No I don’t work at a donut shop. Or a restaurant specializing in down-home Southern cuisine. Or Baskin Robbins.
I work in a bookstore. A bookstore that is not doing well because of the economy. A bookstore that has recently made a lot of successful cost-cutting decisions to remain viable. The most recent change has been to our return-policy. You now need a receipt to return any product to our stores. Our main competitor has been doing this for years. In the past we would accept product in good condition for exchange or store credit.
Now, dear reader, to you this may not be a big deal. You just see stores as places to shop. You like for those stores to be well-stocked and offer variety. But to the stores themselves, in these harsh economic times, a well-stocked store is just future money sitting on shelves. If you have future money just sitting on a shelf not being converted into now-money, why would you add more to it?
There has been mixed reaction to the policy. We’ve had people who accept it and our apology and leave. We’ve had people who want to stand and argue with us, ask for the highest up manager available and threaten us with further action. We had one guy yesterday spend 20 minutes of his life trying to return a DVD box set, pleading his case, saying how the policy was unfair, reiterating over and over how much money he spends there and would hate to take his business elsewhere – only to go to his car and produce a receipt. He could have saved precious minutes of his life by looking for that receipt before he came in the store.
A woman came in with her 8 or 9 year old son to return some books she bought over the weekend. We sent her a coupon on Tuesday and she wanted to return the books and re-buy them with the coupon. We don’t do that. Never have. This ain’t Macy’s. The cashier told her this. The customer asked to speak to a manager. During that hour, that was me. As I got closer to her, I heard her say to her son, “…they are not going to be accommodating to us.” She had obviously been getting him a little riled up about the situation, because by the time I got to the counter he was looking a little self-important with a “get her Mom” look on his face.
I smiled and asked what the problem was. I made sure to listen to her without interrupting, because I am never hell-bent on saying no until I hear the whole story. There have been times when the cashier was incorrect and I wound up saying yes to the customer. After she spoke her peace, I let her know that we don’t apply current coupons on past purchases (it is in the fine print) and that especially without the receipt there was nothing I could do. Every time I said “I can’t”, she would interrupt me and say, “You mean you won’t”. This happened about 3 times. I explained the corporate policy and how our hands were tied. She tried to play the “I’ll take my business elsewhere” card. She made a big to-do about putting her books back in the bag. I apologized again and said that there wasn’t anything that I could do. Then her son, yelled at me “You can break the rules this one time.”
I don’t have children, but I can still do “The Look”. The one that your parents gave you when they couldn’t fully go off on you because you were in public place. My look was a combination of that one and the one that the Supernanny gives during her first visit with a family of children out of control. I felt my blood pressure boiling. My co-worker told me afterward that I actually took a step back. That step probably saved my job. We have to eat a lot of crow working in retail – the customers (more than you think) that gladly let people behind him in line go first so they can wait for a white cashier; the gentleman who visits daily wearing racist and misogynist t-shirts like a walking billboard; the gentleman who tells us weekly how bad we are and he will never shop there again, but is back the next week….any many more. But I have never been yelled at by a child.
The mother did mildly reprimand him and left. I went back upstairs to my office, worked my last hour, stopped by the grocery store, picked up some Haagan Dazs and went home. That is what I do when stuff like that happens at work. And that is why I am fat.