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.