Customer Service: How to Deal Both Ways

I’ve worked in retail.  Sometimes on purpose, other times out of desperation.  Either I’ve had a breakdown or a breakthrough (a la Kelly Binsimon).  Retail customers with hate in their hearts are drawn to me.  Which means a) like seeks like, b) I’m an idiot savant when it comes to dealing with the chronically horrid, or c) other sales people can run faster than I can.

Fast Food Operations: I know, I know, sometimes the people working behind the counter just don’t get it. Nor do some of the customers on the other side of counter.  I’ll be brief here – don’t act out, throw your weight around, and/or berate your servers.  They are people just like you.  Behave yourself.  As with any commercial endeavor, there are brilliant and dim employees (see: customer service/cable company). It is most important to mind your manners in a food establishment.  You will find yourself way too familiar with the loo, should you decide to throw a bitch fit over a poorly constructed hamburger.

BoutiquesIt’s been quite awhile since I worked in a very upscale boutique.  One customer stands out.  She was a shrew, a purple-wearing harridan with quite a mouth on her.  Whenever she pulled into the parking lot, someone would scream, “Velma!” and the salesgirls would run for cover.  They were faster than me.  So I had to help Velma.  She would stomp into the shop, huffing and puffing, while searching for someone to shred.  That would be me.  My first go-round with Velma left me in tears.  My second adventure with her was wonderful.  The minute she started to berate me for being alive, I said, “Velma, shut it down.  I have some new purple togs over here that would look fabulous on you.”  She was putty in my hands.  She was lonely and angry and had no one to take it out on, so she went shopping.  And everyone was mean right back to her.  She was shocked I didn’t cower at her fire-breathing antics.  And as long as I worked there, I was her girl.  Am not bragging, all the salesgirls still ran and there I stood… abandoned when a flash of purple was spotted lurching through the doors.

Men’s Store:  This was one of my favorite experiences as men are so much easier to deal with when it comes to clothing.  On the outset, I would tell each and every customer, “I don’t do inseams”.  Just so they knew.   I could have put  tutus on all those men – if I gushed over how fab they looked in their tiny tulle skirts – well, one word comes to mind. SOLD. Easiest job ever.  With two exceptions. Lockjaw and Big Fatty.  Lockjaw entered the store with a major attitude.  He was picking through the savagely bright-colored slacks.  I asked him if he was a Longhorn fan – I mean, he kept going back to the same pair of bright orange – UT colors.  He looked down his pompous nose at me, jutted his entitled chin out and said, “I went to Dartmouth.”  My brain said, “You prick”, but my mouth said, “Hmmm…Dartmouth …. never heard of it.” His Ivy League abuse continued until I crossed my eyes and stuck my tongue out at him. Very mature, but it tamed his inner beast. Big Fatty was another story all together.  My boss thought it would be really funny to hook me up with this perfectly nice man/customer.  “He’s rich”.  Like that means squat in the whole scheme of things?  He may have been, and he was nice, but he had a serious weight problem (like he’s probably dead, really), his english wasn’t too great even though he hadn’t ever left Texas, and he looked at me like I was a sizzling rib eye right off the grill. No, no, no!  My *&^% boss gave him my cell number, which he called.  Being the perfect coward I was, I never answered.  One day, I saw him headed into the store.  I ran in the stock room and hid under a pile of rejected clothing.  My boss brought him in there, uncovered me, and left the room.  Mr. I’m-Gonna-Have-A-Heart-Attack-Any-Second loomed over me and said, “Why won’t you go out with me?”.  I told him the truth. “My issues have issues”.  That was all it took for him to make his escape, but I think I heard him mutter, “Crazy Bitch”, under his breath.  I promptly confronted the boss man, told him I didn’t need a pimp, and walked out the door.  Men!

On the flip side, after too many FAILS raging at customer service agents, I changed my tactics.  If I have an issue, I do not stop until I talk to a human. Have actually spoken to a person at Google, that is how persistent I am.  When said human answers phone, I always start with, “Hey Bon Qui Qui, how’s it hanging?  Having a good day?  How are the kids?  Always make nice, then the followup:  “I know this isn’t your fault at all, but I have a problem ….”.  Transfer call, transfer, transfer … could be transferred 20 times – and could  be on the phone dealing with one problem for 10 hours.  But this process is lined in gold; by the time I get to the top of the transfer heap, the company is terrified by the sheer number of call monitors on one customer and my wish is granted.

Guess I’m having a Rodney King moment here … it may be easier to be mean and ugly (Guilty!), but being nice, on purpose, is the high road.  I said, AT FIRST.  If you are nice and still encounter attitude, all bets are off. 



21 thoughts on “Customer Service: How to Deal Both Ways

  1. Izziedarling, I just hate you right now. I laughed so hard I spurted my wine all over my screen! Hilarious; from the first sentence to the last full stop.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing verbatim about my life!!! XP
    Yesterday was awful for me in the retail business with both customers and management hounding me from both sides. I read this and it made me feel so much better =]

  3. Love it. Having worked in customer loyalty for a few years, I understand that it costs them a lot of money to have people keep calling back. So, once I get a person on the line I usually tell them that if they don’t resolve my issue, I will keep calling back until it costs them more money to deal with me than it would to fix my problem.

    I NEVER mess with people that are handling my food though. Those people are playing with salmonella.

  4. I’m a relative newbie to your blog. Loved this post. It touched on things I’ve reflected on before.

    Whenever I hear someone complain about the “service” provided by min. wage employees, I always have to laugh. You think they do that job for fun? They probably hate their jobs and are treated like crap. Probably. Some may just be jerks but I like to give the rest the benefit of the doubt.

    Most of the time the quality of the interaction during the transaction falls on my shoulders – and I’m the customer! That does irk me and just doesn’t sit right. If anyone is going to make the effort shouldn’t it be the employee? I’m forced to work retail sometimes. I hate my job and I really hate being forced to work retail. The customers I’m helping have no idea how much. Yet I still provide better service than 99% of what I receive when I’m on the other end. I find that remarkably sad.

    Sometimes a person will provide friendly service in spite of all the other factors. I always try to let them know I appreciate them for that.

  5. You know, even though you hate it, shoppers probably go home and say, “You wouldn’t believe it – I actually had a nice salesperson today!” And the interaction totally revolved around the customer – it’s 90-percent customer driven. You are a good egg. And come back anytime!

  6. Customer Service is one of my HUGE pet peeves. If I don’t get a PLEASE and a THANK YOU when I am paying for a purchase, I used to just grumble and then not go back. Now, I raise a stink and get in their face!

    As for the fat guy sizing you up like you were a Ribeye…. I instantly pictured the classic Seinfeld where Kramer is horrificly suburned and is covered in butter and Newman is daydreaming that he is a basting turkey…. 🙂

  7. Fantastic post! I laughed and laughed. One of my clients is a retail art shop in the middle of our “arty” suburb here in Sydney (newtown) and the customer jokes are endless.
    The best was when our employee named Jess handed a customer a receipt and because she had logged onto the till, the receipt had her name on it. The customer demanded to know what a “Jess” was and if he had been charged for it. It’s a standard joke with us now. We always say “What’s a Jess?”

  8. Hysterical and so true!

    I’ve encountered many Velmas in my life. Once I make it clear I’m not going to be bullied, we get along just fine.

    I would have killed my boss for pimping me out. It’s so illegal to give out an employee’s personal information to a customer.

    I always start out nice. In every situation. People who aren’t nice and try to take advantage of that end up crying.

  9. I used to boycott businesses with bad customer service, but lasted about 2 weeks, until I ran out of businesses to boycott.

  10. First, everyone (and I do mean Everyone), oughta hafta do a stint in food service, and in retail. Kinda like the thou-shalt-do-military requirements other countries have. IMHO, the world would be a much nicer place.

    Second, there’s a natural order to the universe: it’s tough to have credibility playing the Nice card if you already trotted out your Mean card. Play Nice first. Then, if and only if it’s required, trump with the Mean card.

    Thirdly, besides…. we true Southerners know how to cover anything in sugar.

    Example: A dear Bostonian friend of mine is super-sharp, quick-witted, and delightfully snarky. LOVE her. She was remarking about how Wonderful X person was. Meanwhile, X person had just slain her with some sugar covered razor blades, and Bostonian friend didn’t even realize she was hemorraging blood from the damage. I clued her in. Now she calls me semi-regularly to replay conversations to see if she’d been Sugar’d or not.

    Now ain’t that just the sweetest little thing you ever did hear? Bless her little heart.

  11. Pingback: one key truth we true Southerners hope the Yanks never cotton onto « one tough lady lives on

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