Sunday, April 5

I'm sorry, am I bothering you?

I don't get salespeople or cashiers who are clearly irritated by the presence of a customer.  No.  Wait.  I got that wrong.  They don't mind customers.  After all, we spend money (and what else would they do if we weren't there?).   Mea culpa.  What they mind is customers who speak.  Or smile.  Or ask a question.  Or pretty much anything else that indicates that they are present, other than handing over money without making eye contact.

Today, I'd like you to meet Phyllis.  Yes.  I noticed her name.  She works at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, one of those big box stores that I dislike, but it's next door to Trader Joe's (which I like) and I needed a kitchen scale. Maybe, through some miracle of synchronicity or karma she will read this.  Wouldn't that be fun?  Yes.  It would.  Or maybe her manager will read it.  Even more fun!  (Or maybe she is the manager.  Which would figure.)

Here's how it went.  

I stepped up to the counter dutifully, eyes appropriately averted (except for that time that I looked at her name badge), and put my stuff on the counter: a kitchen scale, and a few 50% off frames (2 8x10's, 1 5x7).

She rang them up.  I watched to make sure the 50% off price was reflected.  Crazy registers at that store by the way.  The display shows the discount, but not the price--for example, when she scanned one, it said -12.50 .  I knew they were half off, so I knew the price, but wouldn't make more sense to have the price show up, rather than the discount?    And God have mercy on us all if the scanners break (are you old enough to remember when cashiers knew prices by memory?  Yes.  It's true)

So I had bought two 8x10 frames.  And when she rang one up it said -12.50 and when she rang the other one up, it said -13.50.  That's where the trouble began, horrible customer that I am.

I stopped her. I asked very nicely about why they would have rung up as different prices.  She didn't look up and didn't look at the items or their price tags in any way.  She just looked disgusted, and said "Maybe because they're different prices."  Hmm.  Interesting explanation.

I mentioned that I had thought they were the same, but I started to look at them more carefully, just in case they were, in fact, different in some way, in which case I would throw myself on the ground and grovel in penance for challenging the Authority of Phyllis.  I understand the rules.

As I was looking at them, she deigned to look over at the frames for a brief second, and made her grand pronouncement.  She had figured it out.  She knew why they were different.  She still sounded phenomenally irritated.  And here's what she said:  "This one is white."  (she meant the mat inside the frame.  The other one was cream colored).  

And here's where it gets ugly.  Hold on to your hats.  I said (biting my finger here) "I don't think that a different color mat would account for a two dollar difference in price.".  Uh-oh.  One of those 1970's radicals with a Question Authority bumper sticker on her car who doesn't understand the first principle of physics:  Scanners are always right.  Or the second law of physics:  Reason is irrelevant.  Yup.  That's me.

In the meantime, I had actually noticed that the wood frame was a little bit fancier (with the emphasis on "a little bit"--it's hardly different).  And I had decided that that's probably why the bots who priced these made that one two dollars more.  And I had decided that, given the sale price and Chain Saw Phyllis, it wasn't worth arguing.  So I just said something like "Never mind, I figured it out" and I let it go.  

Good thing I'm not a troublemaker.  (really, I'm one of the nicer customers, especially here in Massachusetts where smiling at strangers is an offense punishable by death)

I know.  I know all about working for minimum wage, and the curse of mindless jobs, and how we all have bad days once in a while (or more than once in a while), and how she'd no doubt rather be doing something else, and about elitism.  Still.  Did people love mindless work any better 30 years ago? Were they making six figure salaries back then in the good old days?  Does being surly make her job any better or her wretched day pass any more quickly?  Call me an elitist.  Call me an old fogey.  I don't get it.

Thank you for shopping at Here's What I Don't Get.  Have a nice day!


S said...

I once had a sales clerk at the local yarn store try to help me. I had picked out a hat pattern I liked and had a very specific color idea as I wanted to use KU Jayhawk colors. After looking through the yarns that were the right weight for the pattern, I didn't see the colors I wanted, so I decided to branch out, figuring I could tweak the pattern. Any good knitter knows you have to be prepared to tweak, anyway, to get the gauge right since we all knit a little differently.

So a sales clerk asked if I needed some help. I told her what colors I was looking for, but I was holding the pattern. She insisted on looking only at the section with the right weight of yarn, but I told her I hadn't really liked any of those options. "But any other weight yarn won't work with this pattern," she snarked. Well, sure, but I can do math and it's a simple rib pattern, so I can probably adjust the number of stitches and rows as necessary. Then she acted insulted when she showed me a blue and a red in the right weight and I said that the blue wasn't KU blue. "Well, I went to KU," she huffed, "so I would know." But I was wearing a KU shirt and it was clearly not the right blue!

Then she said, "Well, I guess you're on your own." And walked off. Umm...

Ooh, and there was also a server at the restaurant where my knitting club used to meet every week. Something like three weeks in a row, she forgot to put my food order in. So everyone else would get their food, but I had to wait like an hour. And I'd already paid! We've since moved our club.

I have worked both retail and at a coffee shop. I did not like it. It was hard and unsatisfying work. But I really don't think I ever treated a customer like that. It was hardly a customer's fault that I didn't like my job!

Guess your post struck a nerve with me! :)

Ash said...

This has been an ongoing complaint for me as well. It seesm rampant in the big box stores (tho I must say, I've yet to encounter it at Target, thankfully!) It seems to be with the 20 somethings-from the generation that grew up getting everything they wanted and didn't have to work for any of it. I know that is very stereotypical of me and I try not to do labels like that...but, that is just my for what its worth perspective on it.
Or, maybe there is just more folks out there who are just plain miserable. I hated working retail when I did, but I still liked the people and talking to them.
I have found myself lately saying as I am checking out.."Please be careful, you're smiling way to much and someone could get hurt."
I have gotten some really dirty looks from that!

This Eclectic Life said...

Phyllis sounds much like one of my personal "favorite" clerks. Her name was "Solitaire," and I decided she wasn't playing with a full deck, if you know what I mean.

I'm wondering if part of their problem is their age? Or maybe that we don't do such a great job of teaching our kids manners anymore?

Nah. Maybe they are just jerks.

But, you keep on smiling and being nice, and don't sink to their levels.

ConverseMomma said...

My grandfather made a living as the night manager of a supermarket. He worked his way up from stock boy. There were no cash registers those days. You could give my grandfather a long, long list of numbers, big numbers, and ask him to add them up. I would try and race him with the calculator and he would always beat me, and he would always be right. Down to the penny. Amazing!

Chrissy said...

Yep, know these sales people...they are everywhere and in mass quantity!

Audrey said...

When I was a kid (starting at age 9), I helped out in my father's store. I remember one time that he made me leave the store, because I had argued with a rude customer. I must've been about 12 or 13. He told me that "the customer is ALWAYS right," and that I was never to argue. I learned a valuable lesson that day, I think, although I must confess I don't always heed it.