Customer Service Suffering

Back in the day (the “day” here-forth meaning “sometime in the past that I can’t quite recall) I was a regular reader of the “Customers Suck” Livejournal account.  I used to read those stories day after day, and occasionally contributed one or two of my own, because at that point in my life I had worked several customer service-based jobs and it helped to vent and listen to other people vent.

I left that site a long while back because, personally, I felt that my fellow posters were unnecessarily abusive to each other, but I now read “Not Always Right” (and it’s sister sites) on a regular basis for the same reason. Even though I haven’t worked with customers in about eight years or so, I still shudder when thinking about some of the things I had to put up with, and I still see and experience things to this day that make me wonder if half the consumer community wasn’t raised by packs of rabid wolves.

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I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite personal stories.

1. Zellers: The Liars
Zellers, for those who don’t know, is a Canadian department store chain that recently went out of business and sold most of their stores to Target. I worked at two different Zellers stores in my customer service career, and the first one was actually my first retail job. I got a part-time position there coming up to the holidays, and I quickly learned that half the people I’d grown up around and lived near my entire life were dirty, rotten, filthy liars.

See, the thing about Zellers (that was their own damn fault) was that they would often put on all these sales (sometimes last minute without them even being in the flyer), but not program them into the registers. So we cashiers would just scan things along and have to rely on customers to let us know if something had scanned wrong. If a customer pointed out a wrong price we would have to call one of the floor walkers to go find the product and let us know what the sale was. That is, if there actually WAS one. See, everyone and their dog knew that this happened on a constant basis, and most of them also knew that cashiers at Zellers had the power to change prices on the register without any help from a supervisor or anything like that. See what I’m getting at?

The last few days coming up to Christmas was the worst because there were lines 20-strong of customers with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise each, and we only had one or two floor walkers in the store. You could literally wait 20 minutes for a floor walker to call you back about a price, and in that time your line of 20 customers would inflate to 40, all of them extremely mad that you were taking so long. And EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM. would claim that at least one of their items was scanning wrong. In the interest of not having a riot in the store, my fellow cashiers and I would often just override the price to whatever the customer was saying it was, only to find out hours later that everything they said was 100% BS.

I’m convinced that this combination of the stores refusing to update their registers properly and customers being dirty rotten liars is why this chain of stores went out of business in the first place.

2. Sirius: “Are you deaf or just an idiot?”
I spent several months at a call center, a job that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. My particular contract was for Sirius Satellite Radio, and one of my main jobs was activating people’s new radios. I would take down all their information, payment method, etc, and then go through a little spiel before hitting the button that would send a signal to their radio. The main point of this spiel was, “Is your radio currently plugged in and turned on, and does the antenna have a clear view of the sky?”

You have absolutely no concept of how often the answer to that question was “Yes” when the reality of the situation was “No”. At least two out of every three of my customers would wait the obligatory few minutes, inform me that they still weren’t getting a signal, and then feel free to inform me that, “Oh, by the way, I’m in a parking garage. Is that okay?”

People, evidently, have no idea what the words “clear view of the sky” mean.

I even had one particular lady tell me that everything was great, hang up, and call back later to complain that her radio wasn’t working; after a short, painful conversation we determined that she hadn’t even taken the radio out of the box when she called to have it activated.

3. Cape Breton Post: Cheapskates
Here I’m going to give a piece of advice to anyone who currently has a newspaper subscription. That advice is plainly, and simply, to pay your damn paper carrier. If you honestly can’t afford the (very affordable) cost of a newspaper, please cancel your subscription, because if you don’t pay what you owe that money literally comes out of the pocket of the kid who brings your paper every morning. Literally. From the pocket of the kid. The newspaper company isn’t losing a cent, because that’s how paper carriers work. The kid has to pay a bill every month that corresponds to how many papers they deliver. Whatever is left over after that bill is paid is what they’ve earned. If you refuse to pay them they still have to pay the bill, which means they make less money on a job that already pays beans.

If you are like a few of the customers I had, who were completely loaded with cash but still absolutely refused to ever pay me…dear news reader, there is a special place in hell for you.

4. Tim Hortons: Lunatics with weird ordersThis is actually my husband’s story, not mine, but it’s too ridiculous not to include in this post.

Another piece of advice, this time for anyone who ever stumbles into a Tim Hortons coffee shop. Ladies and gentlemen, if you wander into a Tim’s pretty much anywhere within the country of Canada, and you order a “regular” coffee, you are going to get one cream and one sugar. It may be different elsewhere, but that’s what “regular” means in Tim Horton’s jargon, so please don’t lose your mind if you receive your coffee and that’s not what you meant to get. Just explain what you actually wanted, and they’ll be happy to remake it for you.

Additionally, if your coffee order is the kind of order that no one in their right mind would ever order, please explain yourself thoroughly instead of ordering “regular” and then pitching a complete fit.

The customer in question walked up to my husband, ordered a “regular” and received his one cream, one sugar. He then proceeded to take a sip, spew that sip all over the counter, and start screaming “Are you trying to kill me? I have diabetes!” It turns out the customer wanted something that no other customer in the history of Tim Hortons has ever ordered: one cream and one milk. And he thought that this abnormal request was a “regular”.

To this day I can’t fathom why someone would want cream and milk in the same coffee.

5. Every damn place: Rudeness…good old fashioned RUDENESS
I’ve worked a number of customer service jobs, and endured all the idiocy that comes with such a career, but I never really fathomed how unbelievably rude people are until I became the shopper in the situation. See, I was never much of a shopper when I was younger, but these days I regularly spend great deals of time shopping for groceries for my family, presents for birthdays and holidays, and just generally wandering around the stores to get out and keep the baby from getting too shack-wacky.

And what I find with every single trip is that people in general are rude, ignorant arses. I know that sounds terribly cynical, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve seen people block off entire aisles with their carts, push in front of people without so much as an “excuse me”, and act like you’re a huge inconvenience to them because you happen to be in the same store at the same time.

In one particular example, my husband was leaving the store while carrying two huge, heavy containers of kitty litter. At this particular moment two old ladies decided that directly in the center of the doorway was the perfect place for the conversation they were having. I was with my husband at the time and there is absolutely no way that they didn’t see him standing there, glaring at them, waiting to be able to pass. In the end, after waiting way longer than I would have, my husband ended up shouting for them to get the hell out of the way, to which they responded by shooting looks at him like he was the asshole. I nearly died from laughing, I’ll be honest.

In other example, a recent one, my daughter was sitting on the floor of a toy aisle. She had one of each of the four Ninja Turtles down on the floor with her, playing with them. My husband was in the aisle with her at the time. Enter lunatic woman, who wandered down the aisle, swooped down, and snatched up one of the turtles that my daughter was currently playing with, and walked off with it. Please note, at this time, that there were plenty more of that particular turtle sitting on the shelf. That woman chose to grab a toy away from a child rather than take one off the shelf. And besides that, even if the one my daughter had been playing with was the only one left, what right did this woman have to just snatch it away? How did she know that the child’s father – who was standing right there, I’ll remind you – wasn’t planning on buying those toys?

As the holidays grow closer and people start to lose their minds trying to get their shopping done, things only get worse. People argue about sales prices with associates who have no power over the pricing. They rip open packages to examine the product, thus making that particular item unsellable. They pick up items (usually something that is meant to be kept frozen) and drop them in random places rather than put them back or give them to an associate to put back. And they’re rude, rude, rude to one another, standing in each others’ way, snatching items away from each other, and just generally acting like a bunch of animals.

It all makes me extremely glad that I got out of that racket a long time ago, but also makes me sad that I still have to watch it every time I venture out to a store.

What about you? What kind of terrible customer service stories do you have to share? Have you ever had a customer completely lose their mind on you? Have you ever completely lost your mind on an idiotic customer? Please share! I know I’m not the only one! 😛

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