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I have been having a streak of bad customer service this week from businesses and retailers.  I also read Lightbulb's diaries about working retail.  In the comment section of his latest work of art was a discussion about what to do about bad customer service.  Basically, the advice from all the retail workers was call the corporate offices because talking to a manager usually doesn't do any good.

So I called the customer service number of a national chain mall store catering to  male female teens and young 20's.  I had bought a belt with a bottle opener belt buckle because my great nephew wanted it (I checked with his mother, my niece, to see if that was ok first).  I got home and there was a coupon for $10 off in the mail.  This was a few days before Thanksgiving and given how busy I was, I planned to go back right after the holiday.  

Today, while running errands after a doctor's appointment (an hour later than the appointed time and they looked at me like big effin deal when I complained and no apologies and a five minute annual gyn exam for my trouble but that's another diary) I stopped to simply get the $10 credited to my card.  A young, very young woman greeted me as she stood behind the counter.  I told her what I wanted to do but she couldn't do it as she had only been at the store for a few days and I would have to wait for the other young woman on the register to do it.  I asked if she could do a return thinking I'd return it, repurchase it and get the coupon off.  No, she couldn't do returns either.  So I waited for the girl to finish the sale she was ringing up.  How two items takes more than 5 minutes is beyond me.  These computerized registers are so slow and are really inventory control and not about getting customers checked out in a timely fashion.

Finally, the one who can actually work a register tells me she can only issue a store credit.  No one mentioned when I purchased the belt that the gift receipt was useless except for store credit.  I don't want store credit.  I simply want $10 off my credit card used to purchase the belt.  

I say forget it, I'll find the bill and come back. And oh, by the way, don't stick someone behind a counter who can't run a register.  Try training staff before you dump them on the sales floor.

I go home, find the damn bill and then look up the store chain on the internet.  I find a customer service number and call.  It's not really a customer service number the woman who finally answers tells me.  It's for on line orders.  So I read the sentence above the number that says call this toll free number for problems in stores.  Oh.  Well, here's the corporate number and asks if I'm ready to write it down.  I sure am.

Now I get another woman for customer service at corporate and I suggest first they correct their website.  She says no, that's not website says but I read her the sentence directly.  Oh.  At any rate, what can she do.  I tell her my sad story and ask why they are not concerned with customer satisfaction and repeat business.  Do they want me as a customer and do they want repeat business.  She did not take my name and address, did not offer anything except to say she would call the store and speak to them about this. I also said it's not really the girls' fault because they were not trained.  Why not train them correctly?  Why do they think it is ok to waste my time?  I told her I will never go back to their store and now that I know what other stores they own, I won't frequent them either.  My daughter is going to be disappointed about one in their group.  I also told her I'd return the belt if my nephew hadn't specifically requested it.  If I find another bottle opener belt (I am still not sure about this gift as it is), I'm returning this one.  

There, I feel better now.  I am going to the phone a lot in the future.  I've had it.

Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 8:41 AM PT: Success!  I went back this morning and got my $10 off coupon refund on my credit card.  Now was that so hard that petty small chain store couldn't do this yesterday, make me happy and keep me as a customer?  Apparently not.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A few years ago, there were actually stories about (7+ / 0-)

    retail cashiers hired for the holidays who did not know how to do cash sales.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 02:48:43 PM PST

    •  This was a weekday mid afternoon (4+ / 0-)

      I don't know what these two are going to do when it gets really busy closer to Christmas.  Three people in the store tops.

      •  ...And thus, the perfect time to put a noob in (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Senor Unoball, zenbassoon

        training on the registers.  

        •  Three days into employment (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and she can't do a return?  Is it me?

          •  Eh, I'm not too surprised. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            domestic goddess

            I've worked in a few retail places.  Sometimes the procedures for doing a return are very straightforward; sometimes they're practically baroque.  Many places also won't let / won't train an associate to do returns for a while, both because it's the easiest way to screw up inventory, and because of various loss-prevention concerns.

            •  But I don't care about the inventory (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              leu2500, bluebrain

              or anything else.  I want service.  If you are standing behind a counter with a register, I want you to be able to help me with a purchase, return or credit.  

              •  Old school. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                domestic goddess, greengemini

                Praxical is right that returns are trickier than straight sales. The "old school" way to handle that in a big box place was to have a customer service desk that could handle layaway, returns, credits and other problems. Usually a Manager Who Could Actually Make Decisions was there as well. That way, the regular registers could focus on sales.

                But in small stores, you wouldn't have a desk like that.

                And even a lot of bix box places don't have that customer service desk anymore. I think Toys R Us is one of the few big boxes that does.

                I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

                by Lightbulb on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 04:00:06 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Oh, I concur, but businesses nowadays seem (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                domestic goddess

                to care about as much about customer service as audience members are republican debates care about sick people. ;)

                •  I know and I guess business must be good (0+ / 0-)

                  I like shopping at The Christmas Tree Shoppe because their cashiers and stock people are very nice and helpful.  They know the stock and where things are.  They will kind of walk you to what you wanted.  At least when employees are pleasant, I assume they are a little more satisfied with their jobs.  In Bed, Bath & Beyond, they are always asking if they can help you find something.  And they always have a lot of people on the floor around the store.  It makes it much easier to shop.

                  •  Aah, retail. (0+ / 0-)
                    At least when employees are pleasant, I assume they are a little more satisfied with their jobs.

                    You're almost certainly right.  I remember one minimum-wage job that I had doing various scutwork around a rather miserable dollar store.  Constant retail BS of the worst kind.  And they watched over us like thieves -- which only made many of the people on the floor steal more.  

                    At one point I was sweeping the store, and my manager told me I should smile.  I told her that for $6.50 an hour, I could stand there and smile or I could sweep the floor, but I wasn't going to multitask without a raise.

                    Sometimes having a job you consider disposeable is a liberating experience.  I miss that freedom.

                    I also think that the 'sales experience' is highly subjective.  You love people coming to ask you if you need help; I much prefer it when there're sales people available to help who don't bother me unless I need them.  Smile at me, acknowledge that I exist, and then leave me alone until I ask you something, that's all I want. :)

                    It seems like most people fall into either one of these two shopping styles, and never the twain shall meet.

                    •  I just like being able to find someone (0+ / 0-)

                      in a store who knows something.  I blame corporate or management for not training staff if they don't know the store or stock.  You would think there would be some corporate pride that management would like to show customers by giving the employees who interact with customers information to help us.  I don't find the staff at BB& B too intrusive.  If they see you wandering around they just ask if you need help.  Whitehouse Blackmarket sales staff usually greet you as you walk in (I know this is an antitheft thing) ask if you want help.  Then later if they see you with something in your hand, they offer to start a dressing room for you.  Sometimes they pull other things too.  But they are very pretty well trained to walk that fine line between helping and bothering.

    •  Not everyone in a store is a cashier. (4+ / 0-)

      There's housekeeping people. There's stockers (who put out merchandise). There's also vendor representatives. (Let's say you sell GE stoves. Sometimes the GE stove vendor guy will come by, do a quick inventory of his GE stuff, and maybe polish them a bit.) There's a good chance that none of these people work as cashiers. Whole Foods had a couple of people just walking around their store only to answer customer questions.

      However, those workers don't normally hang around registers either. If you're at register, you should know how to use it.

      I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

      by Lightbulb on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:06:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know but this was a clothing store in a mall (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lightbulb, zenbassoon, greengemini

        with 2 young girls standing behind the boxed in counter with registers.  Who wouldn't assume they knew how to run a register if they are standing behind them in a boxed in counter?  Or am I being silly?

        •  A boxed in counter? (3+ / 0-)

          Then they ought to know how to ring people up! The whole point of a boxed in register is to keep out people who aren't authorized to use those registers. Customers, vendors, whoever.

          So yes, if they are standing there, you're not being silly at all. They should have sent the young woman who doesn't know how to cashier out to do something else in the store.

          I write the series Confessions of a Retail Worker here on DK. It documents my life in a non-unionized workplace.

          by Lightbulb on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:32:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Expecting great customer service in a mall store (0+ / 0-)

          isn't unreasonable, but it's an expectation that's unlikely to be fulfilled. Not only is it where most teens go to get their first jobs, it's also full of chain stores run through a chain of middle managers from some distant corporate office. You want employees trained by bosses who care about the business's image, go to an independent retailer.

          "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is the first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk. Every state is totalitarian at heart; there are no ends to the cruelty it will go to to protect itself." -- Ian McDonald

          by Geenius at Wrok on Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 04:31:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A belt with a bottle opener belt buckle? (7+ / 0-)

    What could possibly go wrong?


    Regarding the poorly trained checkout operators... I sometimes daydream that the person in front of me giving advice to the kid is a lawyer racking up billable minutes to the store.

    'If you want to be a hero, well just follow me.' - J. Lennon

    by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:13:49 PM PST

  •  Getting ready to buy my wedding suit (8+ / 0-)

    Went to Macy's, with a pocket full of money, and ready to spend it.

    Started browsing the suits and, eventually, wanted to talk to a salesman because I saw some things I was considering.

    No salesman.

    He was standing in front of a mirror, trying on ties and admiring his pretty face.

    And trying on second ties, and third ties, and continued preening and disappearing.

    I was in the department for a good half-hour, and not once did he approach and ask, "How may I help you?"

    So I got pissed off and drove down the street to a Men's Wearhouse, where I was accosted by no less than 6 salesmen as soon as I walked in the door.

    Most helpful, they helped me find a size, helped me find some appropriate styles, and kept them to within the price range I was looking for.

    So, that store got the $500 or so that I spent on a suit, shirt, tie, etc.

    I wrote an email to the Macy's customer service department afterward, explaining what happened. I told them that, if they would check their security cameras for that particular time, they would see me and Ms. Unoball, with their lone sales associate too busy trying on ties to help a customer.

    A customer who spent a nice chunk of money at another store.

    I got a letter back from Macy's, saying they were sorry about my bad experience and hoped I would still shop there in the future.


    "I mean, it -- I mean -- and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell." -- Rick Perry, 9/7/11

    by Senor Unoball on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:17:22 PM PST

  •  good for you; I bought a toy for a grandkid's (5+ / 0-)

    Christmas but paid online.  After 9 trips to the store after receiving notification for pick up and being told each time they could not find the item, they told me the item was returned because I had failed to pick it up in a timely fashion.  So much for Walmart; I will find alternative vendors in the future  

  •  I Used to Do Telephone Customer Service and (7+ / 0-)

    support, also computer tech support.

    I sit in the house all day bending grass now. They don't like Americans doing support work mostly, and where they do, as you say they don't like paying or training them.

    It's hard for me to suppress rage when I'm on the phone training "Peggy" in Bangalore how to do my old job well enough to resolve my problem.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:20:18 PM PST

  •  Raising hell can work. This week on "Cyber (5+ / 0-)

    Monday" I ordered a Dell laptop for my old father.

    I paid $9 extra to get "3 to 5 business days" shipping.

    So it should have been delivered by December 2nd.

    Yesterday morning I got an email saying the order was delayed and would not be delivered before December 27th.

    Now I can understand if they ran out of stock and had to have another computer assembled in China or Mexico or whatever.

    But if it's going to take 30 days I want my $9 back that I paid for premium shipping.

    So yesterday I went after this as a matter of principle.  It took at least five minutes to find a telephone number on their web site.  Long hold.  Tell my story.  Sorry, wrong department.  I'll transfer you.  Long hold, terrible muzak.  Tell my story.  I need to put you on hold.  Long hold.  Sorry, wrong department.  So I get transferred to a third call center.  Long hold.  Tell story the third time.

    And they give me a bunch of crap about how they don't start counting delivery time until the date the purchase is "invoiced," and they don't do that until they have the product in hand ready to ship.


    I'm always courteous to the individuals stuck in those hellish call centers, but I really went off on Dell.  I've used Dell for many years and have bought more than 20 computers from them--but never more!  And I'm going to report them all over the Internet! And what they're doing is fraudulent and dishonest and maybe even criminal!!

    Two hours later a "case manager" called me and said he was going to see if he could resolve my problem.

    A few hours later I got a notice saying the product is shipping today!

    Of course I feel sorry for the poor schmo whose new laptog is delayed because they decided to mail it to me instead.

    "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." -- last words of Steve Jobs.

    by Timaeus on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:37:46 PM PST

    •  I stayed on the phone for 6 hours once (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, greengemini, Geenius at Wrok

      with Verizon fios.  I got disconnected once and talked to a whole bunch of people.  I had to keep switching phones as the battery would die.  It became a game I was going to win.  I won.  I got lots of money off too.  I use a head set for long calls so I can walk around doing my domestic thing.

      •  they count on bleeding us to death. (4+ / 0-)

        They count on people saying "hell with it, the discount isn't worth the hours I have to spend haggling over it!"

        So it's basically marketing fraud.

        And the way to deal with long holds is to just get a hardwired phone with no batteries to run down, because I'm sure the "eternity hold" routine is designed precisely to chase away callers whose batteries are about to go dead.  

        "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:57:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have an old phone and several cordless (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and a head set.  I get a lot done when on hold.  I clean out drawers, do laundry, fold clothes, cook, etc.  I stay on all day if I have to.  You can't wear me out but I can sure wear them out.  I know they count on me hanging up but it gets to be a game with me.  I can be really polite which kills them.

        •  Customer support people are human shields (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          for upper management & the majority stockholders. The person who answers your call rarely has any power to do anything; s/he is there to provide the appearance of "customer service," to repeat corporate policy--IOW, stonewall the customer--and to absorb the caller's accumulated anger at the abuse & runaround in hopes that the cathartic effect of the discharge will be enough to satisfy the irate customer.

          Whenever I call "customer support" with a problem, I try very hard not to go ballistic on the person at the other end, and not to expect too much from them. I usually explain the problem & then say, "I know you probably don't have the authority to address this, but can you transfer me to someone who does?" Generally I find that if a support person can do something, anything (within the parameters of the job, see above) to help the caller in some way, s/he will, if only to be able to tell him/herself that s/he really isn't a bastard, s/he just plays one on the phone to keep food on the table & a roof over the family's head.

          snarcolepsy, n: a condition in which the sufferer responds to any comment with a smartass comeback.

          by Uncle Cosmo on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 05:27:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not a big fan of Dell (0+ / 0-)

      their stuff breaks down too fast.  I use Tiger Direct and their prices and delivery are really good.  At least so far.

  •  I worked retail for years, most of the time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, KelleyRN2

    in a supervisory capacity.  When we were busy, management staff always pitched in at the register.  We were also expected to deal with customer problems in a positive way.  Some customers were repeat problem-makers and those we couldn't always make happy.  Others presented, e.g. refund problems and I sometimes stood firm on return policy (no receipt, no refund) but when necessary I wasn't above doing some "creative" manipulating at the register to keep a customer happy.  We never wanted a customer to feel the necessity of contacting headquarters.

    "By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell -- and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed." Adolf Hitler

    by pittie70 on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 03:42:39 PM PST

  •  I just have to tell you of a recent GOOD (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    domestic goddess

    experience..... a stone chipped my windshield and I called my insurance agent (Citizens) who connected me to their preferred service carrier (Safelite) who made an appointment for a technician to come to my home and change the windshield in my garage.  Twelve minutes on the phone, 2 follow-up emails with a picture of the technician who would be arriving (for security purposes) and the job was done perfectly in one hour. I didn't even have to leave my home.  

    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. – John F. Kennedy,1962

    by moose67 on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 04:33:04 PM PST

  •  re the hour late dr. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'll wait 15 minutes, tops and then start asking how far they are off schedule, and telling them I need to reschedule if they can't keep the appointment.

    When I walk in I ask if they are on schedule. I've left before after 15, 20 and 30 minutes. I waited once 45 minutes, but then left and complained to everyone including the doctor that they continued to tell me 5 minutes, 5 minutes, and 5 minutes, until it was 45 minutes and they misled me in order to keep me there. That time, I didn't have access to the time and there was no clock in the waiting area. I wonder why. I did not realize 45 minutes had gone by until I went to the desk and told them I was leaving. I get pretty prompt service from that dr. now. I know it's hard when you're working and it's hard to schedule more time off to try again, but I refuse to wait that long.

    America is so not like her hype.

    by OLinda on Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 04:39:54 PM PST

    •  I have left doctors' offices too. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch

      This is the first time in 4 years that they were late so I wasn't expecting this.  My pediatrician, single practice, never kept me waiting because he left appointments open for emergencies.  I will call or email said doctor and let her know I am really pissed off and that I consider the care substandard.  She didn't address my concerns either and I was so tired and pissed I didn't bother.  I am waiting for the bill with the copay and I will let them know that my time is $15/hour so I'll forgive them the $5 on the $10 copay.

  •  I am still trying to figure out (0+ / 0-)

    why you would make the effort to go all the way back to the store just to redeem a coupon after the fact.  Seems like a whole lot of bother for $10.00.

  •  Not cheap. Thrifty. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    domestic goddess
    •  Oh, yeah right. Frugal, Thrifty. (0+ / 0-)

      A friend of mine once said I was so cheap that not only did I stretch a nickel but I made it scream.  I think that is one of the nicest compliments I've even gotten.

    •  Cheap is such a harsh word. (0+ / 0-)

      I prefer frugal. Thrifty is a nice ice cream parlor inside the Rite-Aide (I hate that name btw) drug store down the street.

      But when someone says it is not the money, it's the principle, it's really usually about the money.

      But I do wish more peeps would stand up against the nickel and dime-ing to death of us 'consumer-citizens', so thanks from the trenches.

      It is not certain that everything is uncertain. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

      by BusyinCA on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:33:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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