Customer Service: From the Other Side of the Counter (Part 2)


Here are a few typical and interesting interactions with customers:

Rude and Impatient Customer

Context: there are three of us on the sales floor and all of us are busy with customers. I am ringing in a sale for a customer. There are 4 or 5 other customers waiting for help.

R&I (butts in while I am in the middle of ringing up a sale for a customer): Excuse me! Can you call someone and get some extra help down here? There several people needing help. I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to wait.

Me: Um, there are two other sales people on the floor. One of us will be with you as soon as we can.

R&I: I don’t see anyone else. Can’t you call someone?

Me: Ma’am, I am with a customer right now.

R&I (sarcastically): What? And you can’t pick up the phone and call for help…?

Me (thinking): OK, this is Ramadan. I am not going to break the spiritual element of my fast by arguing with her…

Me (speaking to her in a calm, but deliberate manner): No, I can’t. I am with a customer right now and I am doing one thing at a time.

R&I broods, and looks at me with eyes that could kill. Customer I am serving says to me in a low voice, “I was thinking to let her go ahead of me but I don’t like her attitude…”

I finish with my customer, but if I serve R&I then I am rewarding her for rude and bullying behavior – and being unfair to other customers that may have been waiting longer. So I walk right past her and ask the other waiting customers “Who’s next, please…? R&I is eventually served by another employee.

Reminders for customers: 1) You will sometimes have to wait longer than expected on sale days because all of us are busy; 2) DEMANDING or BULLYING behavior will NOT dispose me to want to go the extra mile or make an exception for you. Ask nicely. Please. And understand and accept if I may not be able to help you: I may need the consent or help of other customers or staff to do so and I may not get it.

The Haggler

Context: Selling a treadmill to a couple. Price appears to be an issue, even though the item is on sale for $999 from a price of about $1599.

Customer: So you can take off the GST, right? It says in the flyer.

Me: Sorry, we don’t do that down here. I know they do that sometimes for furniture and major appliances. You can still use your scratch and save card today and save between $20 and $100.

Customer: You deliver for free then…

Me: No. Delivery is $60 on weekdays and $75 on Saturdays.

Customer: Come on, you make me a deal…!

Me (thinking): Ma’am, this is CANADA. We do not “bargain” in this country… If you want it then the price is what it is…

Me (calmly but deliberately): I’m sorry, but this is the lowest price I can give you…

Customer: What about senior’s discount if I bring my mom to buy it on Senior’s Day…?

Me: Well, yes, you could do that. Only, the sale ends tomorrow and it will be back up to regular price by Senior’s Day. So it will still be cheaper if you buy at the sale price today.

Customer: You sure you can’t take off the GST…?

Me (internally): Sigh…

Reminders for customers: 1) This is not a big box store or “Crazy Eddies Bargain Bazaar”. You are paying higher prices at our store because we have higher overhead and provide better ambiance and service; 2) I can get into trouble from my employer, and our store from the human rights commission, if we sell to some customers at one price, and to others at another.

Failing to Read the Fine Print

Context: We are offering a scratch and save promotion, where you can save either a percentage or dollar amount off of certain classes of items.

Customer: What’s the price of the lawn mower?

Me: It is $XXX.XX

Customer: What about the scratch and save? It says save 10 to 50% off…

Me: The 10 to 50% off doesn’t apply to this class of products. The savings would be from $20 to $100 off on this part of the card. And the scratch and save doesn’t apply to this item because the price ends in .XX

Customer (indignant): Well, there’s a sign right next to this that says save $20 to $100 off, isn’t there…?

Me: Yes, there is. But the sign says “almost everything” and that “certain exceptions apply”. One of the exceptions is “items ending in .XX”… It’s right here on the back of the card…

Customer (annoyed): Hmmpf! This is the last time I am shopping here… Stomps off.

Reminders for customers: 1) Take the time to read what you are given, and ask questions if you don’t understand. Or even if you think you do.

Out of Stock

Context: Customer wants to buy something they see on sale in the store’s flyer but we have no stock.

Customer: I’d like this product advertised in your flyer…

Me: I’m sorry, but we’re all sold out of that item.

Customer (upset): But the sale just started today. How can you be sold out?

Me: Well, I haven’t seen any of that item here in the store in a long time.

Customer: That’s false advertising! How can you sell something you don’t have…?

Me (empathizing with customer): Well, the sales are planned six months to a year in advance. At the time they are doing the planning, there may be lots in the warehouse. Or they may have placed a large order with the supplier. But we could have sold out everything in the meantime, or there might have been problems with the manufacturer or supplier… If you’d like, I can check our other stores in the city to see if they have stock. Or, alternatively, I can see if it’s available from the warehouse and I can place an order for you…

Reminders for Customers: 1) There are certain things that are out of my control. I am prepared to do what IS within my control to try and help you.

It is interesting to note the influence that a full moon has on customer behavior. I encounter the most outrageous and annoying customer behavior on days/nights with full moons…


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