers with a flip top and the other is five smaller drawers.  I rang up two of the five smaller drawers.  Worse yet, I've already totalled (over $300 of stuff) and the machine is printing off the receipts in hopes of getting Carrie out of here so she can get back to the floor and waiting on customers at the photo-electronics counter.
Naturally, since these were the last items rung, by her request, I've already hit the total key, ran her card, and it authorized.  We're at the point of no return.  Good.  Ness.
"I'm sorry, I just realized these aren't the same," I tell her.  I put them on the counter and she looks them over.
"I don't want this one," she says, shoving the five drawer organizer at me.  "I want two of this one."  She jiggles the flip top.
I'm tempted to tell her just get another flip top and we'll call it square, but I have a sinking feeling I rang up the more expensive one.
"How much does this cost?" she asks, jiggling the flip top one.
"Um, the five drawer is $7.49.  I don't know how much the other one is."  
"Well can't you just check?"
"The receipt is still printing out.  I have to wait until it finishes printing out."
"Just take this one off, then."
"I'm sorry, that has to be taken care of at the customer service desk," I tell her.  "Just sign here on your receipt and take everything over there."
"Can't you just refund my money for the organizer?" she asks.
"Sorry, I'm not authorized to do that.  If you just sign here they'll be able to write you a refund--"
"Well that's inconvenient," she snaps.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience.  If you would please sign here--"
"I'm not signing anything until this is fixed."
I do a price verify on the flip top and my heart sinks.  $6.99.  I'm not even going to offer.  She's going to blow her top if I suggest we get her another flip top when it costs less.  She'll want her dollar.  Gah!  Darn you flip top organizer, why did you have to cost less?  If only you cost more!  I know my boss would be all over getting her out of the store at any cost, and this would be minor.  But no ...
"I'm sorry, I can't fix this," I tell her.
The customer behind her says, "The customer service desk is right over there.  They'll be able to help you."
She storms off, leaving Carrie to mind her cart.  Carrie doesn't dare leave, in case the woman might come back and feel like she was abandoned.  I can hear her chewing apart the lobby person from where I'm checking about how horrible I was to her.

Merry Christmas, ma'am.  I'm sure everyone will be delighted that you went through so much effort and trouble to get them sample-sized deodorant, weathering the horrible inconvenience of a self-created problem.  Yes, it was partly my fault.  I should have been doing my job instead of doing what she was telling me to do.  Yes, pleasing the customer is the bulk of my job but if I had rung through her order accurately using my own eyes instead of doing what she asked me to do, there would have been no error, and no fuss, and Carrie would have only have had to wait on her majesty for a few minutes.  I'm sure this makes her feel powerful, to prove how incompetent retail workers really are, and how much a trial it is to shop for presents.

Where is the excitement?  The pleasure found in generosity?  Was there ever a time in our own generation's history when people bought beautiful but modestly-priced, thoughtful gifts and enjoyed the spirit of giving?  I thought I used to do that, but I have to admit I've been getting stressed about it the past few years.

Well, the incovenienced poopyhead had cinched it for me this year.  I'm not going to be that.  If I can't find something nice and sweet and modest I'm going to give a card and gift card with my most heartfelt wishes.  I refuse to succumb to deodorant stocking stuffers and Easter-basket-style packaged over-priced gift sets of bath products just because I can't find anything on a store shelf that will bring real pleasure to the person I'm shopping for.  If I get a bath product, it's going to be Burt's Bees or that wonderful company that produced the glorious bath salts I got for my birthday and it's going to be something they'll want and use.  If I get deodorant it'll be because my son asked could he please have that darling deodorant in the window, please or please!  

So shall it be!

Poopyhead shopper.  :raspberry:  Take that, commercial Christmas!  


Anonymous said...

This is Andrea and here is some advice if you really can't find a gift, give them cash, that way they can get what they want without any guessing games.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Just be thankful you never worked at Toys R Us during the Christmas season. That's a great way to grind every last shred of your respect for humanity into a thin goo between the rough spots of the pavement. I did it repeatedly during my college days.

It was a seasonal job that paid well and gave me lots of valuable experience, but it probably gave me permanent gastro-intestinal and psychological damage.

Kami said...

Yeah, when you start to bring the kids into it, it gets ugly. We see some people shopping with kids or for kids at our store, but that's not the majority of our business. We do the most with photo/electronics, sports gear (we sell a huge volume of guns during the holidays) and appliances. We also sell tons and tons of holiday nick nacks. You know the stuff. Yummy smelling candles, wreaths, ornaments, tinsel, tablecloths, napkins, etc.

And, apparently, deodorant for stocking stuffer.

I can see scented soaps, but deodorant? And toothpaste? Someone explain this to me.

I bet she's one of those that hands out toothbrushes for Halloween.

Kami said...

Oh, and as far as Andrea's comment, now I really have to wonder--I was taught at a young age that only grandmas can get away with cold, hard cash for birthday and Christmas gifts. Am I wrong?

The Moody Minstrel said...

One of my aunts made it an annual tradition to make wine baskets for friends and relatives as Christmas presents. She'd make the baskets, wrapping, and ribbons herself and stuff each with a bottle of wine, bread, fruit, and cheese. I thought it was a cool idea (especially since I've always been a sucker for hand-made items), but ironically my mother was the one who finally made a stink about it. After receiving what I guess was her third such Christmas wine basket she railed, "Again?!? Can't you think of anything more original than this?" My aunt was pretty hurt, and she cut that tradition short.

For the record, I actually asked my parents to send me deodorant for Christmas. You can't buy anti-perspirant in Japan.

Kami said...

That is so sad about your aunt! Personally I'd look forward to that every year.

I mean, come on, it's wine and cheese! Bread and fruit are always good too. And having hand made stuff myself, gotta tell ya, it's not easy.

Heh re: deodorant. Interesting cultural difference. I wonder if they have a lower incidence of Alzheimers because of it. Since aluminum has been implicated in the disease, and most deodorants have an aluminum compound in them, the question has been, does that aluminum compound have the same problems as aluminum kitchenware, which is heated and by that route transmits aluminum into the body? Or does it just stay on the surface and remain stable in its combined form?

The to-do about aluminum has created a nice little market for aluminum-free deodorant until someone can come up with a definitive answer.