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Customer Service is Dead – Installment #1

October 1, 2007

We went to a major sporting goods retailer this weekend, looking for nothing in particular. Before anyone gets upset (like Tulip Girl), it wasn’t YOUR major sporting goods retailer. You can lecture me on this later. 🙂

We wandered through considerably overpriced youth basketball shorts, clearance racks of summer swimsuits, and aisles of Crocs in every shape, size and color imaginable. We looked at camping gear, hunting equipment, camoflauge pants, turkey deep fryers, and more. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We were hanging together, perusing, dreaming of all of things we could do with the scads of equipment sold in this particular store.

I hastily passed the shoe section because I have a terrible shoe addiction and also an aversion to paying more than $10 for any pair. Wouldn’t you know that just past the shoe section is the gun section? The 8-year-old sucked in his breath so hard I thought for sure he would choke and beelined for a camo airsoft gun, complete with pellets and a holster. He took it down from the rack, eyes shining, holding is so tenderly in his little hands, and said the magic words.

“Please? Can I get it? I have allowance… It’s only $7.99.”

Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I do not have an issue with hunting, or paintballing, or even target practice given the appropriate target. But the idea of my 8-year-old shooting anything made me a little squeamish–even if it was ONLY an airsoft gun. I had an instant flashback to The Christmas Story, and Ralphie’s mother repeating in her shrill voice, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Luckily for my sweet munchkin, my husband was there. With his very own eyes shining, nodding his approval, he said, “I know. You think he’ll shoot his eye out.”

Did he read my mind?

He went on to say, “He won’t. He’s old enough. He’s very responsible.”

Needless to say, I didn’t really stand a chance in this argument. The little man cradled his treasure in his arms and looked at me with the most pitiful eyes. After a stern lecture about the kinds of targets that were acceptable (nothing living AT ALL) and the repercussions should I find that he was disobeying that rule, we headed for the checkout. I’m sure you understand the level of hope that had, by that point, built itself inside of his heart. He was so excited he could barely contain himself. He was about ready to explode with joy. This was not just some trinket. This was a big deal. There was some sort of rite of passage that was happening here–a transition from being a little boy into being a young man.

So imagine our surprise and instant sadness when the airsoft gun rang up at $24.99–a full 3 times what the price was on the shelf. My poor little guy looked panicked, then crestfallen.

“I don’t have that much allowance,” he said sadly. My husband stepped in. He explained to the clerk that we found the airsoft gun on the shelf in the back marked $7.99. Her instant response, with the nasally attitude of someone too young, too thin, and with too little life experience or even training to be called a true “Customer Service Representative” was, “That’s just NOT possible.” Then she gave an eye roll, an annoyed snicker, and picked up the phone to get a price check.

Up to this point, all that was going through my head was the repeated image of my son shooting his, or someone else’s eye out. At the eye roll and the snicker, I became determined that this establishment would indeed fork over the airsoft gun for the price advertised. There is nothing I hate more than the fact that companies are too cheap to price each item individually, and too cheap to hire enough decent help that things can be stocked appropriately except, perhaps, the fact that they are also too cheap to teach their employees to deal with customers with some modicum of respect and decency.

This wasn’t just two grown-ups at the checkout, trying to get something over on the store. It was an 8-year-old kid, responsible enough to have saved his money to purchase this treasure. Surely she could see that he was truly upset. I grabbed his hand and told Little Miss Tight Snooty Pants to have someone meet us back there so that I could show them where this particular item had lived. I learned my lesson many moons ago when this same thing happened at Target and the folks there rearranged the shelf while I was at the checkstand discussing the price differential with the manager.

Little Miss Tight Snooty Pants’ brother was evidently employed by this establishment as well, and their parents had done an equally good job with him (read: should be shot on sight for their abominable raising of these two self-important, rude, and downright nasty human beings). As I pointed to the shelf from whence the treasure had come, he said in his most nasally, attitude-filled voice, “THAT was just for a holster… See? See how it says “holster” right here?”

Yes, I did see how it said “holster” right there. However, this particular airsoft gun came WITH a holster, so it made no sense that I would make a distinction.

“Well,” said Little Miss Tight Snooty Pants’ Brother with the put-out air of someone who had been dragged from his nap in the back room, “That’s just TOO much of a price difference to just GIVE it to you.” Like we’re talking about million dollar real estate here, rather than just a simple airsoft gun.

“That’s fine,” I replied, in my best condescending, you’re an ant in the grand scheme of things, voice (OK, not my proudest moment). “Let’s go, Little Man.”

We walked back to the front of the store, my little guy’s head hanging down, the disappointment of his treasure won and lost in such a short time clearly scrawled across his face. There, at the front, stood my husband, with the bag in his hand.

Evidently while I had been in the back dealing with Snooty Pants’ Brother, my husband had spoken to the store manager, who had a much different attitude. His immediate response to Snooty Pants was, “Just give it to them. If we had it mis-marked, we had it mis-marked. Then send someone back there to fix it.”

Finally, someone with a clue. It was the tiniest bit anti-climactic, but I was thankful that Mr. Manager actually HAD taken a class in recent history on Customer Service and the meaning thereof. We got into the car, me still steamed at the treatment we received, my husband laughing at Snooty Pants’ reaction to Mr. Manager, and my 8-year-old practically swooning over his purchase.

“Wow, Mom,” he said. “I didn’t think I was gonna get it.”

“I didn’t think you were gonna get it, either,” I replied. “I’m glad you did. Sometimes you have to stick to your guns (no pun intended).”

He laughed. “Yeah, sometimes.”

“And never, ever, ever, ever, treat someone like that, OK?”

“I won’t. She wasn’t very nice. Neither was that guy in the back. They must not get paid very much to be so grouchy…”

Lessons do get learned.

Oh yes, they do.

In the most unlikely places.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynda permalink
    October 1, 2007 9:21 am

    I’m glad he got his treasure! Good for him for saving his allowance!! I’m sure he’ll have a lot of fun with it! Please give him big hugs from his Aunt Lynda and tell him I love him bunches and bunches!!

  2. October 1, 2007 9:27 am

    You mean I am not the only one subject to Target rearranging things in the back when both spouse-man and myself are up front discussing the “new” price after we checked and rechecked the price before we ever loaded it into the cart??????? Ohhhh, I am mad now.

    But glad for little man, with two eyes…and a heart…and a good mommy.

    …can’t believe, Lynda, you actually got a comment in before I did…it said zero when I started and there you popped in. What do you people do all day – park yourselves on Stephanie’s blog and hit the comment button at the sound of the buzzer??? :^)

  3. Lynda permalink
    October 1, 2007 10:30 am

    Donna…it’s a very special blog!! 8′)

  4. tulips4me permalink
    October 1, 2007 12:30 pm

    Can I just say that the name on the front of that particular sporting goods retailer should have told you something about the people that work there?

  5. October 1, 2007 12:58 pm

    “Can I just say that the name on the front of that particular sporting goods retailer should have told you something about the people that work there?”

    I’m still laughing……..

  6. Lynda permalink
    October 1, 2007 1:51 pm

    ““Can I just say that the name on the front of that particular sporting goods retailer should have told you something about the people that work there?”

    I’m still laughing……..”

    I just finally got it and now I’m laughing too!! Glad I’m alone in the office today, they’d think I was off my ever lovin’ rocker!

  7. October 2, 2007 12:01 am

    OK, us out of towners aren’t getting the store joke. Do tell!

  8. Keith permalink
    October 2, 2007 7:52 am

    Be careful you don’t shoot your eye out.

  9. October 2, 2007 10:34 am

    I had one very satisfying moment at a Kmart once. While the cashier was rolling her eyes and talking to the guy in the meat department who said “THAT sale was for last week and is over,” my husband stayed put and I ran my buns off to get to the back and swiped the sign said meat department manager was attempting to pull off the display case. A quick call to the store manager got me the price they had listed. It should have been free. You shouldn’t have to fight a store employee over that.

    I was a retail manager for years and if we goofed, we goofed. For crying out loud-there are worse things. Anytime you can give some one a good deal is the day you make them a loyal customer. What is WRONG with these people now!!!????!!!!

  10. lisa permalink
    October 7, 2007 7:18 pm

    Don’t you hate it that you didn’t really want the kid to have the gun, but bad customer service just FORCED you to let him have it?

    Went to Albertsons when they were running this “Buy 25$ of marked products, get 2 free movie tickets” promotion. Ran around grabbing only marked items up to 50$ (4 kids), went to checkout and half of them didn’t ring up right, so they tried to give me only 2 tickets. Instead of checking a LIST of approved items, the idiot in charge (not a real manager) made me TAKE him around the store SHOWING him all the items. I got my 4 tickets and wrote a nasty letter to Albertsons and they sent me a 25$ gift card. I would rather have had a written apology from the idiot.

  11. lisa permalink
    October 7, 2007 7:20 pm

    Oh shoot, forgot the whole reason I was going to comment in the first place bc I am still mad about the albertson’s thing (happened 6 months ago…) and got all riled up again…
    Where on earth do you find shoes for 10$???

  12. October 8, 2007 5:01 am

    Lisa – Ross and Marshall’s are my friends! I bought a GREAT pair of Liz Claiborne wedge espadrilles at Marshall’s in August for $5! I also try to shop off-season so I can find the shoes that are on clearance. It seems to have worked pretty well so far. 🙂

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