Not Always Right

Editor’s note: always has a slightly different take on the retail and service industry. Its vignettes are true tales and anecdotes from the commercial trenches as told by the shop clerks, bag boys, receptionists and technicians of the world who daily shake their heads at the odd ducks they sometimes have to deal with.

About to be Charged by Battery
Extra Stupid | Michigan, US

(During a friendly chat with my boss I let it slip that I like to wrench on vehicles in my spare time. Seizing at the opportunity to transform my favorite hobby into something I’ll soon hate, he appoints me the new go-to guy for anything even remotely related to mechanical subject matter. Even though we have reference books tied to the rack, I’m often paged to the automotive battery rack so I can look up the correct battery for them. Upon doing this, one of two reactions is guaranteed to unfold:

  1. The customer, who three seconds ago didn’t know the make or model of vehicle they were working on, suddenly becomes an expert on all things battery, and proceeds to tell me that the book is wrong and there’s ‘no way’ the recommended battery will be powerful enough to start their vehicle. They then scour the rack for a farm tractor or forklift battery with enough cranking amps to successfully fry the ignition on their ’00 Volkswagen Beetle.
  2. The customer gasps, loudly enough to pull merchandise off a nearby endcap, at the price of the correct battery, and then goes in search of the cheapest $26 lawn tractor battery that would make the power door locks on their Dodge crewcab diesel laugh a hearty guffaw.)

Customer: “Hi. I’m looking for a battery for my car.”

Me: “Sure! I’d be happy to get you all set. What kind of car is it?”

Customer: “It’s a little two-door.”

Me: “Okay, do you know what brand it is?”

Customer: “Taurus makes it, I think?”

Me: “All right… Taurus is a Ford; does that sound right?”

Customer: “Yeah, whatever.”

Me: *looking in book* “Do you know which engine it has?” *I list available engines*

Customer: “Jeez… I didn’t know there were so many!” *there were two, a four cylinder and a V-6* “What did most of them come with?”

Me: “I’m not sure; it could be either one. Do you have the vehicle with you so we could check?”

Customer: “Oh, no.” *waves in the air and gives me a look as if to say “How silly of a question!”* “It’s at home. It won’t start. Let me put it this way: if it was your car, which one do you think it would be?”

Me: “Um… I would still need to know which engine I had. If we get the wrong one the battery might not fit or won’t be adequate for the application.”

(At this point the customer switches tactics, from clueless to pissy.)

Customer: “Well, fine! It’s a four cylinder!”

Me: “Okay… here we are, it’s [part number]; I’ve got one right here.”

Customer: “Is that tag for $79 for THIS BATTERY?”

Me: “Yes, it’s actually one of our less expensive batteries.”

Customer: “YOU think that’s less expensive? In that case I’d like to have your income!”

Me: “…”

Customer: “Well, what about this one?” *motions to a six-volt golf cart battery that costs $59* “Why won’t this one work?”

(I end up going through the full explanation of why their car needs a twelve-volt automotive battery. Their facial expression indicates NONE of what I am saying is getting through and that I’m just a slimy salesman trying to talk him into a top of the line option.)

Customer: “Fine! What about this one here?” *motions to a motorcycle battery*

(Again I went through the process of explaining why that won’t work. Eventually I thought I gained ground getting them to believe that I was just trying to recommend what would work for his car and what won’t. They begrudgingly thanked me and I went on to help other customers. Fast forward two hours. I was working elsewhere in the store and heard a commotion up at the registers. I poked my head out of my aisle and recognized the battery customer from earlier. As I was walking up I began catching parts of the conversation, things like “Didn’t have any idea what he was doing” and “Got me the wrong battery” and “Expect to be compensated for driving all the way over from (neighboring town that is a half mile down the road).” When I reached the registers, I saw he ended up going with a boat battery, probably because it was $49.99. He was in the process of going off on our cashier about how I had intentionally screwed him over until he saw me approaching. The look on his face of being caught in a lie was priceless. He quickly dropped the attitude and asked sheepishly if we would take the battery he had bought in exchange for the correct one.)


The argument hasn’t a leg to stand on
Supermarket | Nottingham, England UK

(When I was nine I was in a car accident resulting in the loss of the lower part of my left leg. I now wear a solid, life-like, suction-attached prosthetic. I have a “disabled parking” badge but very rarely use it; however, I’ve hurt my back and am in pain through my right hip and thigh. I and my husband both have good jobs and no kids so we have a decent disposable income allowing us to splurge on presents (nice cars, watches, bags, etc.). I’m shopping and park in a disabled bay (one of 12, 5 being used), go in, and am there for two minutes before I hear a customer announcement for the owner of a light blue mini with my reg. I go to customer services and see a security guard. We then go out to my car and there’s another security guard, a middle age woman, and a traffic warden at my car.)

Woman: “That’s her! I saw her park then walk in like she hasn’t a care in the world.”

(The traffic warden asks me a couple of questions,. I show him my license and tell him the other paperwork is in the car. We get it and move to the back of my car. He looks everything over. I then raise my trouser leg a bit to show him my prosthetic.)

Traffic Warden: “Okay, everything seems in order. I’m sorry for any trouble.”

(We turn to the security guards who are listening to the woman rant and moan about me.)

Traffic Warden: “Everything’s fine. There’s no problem.”

Woman: “What the f***? Are you looking at her? There’s nothing f****** wrong with her. My husband has had five years of back problems and two surgeries; we need a disabled space.”

Security Guard: “Madam, the warden has said nothing is wrong. Please stop shouting and swearing at our customers.”

(She then stands in front of me so I can’t pass.)

Woman: “Did this whore offer to blow you or something? I’m sick of these types. Just because they’re pretty they think they can get away with anything!”

(The store manager arrives, telling us the police have been called.)

Woman: *to me* “You little b****. I f****** hate you. No-one who has a car—” *she bangs her fist on my car* “—like this is disabled. No-one who dresses like you is disabled. Is that a [Very Famous French Designer] bag? Did you get that from one of your clients? Whore!”

Security Guard: “Please, madam. We’ve asked you to stop talking like this. Not all disabilities are visible. You need to calm yourself and stop swearing.”

(I’ve had enough. I sit on the bonnet of my car, pull my trouser leg up, detach my prosthetic and stand it next to me on the bonnet. Everyone is quiet. The woman just stands there, staring, opening and closing her mouth. I pull my trouser leg back up as far as it will go so the woman can see my heavily scarred stump and re-attach my prosthetic.)

Me: “Well, I’m going shopping.”

(As I went in I saw a police car pull up. The manager came and found me as I was shopping. He offered me a gift card but I declined; it wasn’t their fault. He also told me that the traffic warden was wearing a pocket camera and everything was recorded. He took my details as the police, after being told what happened, were pressing charges of public nuisance, discrimination charges, and resisting arrest. I was contacted by the police and asked if I wanted to include damage to private property from when she hit my car. I did. She deserved it.)


A Blizzard of Complaints
Retail | USA

(It has been severely snowing in our area and storm warnings have been out for days. About half the regular stores are closed due to weather. The roads are icy, and so is our parking lot. Most stores are out of sand, gravel, ice melt, etc. to put on the sidewalks. We only have a small bag left to do the entryway to the store.)

Customer: “Excuse me!”

Me: “Yes?”

Customer: “Your parking lot is terrible! My husband slipped when he got out of the car! What are you going to do about it!?”

Me: “Well, unfortunately, since we have been getting twelve inches of freezing snow and rain every sixteen hours, the snow plows cannot keep up with it. Is he hurt? We can fill out an accident report for you to take to the hospital if needed.”

Customer: “No, he is fine, but I want you to go and sand that parking lot.”

(All of us employees look at her. She is the ONLY customer in the store. We look outside at the literal BLIZZARD.)

Me: “I’m sorry, you want me to go out and sand the ENTIRE parking lot by hand?”

Customer: *blinks at me, completely serious* “Yes”

Me: *trying to be serious and not laugh while my co workers are also trying to keep it together* “Well, unfortunately we don’t have enough sand to do that. And all the stores are out, too.”

Customer: “Well, that is stupid! How can you expect your customers to shop?!”

Me: “There is a blizzard happening. We DON’T expect people to be out shopping!”


That’s A Completely Different Function
Hotel | Phoenix, Arizona

(I am working nights at a help desk for hotel guests that need assistance connecting to WiFi. The customer can’t get online because the laptop’s WiFi is off. I calmly try directing their attention to the FN key (function key) + the key with WiFi signal on it (F6).)

Me: “To enable WiFi simple press and hold the FN key Then tap F6.”

Customer: “Don’t get impatient with me, sir.”

Me: “Oh, I’m not; just letting you know how to turn on your WiFi.”

Customer: “Let me talk to your supervisor!”

Me: “Okay… I can help if you would simply press the—”

Customer: “Supervisor!”

Me: “Okay, one moment…”

Supervisor: “This is [Supervisor]. How can I help?

Customer: “Your tech is being rude and telling me to press the FN key over and over. It’s unprofessional!”

Supervisor: “Do you see the space bar?”

Customer: “Yes.”

Supervisor: “Look three keys to the left; what does it read?”

Customer: “Oh, my god, I thought he was telling me to press the ‘effin’ key! I’m so sorry.”


Beginning To Understand Why You Have A Criminal Record
Office | Wisconsin, USA

(This conversation happens on the telephone at my office.)

Me: “Good afternoon, [Name] Law Offices. Can I help you?”

Client: “Hi, I have a case and need an attorney. I’ve been victimized by the courts. I agreed to a misdemeanor charge, but on my records, it’s recorded as a felony! This is outrageous!”

Me: “Okay, ma’am, the attorney is out right now, but I can make you a consultation appointment. Can I have your name and phone number?”

Client: “Oh… I don’t know. I’m very busy. Maybe if I can call you and see if he is in?”

Me: “Ma’am, the attorney tends to be out quite a bit. It would be best if we could make an appointment.”

Client: “But I’m a victim of an injustice! We can’t let anyone get away with it! How do I know the attorney is worth it?”

Me: “Ma’am, the attorney that specializes in criminal defense is very good. We have people calling from all over our state, and from neighboring states as well. Please, can I have a name and a phone number? We can at least call you back!”

Client: “I don’t know… I’m going to be driving, so I won’t be able to answer my phone. I’ll just call later.”

Me: “Ma’am, can I at least have a name so the attorney can know to anticipate your call?”

Client: “Well… I don’t think so; I don’t want him trying to call me when I’m not available!”

Me: *tearing my hair out* “Ma’am, really, any information would be helpful.”

Client: “No… I’ll just call later… You have a good day.” *click*

Me: *to myself* “Well that was just the biggest waste of time EVER.”

(The kicker? I spent half an hour with this woman, which is worth a great deal of money in billable hours, and I ended up horribly behind on my work. And she NEVER called back!)