Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Having re-entered the wonderful world of retail at Sport Mart, I have found that in my time away (although, customer service is customer service, even at a gym), virtually nothing has changed. Customers will take their frustrations out on employees, but employees must be in a state of perpetually brain injury/smileitude. One nice change, though, is the lack of bitching about prices at Sport Mart; at Blockbuster, every less than Oscar-worthy movie was grounds for an appeal for a free movie.

However, this post is not intended to revolve around stories (although there are two at the end that should provide some entertainment), but rather to wonder aloud - online, that is - why people that work in retail feel the need to tell stories about the ignorance and sheer terribleness of customer service. Unfortunately, working in retail and customer service virtually guarantees a certain percentage of asshats in your daily encounters, and no amount of wishing or complaining will make that go away. A resignation letter will do the trick, but is generally not a cost-effective solution.

Everyone that works in retail secretly dreams of, whether they have seen the movie or not, working at Empire Records. Everyone wants to have this exchange when they've caught a shoplifter:

"I want you to take these, hold them against your chest, stand against the wall, and they're gonna take a photograph of you."
"Why don't you go shove 'em up your ass?"
"Because that would hurt a lot, Warren."
(That's just the first one I thought of, there are many, many other choices)

Everyone wants to tell customers exactly what's on their collective minds, and they tell stories about how they did, regardless of the implausibility of said stories. They tell these stories despite the fact that if these customers were so irate about something so irrational, they would, in a second, inform a supervisor, and, depending on the supervisor (and I have had them on both sides), said supervisor would side with the employee or completely undermine them. But this does not deter the storyteller.

Customers will always be an enormous pain in the ass, but instead of pissing and moaning about it, I try my best to make the lives of fellow service and retail employees as easy as possible - karma and all that. I find it baffling to see people (friends!) that work in service and retail do things like not leave tips at restaurants, bitch because they're not being served promptly enough, or complain that an employee is in a bad mood. Working in retail does lend itself to a certain degree of narcissism (work in a clothing store and you're an expert on fashion; work in a movie store and, believe me, your taste in movies trumps all), but to go out with people and see such a blatant disregard for something with which they can completely empathise confounds me. The general consensus is that they're not "that kind" of customer, but I don't think there are more than a handful of times when that is an excuse.

Now, enough railing against my fellow retail drones, and on to the stories.

Story the First:

A lady comes in with her two sons (who will one day rebel openly against her).
Lady: We are looking for shoes. We need Nikes; they fit the best.
"We", for the record, means her two sons, not her.
Me: I've got just the things for you.
I hand her a pair of Nike Bangers, which, if you don't feel like clicking on the link, are skate shoes.
Lady: Ooh...no, no. That's not our family. Kids that wear those kinds of shoes have very serious attitude changes. I've seen it.
Wondering what attitude changes can be brought on by shoes, I then proceed to show them some other Nikes, in this case basketball shoes. When it comes to kids shoes and Nike, as I've learned, there are skate shoes, there are basketball shoes, and there are Velcro shoes for the wee little ones. That's about it. But, I digress - basketball shoes.
Lady: Nope, nope, those won't do either.
I'm not sure what attitude changes come with basketball shoes, but based on this lady, her main fear was probably that her kids would eventually want to undergo a negroplasty. I did wind up finding shoes for both of her kids - one kid tried on one pair, loved 'em, took 'em, the other kid tried on seven different pairs, but eventually was satisfied.

Story the Second:

Did not happen to me, but I was eavesdropping in the back. A gentleman brought in a Sickle which, again if you don't wanna look, is a BMX bike.1
Dude: My son bought this bike two weeks ago, and about two days after he bought it, the back tire [tube] popped. We got it replaced, and now the front tire has popped.
Tech: Where's he doing most of his riding?
Dude: Over at the skate park, he does tricks with it.
Tech: Ah, OK, yeah, that's why. While these bikes are built for that, this is a really common problem for them. They can take a bunch of damage, but you'll have to replace the tires a lot.
Dude: Well, there's something wrong with this bike; I shouldn't have had to replace the tires twice in two weeks.
Tech: Well, if your son is using it at the skatepark, it's going to happen.
Dude: This can't just be from riding, he only really ever rides it back and forth to school; he barely even goes to the skate park.
Tech: Alright...well...we can give you another bike, but you'll probably have the same thing happen.
Dude: Alright, I'll just get another one of these [Sickle]. Can you check this one out and make sure the tires are all right? I don't think they checked it last time.
Tech: Yeah...definitely.
I really don't know how Stefan managed to keep his cool with someone that clearly wasn't paying attention to him. I have not, however, seen this guy back in the store, so maybe it worked out.

1 - If I've guilted you in to looking on the website, may I just say please do not buy anything. I have recently been flooded with sportmart.ca orders that the warehouse has been unable to satisfy, so, basically, I do the work, but I do not get credit for a sale. So, come into the store; that would be much better for me, and may ultimately give me a story to tell.

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