Saturday, January 05, 2008

Return(s) of the Barbie Lady

I was going to blog about this yesterday but I was tired, and then all day today I've been fighting a cold.  I think the cold is winning.  Grr.

Anyway, I was minding business at the front counter when in comes Barbie Lady.  She introduces herself, and I have to refrain from telling her that we all know her on sight at this point.  "I remember you," I tell her instead.

She starts loading barbies and barbie clothes onto the counter.  "I've been to Target and Walmart and Big Lots and a bunch of other stores and no one will take these.  I know some of them are yours because they have the stickers on them."

Indeed, some of them do have BiMart stickers on them.  I explain to her how the UPC codes (in theory, anyway) are unique to the stores and that's how we can tell if they're ours or not.  

"But these are BiMart's because they have the stickers on them," she says, getting immediately defensive."

"Yes, I understand.  We'll scan all these and see what's what."  So I get an RF and start in.  Fortunately some of the boxes, even though they have different styles of clothes in them, have the same UPC so I can stack them and scan just one.  It quickly becomes an exercise in frustration because the system keeps going down and I have to reboot the RF for every other scan.  

To pass the time the Barbie Lady repeats how she's been to all the stores.  She was at Walmart until 2am the day before and she's frustrated and exhausted.  Maybe I just start to have a day, but all I can think about are the poor Walmart employees dealing with a gizillion returns in the post-holiday buyer remorse days as their credit card bills come in, not to mention a healthy percentage of theft items coming back among them with no receipt or fake ones, and then this woman shows up and starts telling them her woes and piling up stuff on their counter and half or more of it isn't even theirs.  

"Big Lots would only take it back for half price," she told me, as if this was outrageous.  "They said they don't carry it and they offered to take it for half price.  And Target said that their stuff only stays in the system for six months.  Are you sure that this isn't yours?  Maybe it's out of the system."

"No, it would still be in our system," I assure her.  We had a fondue machine come back.  We didn't carry them this year.  We had them last year.  Another of our stores across the river apparently did carry it this season, but the point is that she got all these things in the fall and they'd still be on our computers.

I employ the help of a cohort and we start organizing better so that I can start writing things down, marking them off the receipt, and dumping them in the go-back bin.  She starts leaning over the counter.  "I know I paid more than that for those."  

"It's what the RF is telling me, and it matches the tag," I tell her.  "See?"

"Okay, maybe that one, but that one I definitely paid $10 for."

"It's on sale for $6.99, regular price $8.99.  It's right here on the receipt."  I circle the item on the receipt, trying not to get annoyed.  I know she needs the money desperately, but this is starting to verge into two things I don't care for--people who are not my coworkers and supervisors trying to tell me how to do my job, and people who are trying to get more than what they're due.

"I have more of those out in the car," Barbie Lady tells me.  "Should I go get them?"

No, don't get them because you can always bring them in later and we can do this all over again and maybe the RF won't be working at all that day.  "Please," I tell her.  "That would be great." So she goes out and comes back with a fresh cart of things.  A customer comes up and needs a card replaced.  "Would you like to shop around first and come back?" I suggest.  "I'm sorry but I have my hands full.  Or if you'd like I can do it now."

"No, I don't mind," he said.  "I'll come back."  

This apparently set a dangerous precedent.

So we're working and I have one return slip filled and I'm starting another.  I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when the Barbie Lady looks over my shoulder and says, "She can't help you right now.  She's really busy."  Then she looks at me.  "Can we get this going?  I'm just really tired.  I've been trying to get these things returned for hours."

Whoa there!  Turning a customer away on my behalf?  My cohort and I exchange glances.  "Excuse me."  I turn my back on Barbie Lady and tell her, "I'm sorry, I'd be happy to help you.  What can I help you with today?"

It turned out she was there to pick up some furniture.  She'd come from Vancouver, where they were sold out.  All it took was a few seconds for me to page someone.  All my fond feelings for the Barbie Lady flee.  I turn back.  "I'm sorry, that was probably rude," Barbie Lady says.  "I'm just so stressed out by all this."  Mmm hmm, I'm thinking.  And this excuses you being rude to a customer on my behalf?  "It's just that I had no Christmas.  I was by myself, couldn't even get myself a present, and the bank has called me four times and I've had to go over there for hours each time, and I'm trying to straighten out my credit cards.  Starting a business is so much harder than I thought it would be.  And my doctor told me that I have a degenerative nerve disease, so I can't work, but I'm not considered disabled so I can't get unemployment."  She starts to get all teary-eyed, sniffling.  

This starts to burn me.  I know people with degenerative nerve diseases.  It's a struggle, but they work and those who can't work are formally disabled and get social security.  I know, people slip through the cracks and I don't know her life story, but there are people out there in much worse shape who are getting by.  It's the timing more than anything, like she's trying to gain my sympathy so I take pity on her and, what, feel better about what she's doing?  Work faster?  "I suppose I could work here," she adds, laughing through her almost-tears, sarcasm full on.  "At least I could make grocery money.  I don't know how I'd live."  I'm standing next to someone who's only income comes from her job here, and although this isn't technically a slam her tone is definitely of the 'I'd be crazy to try and of course it would be a snap to get a job here and keep it' kind of thing.  I'm thinking, not with your interpersonal skills, ma'am.  

She didn't hear the theme music that follows me around everywhere suddenly go dark and eerie, didn't notice the darkness that filled my eyes and turned on a little red light behind the pupil, or the fangs when I smiled.  Yes, Kami went bad, I have to admit.  "Yeah, I understand," I told her.  "The holidays are tough for me too.  My father died of brain cancer on Christmas Day."  K-slap!

She looked like a deer in the headlights.  I felt a little guilty.  That's not something I do.  Well, okay, apparently it is something I do.  But she got herself into this mess, buying dolls and doll clothes from retail outlets at prices that everyone else has to pay.  Everyone who is into these dolls knows where to get them and their prices.  Reselling them, she's going to make money how exactly?  And now she's trying to make me feel sorry for her so that I excuse her rudeness?

And I'm trying to excuse myself, I know.  I lost it.

"Well, don't you have the story to tell!" she said.

I do, but it's not for her and I shouldn't have mentioned it.  But she did stop with the poor me stuff, which was a happy relief.  I finished her return and sent her on her way.  She'd been in at least once since I did her first return, so there are only a scant handful of items left on the large receipt she has.  She didn't bring the copy of the receipt my boss printed off the computer when she couldn't find it.  It wouldn't help her anyway.  If she didn't buy it here, we'll know.  She won't be able to double up on returns.

I'm sure I'll see Barbie Lady again.  Until then, to all my fellow retail employees out there:  Never give up, never surrender.

1 comment:

The Moody Minstrel said...

(Peering sheepishly from behind nearby piece of furniture)

Is it safe to come out yet?