Sunday, July 31, 2005

Paperwork Problems

Computers can be helpful, but when they mess up, they sure do cause a lot of headaches.

The closing manager had an early morning with family duties, so I told her to leave her paperwork and I'd do it for her in the morning. When I came in I was pleasantly surprised to see most of it finished (it must have been a slow night). But then I started comparing numbers--what we had versus what the computer said we should have. NONE of the numbers matched. There was no explaining it--nearly $200 short in cash, $200 in checks, $800 in an assortment of credit cards, even the coupons were off.

What is going on?!

I looked around the office area, thinking maybe some receipts had been misplaced; I looked inside the safe, thinking some cash had gotten separated from the rest of the bank deposit. Nothing looked out of place.

What is going on?!

I called the closing manager to ask if there had been any computer problems or shortages on individual tills the night before. No, no problems.


Then I compared what the individual tills had made. I added up the cash sales on all of the tills and came up with what I actually had, not what the computer said I should have. Same with the checks. Hmm.......

So the computer's screwed up, then. That means handwriting all of the closing reports instead of the quick computer-generated ones. It's been a while since I've had to do that, though, so I called a friend who's a manager at another of our stores. She wasn't there, but the manager on duty looked through the previous day's paperwork to see that she had had to handwrite the reports, too. Hmm.......

I called another friend who's a manager at yet another of our stores (yeah, weird how I know people at so many stores). Their store hadn't had a problem the night before. She suggested a couple of things that might be the problem, but quickly passed me on to a more experienced manager. He suggested several simplistic things to try. Duh, I've already tried those, I've been a manager for a while now and have a brain. Finally he suggested I call our office. OK, but who do I talk to? An extension number, great, thanks!

I called, got voicemail (not a surprise) and left a rather desperate-sounding message asking for a call back ASAP. (Our paperwork is due by a certain time each morning, and that hour was quickly approaching. If it's late the office people send mean faxes and take away part of my monthly bonus.)

I got a call back rather quickly. The numbers that the computer had transferred to the office computer were different from both the print-out and the handwritten report that I had. However, my count of what I actually had was actually slightly over what the office said we should have. The office lady gave me some of her numbers that I couldn't recreate by hand, then I faxed in my handwritten reports, messy as they were. By that point, I didn't care all that much.

The daily paperwork usually takes 30~45 minutes. With all that the closing manager had done, it should have taken me only 10 minutes to finish. Instead, it took nearly THREE HOURS!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2005


What is up with the people lately? Everyone who was supposed to work was at the store today, it was a slow morning, but come noon we were swamped. I'm not talking just a busy Saturday; I'm talking the day before Christmas. Two-thirds through the day we had made our sales goal for THE ENTIRE DAY. I had no way of anticipating so many customers; I would have scheduled more people otherwise!

All the registers were open, some with floor associates or managers running them. I was at one of them, getting people through as quickly as possible, doing returns as needed, keeping things under control. A lady came up to my register and started counting out her coupons, all 10 of them. I looked into her cart and she had the same item so I picked up the coupon to read it carefully (as I had never seen that one before). Most coupons we take say one coupon per customer, so I wanted to make sure what the terms were on these. She got all snotty with me, saying that she's in all the time and we "always" take them. I explained that I had to read them to make sure they were OK because otherwise it would come directly out of my paycheck. After only a couple of seconds (while I was reading the lines and lines and lines of small print) she continued by throwing out the names of some former managers who "ALWAYS take the coupons."

Customers in our store try to con us all the time. Insisting to the new cashier that we take expired coupons (we don't), trying to use mail-in rebates as coupons, using coupons on the wrong items, etc. One guy even scanned a coupon into his computer to change the expiration date and then printed it out. Since it was a competitor's coupon, it took us a while to catch on. He got $50 or even $100 in free merchandise before we figured out what he was doing. He's now banned from our store. Sometimes you have to buy 6 of an item to get $1 off, or buy 3 get 1 free or any number of different deals that can be confusing to both consumer and cashier. Reading the small print is necessary.

So once I finished reading the small print the lady practically threw one bag up on the counter and said, "I have 10 of these." Wondering if that was accurate, I asked, "Are they all the same?" "That's what I said, wasn't it?" I leaned down to look in her cart and saw that at least one item was different. "They're all the same price," she continued. "I realize that, but that one {pointing} is different, so I have to ring it in too to keep our inventory accurate. Are there any more like that?"

She got extremely rude at that point as she started throwing the bags around the cart, "That one's the same, that one's the same, that one's the same. Nine of these, and one of those." "So not ten of the one, then?" I WISHED I could say. I scanned the items in, took the coupons off, then she paid. As she was walking out the door she said "You suck, bitch." Yeah? I notice you didn't say that to my face. In fact, I didn't even hear it, but a couple of cashiers did. My former manager told me that if a customer started insulting her personally or using foul language, she made them leave. Sounds good to me.

Friday, July 29, 2005

An Indecisive Customer

Today we were short-handed yet had double the shoppers we usually have. (Is it a full moon, or what? All month the craziest people have been coming in and calling.)

So it was extremely busy, we were short-handed, and it was shift-change time. The person who made the schedule screwed it up in a big way, so most of the morning people left at EXACTLY the same time that the evening crew arrived. Because the morning cashiers had to count out their registers before they left, we only had one register open when everyone in the county decided to come into the store at the same time. The line grew, but everyone was being fairly patient as I helped the drawer-transition process go a little faster. They saw that I was aware of the problem and was trying to fix it as quickly as possible.

Near the beginning of all of this chaos an older (but not THAT old that he should be so out of it) man came to the registers to ask for someone to unlock a case of expensive items for him. Great. I went, asking questions to find out what he wanted, but he didn't really know. He finally decided (as the register line was growing) and we headed back to the front so he could pay (since it's an expensive item I can't let the customer have it until after it's paid for). So we got back to the front (where the line to check out was extending even more and I feared a riot might break out) and the man decided that he wanted a DIFFERENT item in the locked case. So we returned to the case, got what he wanted, and returned to the front to finish the registers so that we could open more of them. The man paid, walked out the door, and then walked right back in because he changed his mind—he wanted the original item.

At that point I was at the very brink of opening a register and couldn't stop in the middle so I said I'd help him as soon as I could. After all, should I stop what I'm doing to help the one person, or open the register to take care of the 8 people waiting in the single line? (Oh, I guess I didn't mention that my most incompetent employee happened to be running that single register. I didn't have a choice. She could mess up less there than on the sales floor.)

I opened the register, rang out 5 people in the same amount of time that she rang up 3, and the line was gone. While I was doing that, I could see the man pacing the floor impatiently. Then he got in the end of the line. When it was his turn, I said, "That's right, you want the {other item}" like I had forgotten. "No," he replied, "I'm tired of waiting so I just want a refund." He said it like since we made him wait, then he wasn't going to spend money in our store. Did he not see all the people in the store?! It took longer to do the refund than it would have taken to get the item and do an exchange!!

Fine, I'll give you a refund. The thing is, that particular type of item is often returned because people can't be bothered to read the directions. We often can't resell the items because the package is in pieces or missing or one of the pieces is missing or the person scratched it trying to get the battery in. Since he couldn't even decide which item he wanted or understand the rather different purposes for each, then it's probably good that he didn't get it home and render the item unsellable before returning it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


The delivery people make my days more interesting. Between mailmen, vendor representatives, and deliveries, I see up to 12 outside people a week. Usually it's the same person each week, and we get a delivery a day, plus FedEx or DHL 3-5 times a week (occasionally twice in one day).

The weekday mailman is pretty normal—quiet, looks like a family guy, all business. Delivers the mail, picks up the mail, a "hello" if we're lucky, then he leaves. But the Saturday mailman belongs in an institution! His appearance alone is shocking; he always has some stupid joke to tell. If he's feeling particularly chatty he'll hang around for a few minutes and talk about anything and everything. The DHL woman is pretty boring, while both FedEx people have some personality but nothing too shocking. After a while the delivery men learn where we want them to put the delivery (depending on what it is) and who to find for a signature. When the usual delivery men are away, it's so weird having fill-ins. It's almost like training a new employee—that goes here, that goes there, make sure you don't damage the floor.

The vendor representatives usually stay the same for years, so we can really develop a relationship, good or bad (usually good). One of them now, though, is a real dud. Not the personality to have the job he has. He gave a training session which most of the employees slept through. That was a good use of company money!

I think I might have gotten one of the previous vendor representatives fired (oops). He was supposed to be giving a demonstration in the store and called to reschedule. A couple of days later his boss called to make sure he had given the demonstration, I said no, and before we knew it we had a new representative. Too bad for him. Obviously he had been neglecting his job if his boss had to check up on him.

It feels like the outside people are part of my store, yet I don't have to put up with them all the time (about 3 minutes is all I can take of the crazy mailman!). They bring some laughter after a bad customer or some news from the outside world when I feel terribly isolated by my store walls. There's no kissing my butt to try to get a raise or keep from getting fired… feels like a more honest, if more surface-level, relationship. I hope they like us as much as we like them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My Computer Brain

You would think with the number of retail workers in the world that there would be a good number of former retail workers in the general public. But apparently not, because most people are entirely clueless.

The customer approaches me to ask, "How much is this?" while holding up one of our perhaps 25,000 items. Well, let me look that up in my brain that has the price of EVERY SINGLE ITEM memorized. What's worse is that often I'll lead them back to the shelf where they just got the item, to see the price RIGHT THERE IN HUGE LETTERS.

When I ask, "Can I help you?" to some of the older customers, they respond, "Yes, this doesn't have a price. How much is it?" I point to the shelf (where the price is VERY VISIBLY DISPLAYED) as I tell them the price. Some of them proceed to ask me the price of lots of other items in the area. Each time, I POINT to the price as I respond, hoping they'll get the point. Nope. Never do. They don't seem to understand that most places don't price single items, they use a shelf label to save time and money.

Other customers think they're being helpful when they bring up an item that's missing the label. "The sign said that it was $9.99." Well good for the sign, but I have to have the 10-digit UPC code for our computers to keep track of what we have and what needs to be ordered. The customer gets irritated as there's a wait to get another of the same item or look up the UPC code. It's like they expect me to have each 10-digit code for each of our 25,000 items memorized. Sure. In what lifetime?! I probably have 100 of the most commonly used ones memorized, but my brain can't hold much more than that. What I don't get is that they noticed the item was missing a label when they got it off the shelf; why didn't they grab another to bring to the front with them?!

My last gripe of the day is about the customers who expect us to know EVERYTHING about EVERY product that we carry. Again, that's roughly 25,000 items. "How big an area does this treat?" Well, let's actually pick up the product and read on the FRONT of it that, {GASP} it treats 2,000 square feet. There's the answer.....right front of your face......why did you waste my time with such a stupid question? The phone callers also think I have a computer for a brain. "Do you have X item in stock?" I'll have to check, can you hold? "No, I just want to know if you have it." I don't know if we have it, I will have to walk to the shelf and see if there are any on the shelf, then I'll come back and tell you if it's in stock or not. "Oh. OK." Morons. All of them.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm in charge?

There are a million things I could write about right now, but in the interest of keeping things as anonymous as possible, I won't.

On the sexual harassment issue: without any details, may I just say that if you want to get my district manager's attention--FULL attention--just whisper "sexual harassment" within 5 miles of her. Wow! What a response! She was better than expected and set me free to handle it how I had already decided on handling it. If we lose the customer, so be it. He can't do that to my employees.

The head manager is out for a few weeks so I'm in charge of the whole store until she gets back. SCARY. Seriously, I'm somewhat apprehensive, yet know that I can handle it. If I couldn't, she wouldn't have left. Besides, I have lots of people I can call if I have questions or need help. In the meantime, I'm being extra strict so people won't take advantage. So far, everyone's listening and, as far as I can tell, obeying.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

One Smile

Never underestimate the power of a smile.

I was having a bad day. Customers, employees, technology--nothing was going my way. A customer passed by, gave me a smile, got what she needed, and left. That smile made the rest of my day a lot better.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Ornery Printer

Our printer has been malfunctioning recently. We have financial documents and newsletters and price stickers and lots of stuff that we have to print out on a regular basis, and if the printer isn't working then we get behind with certain duties. Well it wasn't working at all one afternoon and I tried everything I could think of but couldn't get it working. I ended up having to handwrite the financial document detailing all the vital numbers of the day, which took me four times as long as just printing it out since I had to add everything up by hand. (There is no way to enlarge the screen so without printing it you can't see the entire document.) The next day I finally got the printer fixed. Then I broke it, then I fixed it, then I broke it again, and left with it fixed again. (It's a high quality printer, can't you tell.)

A couple of days later I got a call at home, "How did you fix the printer before?" I told them how, but when I came into work it still wasn't fixed. They had tried what I said, but no luck. I tried what I said, and it worked. Apparently I have a magic touch.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Check Problems

Let's talk about checks.

My store has the right to refuse any check for any reason whatsoever. You do NOT have the right to argue with me about whether I can take your check or not. I don't care if the check is good or not. I don't care if you have "thousands of dollars" in your account. If your check does not meet our policies, then I'm NOT TAKING IT. Because if I do take it in violation of our policies, if it turns out to be bad then I'm responsible for the amount. Do you think I want to risk paying for your expensive item? NO. I don't know why our check approval system isn't taking your check. I can make a good guess, though. Do you really want me to tell you (and the customers standing behind you) the reason? OK, it's probably because you write bad checks, or less likely, you've written too many checks this week.

If you have what we commonly call a "starter check," then I can't even run it through my approval system. Your name isn't printed on the check by the bank, so I can't compare it to your ID, so I'm opening up my store to probable fraud if I accept it. No, you handwriting your name on the check isn't good enough. THE BANK must print it.

Then there are the little old ladies who haven't grasped the concept of a debit card. Maybe they don't have a debit card. Fine. I explain that our system can print their check for them, requiring only their signature, yet they take 2-3 minutes to write it out in their shaky handwriting, asking questions the whole time. "What's the date? Where am I? How do you spell that? How much is it again? How much? What's the cents?" If you don't know the date or where you are, then perhaps you shouldn't be allowed out in public without someone to help you!

Then there are the bitches who, when I hand their check back to them and ask them to sign the electronic check slip, say, "You could have told me that you were just going to give the check back! Now I've wasted a check." No, you haven't wasted it, you just paid for something. I get yelled at either way.......If I say, "We have electronic checking so if you have a debit card that's faster," the customer says, "So? What, I can't write a check anymore?" But if I DON'T tell them about the electronic checking, I get the other extreme. (Of course we have signs. People don't/can't read.) I mean, practically everywhere takes debit cards these days, especially the ones with the Visa or Mastercard backing.

Checks are the thing of the past. I've written TWO checks in the last YEAR. Otherwise I use credit cards, online bill pay, and sometimes cash. Get with the program, people. There is NO NEED to use a check to pay in a retail store. When you pull out your checkbook the cashier groans, knowing that she could have been finished with 3 customers in the time you take to pay by check. You're costing us money because of how much time you take. Join the new century. Use other forms of payment.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Don't Say This

If you're my employee, don't even THINK about saying, "You have a college degree? Then why are you working here?" While YOU might only be making $6/hour, I make a decent salary. Not earth-shattering, but decent for someone my age. I know my job has nothing to do with what I studied in university, but I matured a lot there and learned a few practical things amongst all the academic stuff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Poor Money Management

People who can't pay for a $100 purchase with one type of payment probably shouldn't be buying the items. A customer paid $20 in cash, $20 in check, $20 on one credit card, and $40 on another card. I got called up because the cashier wasn't sure if we could do that. Yes, but we prefer not to. Especially since the computers sometimes freeze when too many types of tenders are entered (and the credit card companies charge per swipe of the card).

Then there are the customers whose cards are declined. Some of them are shocked, even angry, and blame the cashier. "My card is good!" they insist as they make the cashier run it again. Nope, it's not. It's declined. Again. Other people shrug as they hand another card, "Try this one." It's declined too. "How 'bout this one?" When every card they have is declined, they write a check. It's declined because they have a history of writing bad checks. Then (after 10 minutes) they pull out cash to pay for the stuff. Why didn't they do that to start with?!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Losing My Mind

Sometimes I think customers are TRYING to make me lose my mind.

I was going through some job applications at the front counter, trying to find a few decent ones, when a lady came up to show me her receipt. According to her, she bought 1 of an item but was charged for 3 of them (5 days ago, I might add). Hmmm……really…….I looked at the day and time of the transaction and who the cashier was. That cashier is usually very good, but we did have someone from another store filling in that day who may have used her register a little. I asked the lady if she remembered who rang her up, and she didn't know. Didn't know a name, didn't know even a general description. Tall? Short? Hair color? HELLO! Do you have eyes? Do you pay attention? Or are we just robots to you?

Hmm…….I excused myself to do a return and override a price, asked the cashier if she remembered the lady (no, it was 5 days ago, she's had 1000+ customers since then), then called my boss. I explained the situation and that the cashier didn't remember the lady and how I found it doubtful that someone could ring in 3 of the item when only 1 was being bought. PLUS, if I was a customer and my total came to $40 over what it should have been, I think I would have noticed. My boss had me check our catalog to see the maximum we carry of that item (6) and the shelf to see the on-hand count (2), so she could have bought 3. But am I going to argue with her? Can't do that. Have to return the 2 (in the computer, obviously the actual product isn't there) and hope that she's not conning us.

So I return to the front, apologize for the delay, ask her to call problems to our attention sooner next time, and ask for her ID and credit card to refund the $40. As I was finishing I asked if she needed a copy of her original receipt (since I have to keep the original). Yes, because she wants to make sure that things are applied to her discount card correctly. I looked at the receipt and noticed that her discount card wasn't scanned. I told her this, and she complained about the employee's incompetence some more, because she gave the employee her card to scan. I again asked her if she could remember WHO the cashier was so that I could make sure this doesn't happen again, and again, she insisted that she didn't remember. She continued in a whiny voice, "So I'm not going to get credit (on the discount card program) for the 3 items?" I thought, "A-ha! I've caught you in a lie!" "Ma'am, you said you only bought 1 of that item." "No, I bought 3." WHAT?!

At that point she went to the shelf to check something and I was beginning to find the whole situation quite funny. I called the person from the other store who had been filling in, hoping she could shed some light on the situation, but she didn't remember the lady either.

The lady returned to the counter with 3 item names and prices written down. "These are the items I bought," she said. The situation began to make sense. She was charged for 3 of the same item when she really bought 3 similar products that are obviously different items—drastically different color packaging, different manufacturer. However, all of my employees know that different yet similar items have to be rang in separately for our inventory/ordering systems to work properly. Oh, I bet I know what happened. The items were rather bulky, so she might have lifted one up and said, "I have two more in the buggy" but not mentioned the fact that they were different. The customer said that it was busy when she was in, so the cashier might not have looked down to see the different items. Anyway, I looked up the item numbers and charged her for the 2 items that she got and ended up owing her about a buck. What a hassle, though! After she left I went to the break room to take some aspirin for my stress-induced headache, drink some caffeine, and eat dinner.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I AM the Manager

I love it when an annoyed customer demands to talk to my manager and I can reply, "I AM the manager." "Oh," they say, usually in a quieter, docile voice. Some then take what I say as fact, while others, after recovering from the initial shock, demand to talk to someone higher up. Fine, here's our corporate office number, but since I'm just following company policy, they're not going to do anything. Depending on how demanding or rude the person is, sometimes I give the 1-800 number, while other times I make them pay the long distance charges. When given the long distance number, most customers insist that we MUST have a 1-800 number. "No," I reply, "that's the only customer service number we have."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

On the Phone

The other day the cashier called me to the front to answer some questions for someone on the phone. It was a busy weekend and the person had already been on hold for a couple of minutes. I picked up, apologized for the wait, then asked how I could help. The customer wanted the prices for SEVERAL obscure items that we don't sell many of. I explained that the store was busy so it might take me a few minutes to get everything for her--would she like to hold, or call back later, or leave her number and I'd call her back. She said she'd hold.

As I was getting the prices I was telling other customers, "I'm helping someone right now, I'll be with you as soon as possible" or answering simple/quick questions. When, really, I should have been helping the customers who were STANDING IN FRONT OF ME first, per company policy. One of the items didn't have a price tag and was difficult to get to so it took me close to 5 minutes to get everything the phone caller wanted.

I returned to the phone, where she complained about the wait, becoming increasingly belligerent. Then she asked about another item which took even longer to get back to her on because I had to open a register and get rid of the mounds of people STANDING IN FRONT OF ME WAITING TO HAND ME MONEY. When I got on the phone this time she was extremely nasty. Despite her behavior, I apologized again, saying it was busy and I had to help customers who were STANDING IN FRONT OF ME first, as it was a company policy. After all, they took the trouble to drive to the store, not just look up a number in the phone book.

I answered her last question and she asked me to hold the most expensive item that she'd asked about (since there was only one, but since it's a slow seller, that's all we ever carry). Because of her "give it to me now" attitude, I followed company policy to a "T"--"I'm sorry, ma'am, we're not allowed to hold items." "Even though I had to wait for 20 minutes?!" Hello, it was less than 10, on a BUSY weekend, and I even warned her about the wait and she agreed to it. "No, that doesn't change the policy." She called me some names and hung up. Fine, I didn't really want your business anyway.

The thing with holding items, even if it's just for a day, is there is NO GUARANTEE that the phone customer is going to even step foot in the store, while if there's someone IN THE STORE WITH MONEY IN HAND ready to buy the item, I want to be able to sell it to them. But anyway, if she had been nicer I probably would have bent the policy and held it for her. But after the attitude she gave me, I wasn't doing anything beyond what I was required to do. In fact, I got a little snotty with her, too, although I didn't respond to her profanity.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Psychopath (part 3)

After Mrs. Psychopath and clan left, I went to a quiet part of the store to put away some merchandise and calm down. A couple of employees started their shifts and asked me what was wrong (I'm normally very cheery) so I told them the story and warned them to be especially wary of shoplifters in that one aisle, and to watch Mrs. Psychopath et al. if they came in again.

My shift ended and I went home.

A couple of hours later the manager on duty called me to tell me that the Psychopaths came BACK, spending another hour and another $100 in the store. That's $500 in 2 days on unneeded stuff. (Much of our merchandise is nice to have but not necessary for survival.) $200 in cash, $300 in checks. Our check-approval system approved both checks, so our company isn't on the hook if the checks turn out to be bad. Something is just SERIOUSLY weird about the whole situation. The manager and I talked for a while, bashing the customer, both of us relieving stress, then said goodbye so she could finish the evening duties. (This is the girl who I got promoted instead of her so she tends to look for ways to make me look bad. In this situation, we're united against a common enemy so we're actually getting along quite well!)

The next day (my day off) they came back, spent another $100, but apparently they got the message that we don't like them very much because I haven't seen them since. I never did figure out if they were the ones shoplifting or not.

So I hope that this is really and truly


Friday, July 15, 2005

Psychopath (continued)

The next day I was having a great day. Then I saw HER. My great day was gone.

This time she brought both sons and a daughter who looked to be mid-teens. They all went their separate ways--the mom looking at stuff and asking stupid questions of anyone stupid enough to get close, the older children looked around some on their own, some with the mom, while the younger son wrecked my store again. To give you some idea of the destruction everywhere he went, he left items in the middle of aisles for people to trip over, ice cream to melt all over the bananas, he emptied the shampoo onto the carpet. But, my company is customer-oriented and we can't turn a customer away no matter their IQ is 0 and they're costing us money. (At least according to my brilliant regional manager.)

I told my employees that they did NOT have to offer to help this customer, that she was a pain in the butt, try to avoid her, only help her if she specifically asks for help and don't encourage her questions.

Halfway through their hour+ visit (our store isn't THAT big) I walked down the aisle where my employee found the packaging from the stolen product. I nearly had a heart attack. Today there were FOUR empty packages, of different but similar items. None of them were very expensive items (we keep those locked up) but nevertheless, shrinkage was occurring.

I put the empty packages in the back, then went to watch the lady and her children for a while. (Coincidental that three visits in two days left four items missing?) There was suspicion, but nothing concrete. I told my employees to keep an eye on her, too. But there's four of them and what with other customers, we can't keep an eye on four people at one time, especially when they stay as long as they do.

She caught me (I was the one stupid enough to get close) and asked me some questions about an item (actually it was a set of three items, sold separately but generally people buy all at one time), even asking for a discount because one piece was "defective." I said that I was NOT giving her a discount because there was nothing wrong with the item and our prices are already low. She wasn't happy about that, standing there like an idiot, expecting me to give in and give her a discount on the $300 set that at other stores would be $400 or more. So after much hemming and hawing she decided to purchase two of the items. I helped her son carry them to her car while she paid.

When I came back in, the other manager asked me if I had told her that the two items were $100 TOGETHER. No, I said that the ONE item that she **specifically asked about** was $100. She never asked for the price of the other items. We didn't get that far because she was preoccupied with asking for a discount on the "defective" item. The other manager knows that I know my stuff and would have never told the customer that. As I began to argue with the customer (which I have NEVER, EVER done before, this psychopath just brings out the worst in me) the other manager hurried to say, "It was a misunderstanding. The total is $200. Do you want it or not?"

Her daughter said, "It's too expensive." She said, "If something's wrong with it can I bring it back?" Why? Are you planning for something to be "wrong" with it soon? If you don't buy the third piece then yes, there's a good chance that something will go wrong with it at some point, and we WILL NOT RETURN IT because you didn't buy the appropriate parts. Let's pretend I work at a car lot. It would be like someone buying a car with only two tires and then wanting to bring it back because it scrapes the ground. OK, bad analogy. But, she really needs the third piece.

So she bought the two pieces, they left, another sigh of relief.

The End? I wish.


Thursday, July 14, 2005


An enlightening quote:

Keep in mind that many people who experience sexual harassment and feel uncomfortable may initially not recognize the behavior as sexual harassment. Often there is a tendency on the part of the person who experienced the behavior and others she may tell about it to minimize or deny the behavior by saying "I'm sure he didn't really mean it," or "It's really no big deal," or "I must be imagining this."

So that's what that was. I guess that means an awkward talk with my boss tomorrow. More details later when I see how my company deals with it.

UPDATE: My boss handled it even better than I expected. She also agreed with my initial thinking that I needed to take it on up the line to her boss. I don't expect as good a response from her, so I'm going in armed with what I've recently learned about the law. But who knows, the big boss might surprise me.

Why Are Your Doors Open?

I was getting a delivery, well before opening time (with hours posted), and a customer walked in behind the delivery guy, helping him push in the pallet of stuff. (It was an electric pallet jack, like the delivery guy needed help!) Looking up from my paperwork, I explained that we weren't open yet. The guy pleaded, I just want to look at some ______." I AGAIN explained that we weren't open yet, and told him when we opened. He responded, "If you aren't open then why are your doors open?" Hey genius, because we're getting a delivery! Like I'm going to let him in when I have large amounts of cash out of the safe and paperwork to finish and besides, the lights in the area he wanted to look at weren't even on yet!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Psychopath Customer

This is the story of the worst customer I've ever, EVER had.

The middle-aged woman came in one day, spent an hour in the store, and asked lots of stupid questions that she had no business knowing the answer to. ("Why are you sweeping the floor? What kind of broom is that? Why don't you use a vacuum? How often do you clean the bathrooms? When do you get your next shipment? How long does it take you to put it away? It shouldn't take you that long. What's the ceiling made of? It's not lead, is it? I read that lead is poisonous. I don't let my children use pencils anymore because I don't want the lead to poison them.) ETCETERA!!! Her 14-year-old accompanied her as she looked around the store; her 6-year-old went his own way and generally wrecked the store. They left after buying a small item.

Fine, she's gone, hopefully I'll never see her again.


Later that day they came back. We had a shipment of stuff to put away, cleaning to do, and other customers to help, yet she spent 90 minutes with one employee!! She ended up spending approximately $150, which while large, isn't a huge sale. My employee was nearly crazy by the time the HOUR AND A HALF was up, then the cashier's line backed up as the woman continued her stupid questions there.

"Why are your counters white? I like blue better. What kind of computer is that? Do you have games on it? Why not? I think you should have games for my son to play why I shop. How does your credit card machine work? Why is the paper that it prints out white? Don't you think white is a boring color? You don't? That's strange." And it continued for a while, such that I had to open another register and the normally super-friendly cashier became surly and replied with one word answers.

Again, she's gone. We can get some work done. Let's hope she never comes back.

Shortly after she left, an employee brought me an empty package that was on one of the shelves. So, someone stole something. That's nothing new. We try to watch people as much as possible, being VERY helpful to suspicious-acting people, but we can't stop all theft. "Put the package in the back with the other stolen stuff."


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Employees Can Help You

Some customers walk into the store and immediately ask to speak with a manager…..I think, "Oh no, what will I have to do to make them happy?" Then it turns out that they just want me to help them instead of one of my employees. What kind of manager would I be if my employees weren't capable of helping them with their routine issue?! Most of my employees are quite competent, and in fact some of them know more than me about certain areas. I know at least a little about everything, then have my specialty areas that I know a lot about. For example, let's pretend I work in a hardware store. I know tons about hammers, saws, and nails, a decent amount about screwdrivers, but just the basics on paint. If forced to, I can help a cutomer with paint, but why should I when I have an employee right there who knows everything there is to know about paint? He can help you a lot better than I can!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Counterfeit Bills

Who keeps passing counterfeit bills in my store?! STOP IT. You're really making me mad. Because every time you do so, I get in trouble from my boss(es), despite my employees being trained and having used the standard methods for detecting a counterfeit--hold the bill up to the light, look for the strip and watermarks, check for color-shifting ink, feel the bill for the right texture, use the special marker on it. What more can I do?! I'm not the Secret Service or the FBI.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Recently a regular customer greeted me with, "How you doin', kiddo?" Now if anyone else had said that, I would have been offended. But he and his wife are always so nice, if a little odd. The age difference definitely makes me a 'kiddo' to him--he's close to my grandfather's age. After I helped him find something he updated me about an issue from a few weeks ago. He had a problem that I tried to help him with but was unable to solve. He took my advice to go to the expert (and spend a little money) and it all turned out how he wanted it to. I'm glad when things turn out well for customers like him.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Problem Employees

I'm late posting today, largely because I got off work AN HOUR AND A HALF LATE. I'm a salaried employee, so when my paperwork is done I get to leave. But I rarely, rarely, rarely get to leave early and often leave a little late (10-15 minutes, not a big deal). But tonight was ridiculous! Between the high school kid and the new employee, I felt like I was running the store practically by myself. Really, it would have been easier without them.

First, the high school kid. "If I only had a brain," sang the scarecrow. When helping customers if he doesn't know something he simply says that he doesn't know instead of reading the product or asking another employee for help. So I had a couple of customer complaints about him tonight and ended up having to help those customers myself. Then he messed up on the shared register, leaving us $40 short. Luckily a papertrail was left that had his initials on it, thus I knew who to charge the shortage to. (Yes, our company charges employees for any shortages. I don't know if other companies are quite as greedy.)

Second, the new employee (cashier tonight because I didn't really have anyone else to put there) kept making mistakes that I had to come and fix. She was also INCREDIBLY slow, such that someone had to come to the front pretty often to open another register. I'm not talking "she's a new employee so she doesn't know where all the buttons are and she wants to do things right." I'm talking "something is wrong with her and she's NEVER going to get any better." This is the employee that I didn't want to hire in the first place, but the other manager felt guilty because the girl had already quit her other job (WHY?) so she hired her. I had a bad feeling about her, another manager had a bad feeling about her, yet the one manager HIRED HER ANYWAY. AUGH!!!!!!!! And that's the manager that's transferring soon so she won't have to deal with this employee anymore.

OH, I also found out that the new employee lied about a couple of things on her job application. By that time she was already hired, though, and while lying on her application is grounds for dismissal, I can't tell HOW I know that she lied on her application because then I'd be in trouble.

Anyways, she's slow and so in order for my hourly people to get out close to on time I had to do a lot of the new employee's close out duties PLUS mine, so I was late. If I had known that she wasn't going to get things done, then I would have started way earlier to get the work of two people done.

Something's wrong with her. Her hands shake nearly all the time. Does she have a problem with her nerves, a medical issue, or is she on drugs? No, I'm serious. Something is not right about her. It's hard to describe exactly. She asked me four times tonight if she could take a break to smoke a cigarette. I let her go twice. She wasn't happy about that. Would not having cigarettes make a person's hands shake that badly? Her shift was only 5 hours long, and she had two breaks during that time period. That is more than sufficient. If she has a problem with that then she can go and work someplace else.

I've been given permission to hire one person (my first time hiring someone--how exciting!). I went through 50+ applications and called the best 8 of those. Four people are coming in on Monday for interviews. If they're good then I'm going to push for permission to hire two so that I can see if I can force this problem employee (in her first week of work) to quit. It's not like I can fire her for being slow and stupid and asking for too many breaks. What I CAN do is reduce her hours and only give her the legally mandated breaks (and give her the worst shifts and the nastiest jobs if necessary). But that might take several weeks. Help me out. I need a valid reason to fire her NOW!

Friday, July 08, 2005

But sometimes I know nothing

Other customers assume I don't know anything. They'll ask me a question and either not like my answer or not trust that I know what I'm talking about, so before long I hear them asking another employee the same question. That employee gives them the same answer. Sometimes they even ask a THIRD employee! I love it when the customer asks me, I tell them my answer, they ask another employee, and that employee comes to ask ME because the employee doesn't know the answer.

I had a customer on the phone asking if we carried Specialty Product and I explained that the product wasn't available in regular stores, just from Specialty Product Store. A couple of minutes later he called back and asked if we carried Specialty Product. I told him that the answer was still no, that he had called me a couple of minutes ago. "Oh," he asked with surprise, "Is this Big Competitor?" No, it's {my store name}. "Are you and Big Competitor the same store?" No, not at all, we're competitors. You called {my store name} twice. "Oh," and he hung up. How rude! First he second-guessed me, then he disturbed me a second time, then he hung up on me! When he calls Big Competitor they're just going to tell him the same thing I told him! My store or Big Competitor carrying Specialty Product would be a little like McDonald's selling Whoppers—it's NOT POSSIBLE. You have to go to Specialty Product Store to get Specialty Product. No matter how many stores you call, you're going to get the same answer—you MUST go to Specialty Product Store and spend the big bucks to get Specialty Product.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Apparently I Know Everything

Do customers think I know everything?

"What time does the mall open?"
I don't know, I'm either at home or working when it opens.

"When is {whatever holiday is coming up}?"
Uh….check your calendar!

"Does Big Competitor have this item?"
I don't know, I don't work there, I work here! We have it, and we're nearly always cheaper than Big Competitor, why don't you buy it here?

Or the phone callers, "Is this Big Competitor?"
No, it's {my store}.
"Oh." (No sorry or anything, that'd be too much trouble.)
"What's Big Competitor's phone number?"
I don't know. It's in the phone book.
"Oh." (Like I should have it memorized.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Electric Bill

Today I got a call from the local utility company saying that the store's power was going to be shut off for nonpayment. WHAT?!?! The representative said that usually they don't call, they just send someone out to turn it off. Then she explained that she shops in our store all the time and is always pleased by how helpful and friendly we are so she wanted to warn us first. We called our office IMMEDIATELY and told them to PAY THE BILL because it's too hot to run the store without electricity. They're supposed to be taking care of it. Cross your fingers!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Really Good Day

Every once in a while I have a really good day. My crew is on task and gets a lot accomplished without complaining; the customers are able to shop without me holding their hand; there's a minimum of returns, complaints, and unreasonable requests (no, you can't have a discount, our prices are already among the lowest in the area!); the electrical equipment works without me kicking or swearing at it (I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to throw the computer monitor onto the floor!); the numbers add up perfectly the first time; I get to go home ON TIME.

Monday, July 04, 2005

It's all in the phrasing

One of the things that makes me a good manager is that I'm not easily flustered and I have a knack for keeping customers calm. If it's a difficult return or I otherwise can't tell a customer what they want to hear, despite them being upset, I haven't had any really touchy situations.

Showing empathy with statements like "I understand" seems to help a lot. "I understand why you're upset, if I were you I'd be upset too. Unfortunately, I have no power to change this policy. This is what I CAN do for you...." (Notice I didn't use the word "but"--that word always puts people on the defensive. Instead, I use "unfortunately" or "however.")

Another thing I'm always conscious of is putting things in the positive.

  • Instead of, "I can't do that," I'll say what I CAN do.
  • Instead of, "We don't have that item right now," I'll tell them when we WILL have the item again.
  • When an employee asks if he can take a break, instead of saying "No" or "Not right now," I'll tell him what time he CAN take his break or "When that huge group of customers leave, then you can take a break."
  • When a vendor calls to schedule a seminar to educate the employees on a new item, I don't say that the date they prefer is impossible for us, but I suggest another date as "working out better."

Not that I'm afraid of controversy, it's just that life is so much better when people are getting along. When need be, I fire people or am tough with a customer or report a vendor's poor performance to his supervisor. But I prefer to go other routes first.

I'll always remember the time back when I was a cashier and my manager (who spoke rather bluntly) got in an argument with a lady and the lady threw a heavy item right at the manager's face. Luckily the manager had good reflexes and ducked in time. The lady said some choice words and walked out the door, never to return. We don't want violent people like her around, anyway! Not knowing the entire situation, I can't say for sure, but I think that if things had been handled more delicately then it wouldn't have gotten to the point of physical danger.

Words are powerful. I try to make them work for me and not against me.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Mrs. S.

Another good customer story today.

Mrs. S. came into the store recently and bought a lot of stuff. (She's one of the few customers I know by name rather than just by a physical description or what they usually buy or how they treat the employees.) I greeted her while she was shopping, exchanged "How are yous" and asked if she needed any help. No, she has the location of everything in our store memorized she's in so often (about once a week, sometimes more).

I was in the front getting change for a cashier or doing a return or something when she was checking out. I looked at her cart full of items and asked if she needed help out to her car. She considered it, looking down at her full cart before sighing and responding, "No, that's OK, I know you're busy." How thoughtful of her! Although for her I would have been more than glad to help, I was pretty busy with other things.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Slave Driver

Biggest compliment received this week: "You're like a slave driver" (from a slacker employee). Thank you, now GET TO WORK!

After all, they're being paid by the hour, so they should stay busy and get as much as possible done. If me cracking a whip is the only thing that will keep them from slacking, that's what I'm going to do.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Price Matching

Like many stores, we do price matching. If a competitor sells the same item for less than we do, we'll match that price to keep the business.

I don't know how many times someone has told me, "Wal-mart has the same thing for X dollars less." Is it the same manufacturer and everything? "Oh, I'm not sure. It looked the same." Let me assure you, it was a different product. Sometimes customers INSIST that the items are IDENTICAL, which means I have to call Wal-mart (or whatever other store) and stay on hold forever to check the price and specifics.

Guess what? Good guess! 95% of the time it's either a different manufacturer, or a different line within the same manufacturer, or a smaller item, or a million other things but NOT THE SAME PRODUCT. While it is cheaper, it's also a smaller or thinner or louder (when quiet is what you want) or otherwise inferior product.

I explain to the customer that the items are different. The customer often replies, "Well can you give me the lower price anyway?" NO! It's NOT THE SAME PRODUCT. I'm not going to give you the same price on our superior product. If you want that price, then go to the other store and buy THEIR product and then come back to us 6 months later when it breaks to buy our quality product.