Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tis the season for tears and manipulation

It's no secret to most that I work in retail, and the winter season is the WORST time of year to work in customer service. Something about the impending holidays makes otherwise reasonable people abandon all sense of kindness and personal responsibility. Isn't this supposed to be the season of peace on earth and goodwill towards men?

In our rush to clamor for amazing deals to feed the conspicuously consumptive society we live in, especially in the current American economic state, people are resorting to desperate measures to get the goodies they want for the price they want to pay for them.

I'll just be honest and say that since I've been working in retail, the Christmas Spirit has not visited me. I arrive at December 25th feeling more jaded and cynical about the state of humanity than ever. People will result to amazing lengths to attempt to guilt their customer service reps into giving them something for nothing.

Look, I happen to work for a company that goes to great lengths to fix honest mistakes. I personally arranged for a $150 gift card to go to a customer after we misdelivered a shipment and he had to drive 20 minutes out of his way to get his package. When UPS got gummed up due to snow, and piles of packages didn't deliver in time for Christmas, we not only gave them the merchandise for free(!), we sent an additional package or gift card. We make mistakes (cause we're run by humans) and we fix them.

It's the demands for something unreasonable that get me.

Just today, for example. I had a woman sobbing on the phone to me. All out, full on tears, her husband has cancer, they lost their business, and all her son wanted to do was give his father a kayak for Christmas, and now he couldn't, and just how could we be so dishonest and take advantage of Christ's holy name, celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, how could we be so dishonest?

Here's the crime; she ordered two kayaks and paddles and wanted them to ship for free.

Kayaks are big, heavy, and awkwardly shaped. We can't exactly just drop them in the postal service. In fact, they have to travel via a freight truck to reach their destination where a driver personally arranges with the recipient to deliver them. The recipient then looks over their kayak, confirms that it's the right one and that there's no damage, and signs a pretty piece of paper confirming delivery. This process, understandably, costs money. As such, when you're looking at kayaks on our site, there's a notice that reads:
An oversize shipping charge applies to this item (plus regular shipping fees). Or ship it FREE to any (my company) store for pickup. Please allow up to two weeks for delivery (except for inflatables).
When you go to checkout and pay for the item, you receive a breakdown of the shipping costs as well, prior to payment. In the case of these two kayaks she and her son ordered, it was $95.00. Hey, you're ordering kayaks, not perfume. Shipping is expensive. I don't make the rules, I just play by them.

Further, members of my company receive free shipping*, with a big ol' asterisk next to it and a notice that says Exclusions Apply. One of said exclusions is,
  • Oversized shipping charges will be applied to any heavy or large items (e.g., skis, snowboards) in your order. Oversized shipping charges will be reflected at checkout.
Crying Customer insisted repeatedly that she should have free shipping, that we didn't notify her that oversize charges would apply, we were dishonest and taking advantage because how could we charge her an oversized fee?

My repeated attempts to point out where she HAD been notified in advance were met with more tears, and an insistence that the notices hadn't been there, and now her son, whose only wish was to buy his dying father a kayak for Christmas, couldn't possibly do it, and she just wishes that we'd been honest. On. And on. And on.

She fully expected me to cave to her tears, I could hear it in her voice. You know how parents can tell when it's alligator tears or their child is actually hurt? Retail clerks develop the same ability. You can hear the manipulation, even as it's happening.

For the record, I didn't. She said she wasn't going to purchase with my company then, and then there was the long, pregnant pause, (if you work C/S, you know the one) where I was supposed to jump in and give her everything she wanted just to keep her sale.


'Cause shipping/handling and oversize fees aren't just nifty ways to gouge customers for extra money. (Okay, for some companies it is...not ours). That money actually goes to something. Kayaks, as previously stated, have to go freight, and I guarantee you that $95 isn't even filling the tank on the truck it's traveling on. The fee is there for a reason.

In honesty, if she'd demanded a supervisor, they probably would have caved. But I didn't even offer it as an option.

Why? Because I don't believe in rewarding bad behavior from customers.

The customer failing to read three notices of extra shipping required is NOT my fault. We're not talking fine print. The text is in the same font as the rest of the page. Her tears and long drawn out saga were an attempt to manipulate, and really? That's just not cool.

I wonder how her husband would feel if he knew that his cancer (if he even has it) or the downfall of his business were being bandied about in his wives temper tantrum? I'd hope he would be embarrassed on his wife's behalf...

But then again, that's expecting humanity and goodwill. And really, what do those have to do with Christmas, after all?


  1. Unreal! Seriously lady, I'm not buying it. I've seen fake tears (and crazy teenage girls fake their own deaths ;-) ) You know, you probably could have saved on S&H if you went to the nearest sporting good store. Just and FYI. Good for you for standing your ground.

  2. Wow. I'm sure if you say she was being crazy, she was being crazy. That's awful. But I've seen people do the same crazy-type things at stores when returning things after the holidays.


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