5.18.2015

Just Three Things

I'm going to go on a bit of a rant here. And I'm going to contradict something that many of you probably take as Gospel.

I work for a retail company. I don't work on the retail side of the company, I'm in IT. But I did. For three years I worked on the retail side. I have also worked in Food Service, which in many ways is worse than working in retail.  I have also worked for a software company that delivered customer service solutions for Fortune 1000 companies. So...I have a bit of experience in Retail and Customer Service.

And I'm here to tell you...the customer is NOT always right.

Sometimes the customer is a narcissistic asshole.

I was in a local retailer this evening, checking out my items in the self-serve area. There are six check-out stations and one store employee to manage the customer service duties for up to six customers at a time. Six. This can be daunting during a rush (where all stations are occupied and there is a mounting line of customers waiting to check out because they all think self service will be quicker).

I'm scanning my items and putting them on the bagging platform. I'm contemplating asking for help on a item I have a quantity of 8 on. I reason, though, that by the time the attendant came over and did her voodoo just to add "8X" to my order, I could have them scanned already. So I continued.

"Excuse me." I hear a customer say. "Can you check me out? I only have three things. You can check me out right here, right?"

I see the attendant looking at  full stations and a line of people.

"Ma'am. I can't. I'm here to help people at their registers. I can get in trouble if I just ring you out."

Now. At this point, any normal, compassionate person would understand that working retail sucks. And that putting a complete stranger in danger of getting some kind of reprimand is a bullshit thing to do. At that point, the normal, compassionate person would return to the line and wait.

"Yeah...but it's just three things. It's no big deal, right?"  At this point, she puts the three items up on the counter, giving the trapped attendant--who is trying to take care of the customer--no choice but to ring her out. Studious observers in line might take note of this and use it against the attendant later.

Some of you might be reading this and think Jesus, Todd. Relax. It WAS only three things for fuckssakes. No need to get all sanctimonious about it. 

And sure.  On the surface I can certainly see your point.  But look deeper for a second.

Anyone who has ever gone through a self service checkout knows two things. The attendant is there to help people when the machines (or scales, or registers, or card readers) screw up. And secondly, the machines (or scales, or registers, or card readers) frequently screw up.

I'm going to let you in on the business side of retail.  Companies look for ways to shave mere seconds off of your transaction time. These seconds per transactions shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off of the store's cost per year. It's a big deal.  So, the self-serve stations were supposed to be money savers (profit-makers) because the store only needs one employee to manage six registers and the flow of customers should be quicker than if you had six people go through a single register.  So, that's money for the company.

Because of this, I have no doubt whatever that the employee could get reprimanded for ringing out a customer who was not already having a problem at the register.  Did you catch that? The attendants can absolutely complete transactions for a customer. But the intent is for them to pull a customer off of their register (or assist them at their self-serve station) and continue to aid in the flow of traffic.

And now, because one lady only had three things, every one pays.

Here's what pissed me off about the whole thing. The lady, by her actions was demonstrating several things...

That she didn't care one bit about the attendant. Knowingly doing something that can put someone's job at risk after they've already made you aware of this fact says that you only give a fuck for yourself.

She didn't care about any other people checking out. While she was there with here 'only three things,' two other customers needed help. She actually had the audacity to look at one of the customers and say, "she's almost done, just be patient."

Are you fucking kidding me?  They only reason they have to wait is because this lady felt that she was too important to have to wait.

And when she was done, she just traipsed off like the universe had just farted unicorn glitter and rainbows on her. Meanwhile, the attendant scurried off to help the visibly agitated customers who had been waiting patiently.

SHE is the one who had to apologize for this lady's rudeness and try to salvage the day by delivering outstanding customer service to the remaining shoppers.

But she shouldn't have had to do that. Because as soon as the employee said, "I can get in trouble for that," compassion should have kicked in. Empathy should have kicked in. The realization that serving others can sometimes suck big hairy ones should have fucking kicked in.

So...no. Regardless of what you think, the customer is not always right. And that mantra does not give you carte blanche to shit all over people serving you just because you are the customer.

How about you be a decent fucking human being for once?

Granted, I know that the person to whom this ire is directed will likely never read it. From what I can tell she is neither a BaceFook friend nor someone I've ever known in my life. So, this post, while directed at her will only do 2 things at this point. Clear the rant from my brain bucket. And perhaps give someone I do know a wake up call to treat people better.

And now I need to go put the groceries away. Most are done...I think there's just three things...

-AT

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