Saturday, April 29, 2006


My friend the manager of another store called to ask about something. In the course of our conversation she mentioned that her closing manager somehow lost the key to one of their fire exits. So her store was open but the fire exit was locked........whoa, totally illegal. If the fire marshall showed up, that'd be a huge fine.

Some customers just can't read. A woman asked me THREE TIMES if various items were on sale. Are the blue ones on sale, too? What about this large size? Is this style on sale, too? YES!!!! ALL of the ___ are on sale, as the sign clearly states. ALL OF THEM.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Little Shoplifter

There's nothing like working a double, especially when it's the busiest day of the week as far as incoming merchandise. Luckily today's shipment was smaller than normal. Boss's trip is halfway through so soon I'll have a little rest.

To liven up the day, I had a mother bring in her little 5-year-old shoplifter. They'd been in the day before and he'd taken a small item worth a couple of dollars. A former law enforcement officer herself, she flipped out and the kid's probably traumatized for life. He apologized, returned the item, and I gave him a lecture using my sternest voice and straightest face about how important it is to not steal so the police don't take you to jail. I tried to make the point sink in while not being too rough. After all, theft is a real problem. If I can scare one kid into not stealing, great.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Serial Returner

An hour to close and a woman comes in with two HUGE bags of stuff to return. I was finishing an exchange for someone else so she dropped off the bags and said she'd be back later. Wait! Do you have a receipt? "They're in the bag," she said, as she continued out the door.

I thought it was strange, but I didn't recognize her at that point. The cashier did. It was the woman with mental issues.

When I finished with the exchange I opened the bags and was knocked over by the smell. What must her house smell like?! I breathed through my mouth as I picked through the contents: open merchandise, visibly used/very worn items with no packaging, expired items, merchandise with packaging more than a year old.........I took a look at the receipts. They were in an envelope........all 50 of them. Some of the receipts were from last year, the year before, all the way back to 2000. Some of the items expired as far back as 2002. (It IS 2006 now, right?)

Very few of the items were in sellable condition, while none were defective, so there was no legitimate reason for the return. There were 4 of the same half-empty item and everything was WAY past the return policy, if you could even find it on the receipts. Further, the last 1~2 years of receipts were exchanges or store credits because she had previously brought items back without a receipt.

I know in the past the then-store manager allowed all of her returns, but stuff that expired years ago?! Multiple packages of the same thing that are half-empty?! She couldn't argue that she didn't like the item, because she bought it on 4 separate occasions!

Complicating things is that about a week ago a man called and explained that he and his wife no longer had need of our products because of some lifestyle changes and asked if he could return certain items. I asked a few questions and said yes. If this is the same couple, then he left out some important parts of his story. "You told me yes on the phone!" isn't going to happen. This is ridiculous.

The written return policy is very rarely followed. Managers are supposed to use their judgment about what to return or not. How stupid is that? If I follow the written policy too closely then the customer gets upset and I get in trouble from the customer service department (and have to do the return anyway). If I deviate too far from the written policy the customer is happy but I get in trouble from the part of the office that processes the returns paperwork (and the store loses money). Before I went any further with this return, I wanted approval from someone higher up. Yes, that's right, pass the buck also means cover your ass.

The store manager is away again, so there's no one higher than me in the store. While the manager is still available for life-and-death, the-store-is-on-fire issues, for other things I go on up to the regional manager. I explained the whole thing to her and how long this customer has been doing this, that it's costing us a lot of money, etc. She agreed with my assessment that it's time for this to stop. She told me to give store credit on the things that were like new and could be resold, but on the expired, open, SMELLY stuff.....NO NO NO. Awesome! We so rarely completely agree!

By the time I went through the merchandise (and then disinfected my hands) and talked with the regional manager it was a half hour until close (when most of the other stores in the area close, too). Twenty 'til, quarter 'til, ten 'til, five 'til, CLOSED. Even though there were no other customers in the store, I waited five minutes to close the registers. I already had bad news that was going to upset the customer; I didn't want her to have any ammunition against me (like claiming that I closed early, which I never do).

We closed the registers, finished all the closing duties, and prepared to leave. The employees were waiting at the front while I checked the back and side doors; just as I got to the front she came up to the door. I told her we were closed and surprisingly she didn't argue and wasn't upset. She said she'd be back "tomorrow" to complete the returns.

Well, it's four days later and still no sign of her. The returned items are divided into two bags, returnable and not, and the "not" bag is double-bagged to keep the contamination from killing us all.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Satisfaction guaranteed.....for how long?

A woman came in to return an item that she bought a year ago. ONE YEAR AGO. I explained that our return policy was X amount of time but since the item was like new I would give her a store credit for the amount.

She began arguing that the item said "satisfaction guaranteed" on it, but when I refused to budge she ended up with a cheaper item (from the same manufacturer) and the remainder in the form of a store credit. Our return policy is somewhat flexible, but a YEAR? Had I done it, the office would most definitely be calling to have a little chat with me.

Less than an hour later the manufacturer of the item called. The woman had called to complain and told them that we wouldn't refund her money and that we had kept the receipt. The customer service rep needed the receipt so he could give the customer her money back. Well, yes I have the receipt but the customer already has her money back, in a manner of speaking. The woman hadn't mentioned that she had gotten merchandise and a store credit for the remainder. The rep was rather surprised and thanked me for the info.

I didn't mention that EVERY SINGLE TIME that woman has shopped in our store, she has had some type of major problem. If I owned the place, I would tell her to find someplace else to shop because considering the amount of time we have to spend on her, we're not making a profit. We make a few bucks here and there, but not enough to cover the headaches she causes.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Poor Planning

Closing procedures.......there are a lot of things to do before we can leave. So in order to go home at any kind of decent hour (since we have customer-friendly hours), we start early. By the time it's a quarter 'til close we have most stuff done and only one register open. Usually, that's OK and totally adequate. But tonight we had four times the normal number of last minute shoppers. I HATE last minute shoppers!!

One woman was having a fit because she "had to get to another store before they close!" They closed at the same time as us.....there was no way she was making it. Not only was she impatient, she also skipped in line, which luckily didn't cause a riot, just some murderous stares. The teenage cashier had already begun ringing her up before I could correct the out-of-turn issue and it would have taken longer to void the started sale than just to continue.

But suddenly her sale wasn't very easy or fast. She was buying something (and accessories) that she really shouldn't have been buying that late at night. It was a totally unnecessary item that required extra paperwork and getting a couple of items that she had missed because she had no idea what she needed because it was an impulse buy that she should have bought earlier in the day! (Did you get all that? I'm too tired to make it any clearer.) Pretend she bought a cell phone with the case but forgot the battery and the charger and then had to sign up for the calling plan and warranty. Well, not quite that much paperwork, but more than what most sales require.

So she's complaining about the wait even though she didn't really have to wait since she butted in line, the customers behind her are killing her with their stares, with a few of the evil looks going to the cashier, a few to me, and a few to the guy cleaning the front.

It being ten 'til close, none of the other customers said anything about opening another register (at least not that I heard). So the paperwork and sale were finally done and the lady rushed out with five minutes left to load her purchases in her car and drive to the other store before they closed. Impossible. The other customers were checked out quickly and efficiently, and amazingly enough, we managed to leave the store on time.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Read the Directions!

Today I was called to the front to handle a customer complaint. The customer insisted that one of our items had been recalled and demanded to know why we were still selling them. The item was so dangerous and she should report us for endangering the public with the item.

In fact, her 3rd cousin's high school teacher's wife's uncle's brother-in-law had almost died because of this item. I explained to her that we were aware of the issues/possible problems/news reports about this item but that IF USED CORRECTLY, it's not dangerous. If you use a hair dryer in the shower or drive a car with no brakes or take a whole bottle of Advil, then you might be injured or killed. If you use the item AS THE INSTRUCTIONS STATE, then there's no problem and no danger.

The customer looked at me like I was stupid and just making things up to make her leave. (Me?! Would I do that?) She countered, "No, I heard on the news that these are really dangerous and aren't being sold anymore." She picked up the package and I pointed out to her where it said "Do this" and "Don't do that." I offered to show her the news release from the manufacturer stating that the product is still safe WHEN USED AS DIRECTED.

She's not the only one to take the recent news reports as fact. It's getting really annoying. Sales of that item, previously brisk, have slowed quite a bit.

Hey newspeople..........when you're reporting these injuries/deaths, how about say that the product was used totally incorrectly and the injured/dead person was at fault. I still use the product, because I'm smart enough to READ THE DIRECTIONS!

Thursday, April 13, 2006


My gut is turning out to be pretty good.

The guy with the disability failed the drug test. I do NOT understand why the guy applied at our store. He knows we're a drug-free workplace. Now, personally, I don't care if employees do that particular drug on their own time as long as I don't hear about it (because then I'm forced to do something about it). We've had lots of employees who smoked a little (or a lot) and it didn't affect their job performance. (So I knew about it, but I didn't really know about it, so no official action was necessary.)

Is it so hard to stop for 30 days or whatever it takes to pass the test and get the job?! It also makes the employee who recommended him look bad……..poor judgment, on drugs himself? But anyway, now we won't have any problems with him, and I can hire the high school kid.

It's the kid's first job. He's 16, but looks to be about 12. Everyone who has seen him asked me if he was old enough, did I know child labor laws existed, was he out of elementary school yet, etc. I'll have to watch to make sure that he's not teased too much. I may also have to ease him into the physical side of the job to give his body time to adjust.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What is reasonable?

Further in the hiring business……….the high school student has a somewhat limited schedule, so Boss would prefer someone who can work a more varied schedule. One of our employees has an acquaintance who has been looking for a job for a long time. The problem is, he has a disability. I very much realize that it's illegal to discriminate based on a disability. However, we only have to make a reasonable accommodation. What is reasonable?

If he was a quadriplegic, there'd be no question. He could not do the job functions, which include stocking shelves, climbing a ladder, running a cash register, etc. Not possible. So no. But this guy has a borderline disability. He might be able to do the job, but there's a good chance that he won't be able to. If it came to firing him, what reason would we give? Maybe he was making a good effort, but he was simply unable to do the job because of his disability. Could we fire him? How?

There were other things that bothered me, too. Transportation that was less than ideal (he was an hour late to the interview), a totally unrelated job history, and just a gut feeling that he'd be problems. When a current employee recommends someone, it's turned out to be a 50/50 chance of getting a good employee. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works really well. Sometimes it's the worst thing ever.

Had the current employee not recommended the applicant so strongly, I would have said no right away. But that employee is good and if he thinks the applicant will be a good match for our workplace, then it's worth a shot, right?

But then there's that gut feeling.

I was up in the air. Boss checked with another store and they basically told her that because he has a disability we have to hire him. Uh, no…..that's not how it works. We can't refuse to hire him because of his disability, but we can not hire him because of other reasons.

I interviewed someone last year who had a similar but not nearly as pronounced disability and I decided two minutes in that he was a definite no. Why? Besides being an asshole, he trashed his former employer, had a negative attitude, and was a know-it-all. Bad combination. Anyway, Boss got scared of a lawsuit and hired the guy. I don't feel good about this.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More Interviews

"Probably yes" didn't return from the drug test. After I read over my notes from the "maybe" people, I didn't find anything great, while I did find some red flags that I didn't see in the initial interviews. So, back to the drawing board.

One of the interviews that the other manager did was good. Since it was one of her first times interviewing someone, I interviewed the high school student too. When I called to schedule the second interview, he was still in school so I talked with his mother. She had good phone manners and showed some intelligence—a good sign.

The kid showed up right on time for his interview. He was a little on the quiet side, but it was a nervous kind of quiet. He was well-spoken and gave good answers, demonstrated the problem-solving skills I like so much, and was extremely polite and respectful. All right! Got to get final approval from Boss, but as far as I'm concerned, he's hired!

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Interview time! But since we've been working the last two weeks without Mr. Problem, it's not particularly pressing for me to hire a replacement. We can run the store short that position for as long as it takes to find a GOOD person, not just any person. We also have a couple of other positions that have been unfilled for a few weeks. So might as well do a lot of interviews at once.

I went through the applications and arranged for quite a few interviews, all in one day. Two were no-shows, one a definite no, two probably no, two maybes (I want another manager to interview them for a second opinion), and one probably yes.

Another manager (who is new at interviewing so I was training her) asked me what makes for a definite no, since I scheduled two interviews for her to do the following day (my day off). Well, the biggest thing to make me NOT hire someone is a blah personality with no enthusiasm AT ALL. Other things are someone who doesn't smile a single time during the interview, is a know-it-all, wants an impossible amount of money or impossible schedule (you MUST work at least one weekend day!), or demonstrates no problem-solving skills or common sense or brain power.

Sure it's only retail, but finding a good salesperson isn't easy. Our store is very fast-paced and if you can't multi-task and do things without a manager overseeing your every move, then you won't do well here. I also look at how I think the person will fit in with the current employees—will they get along, will they work together well, will they enjoy working together (if possible)?

Being nervous is ok……..most people are during an interview. Most of these interviews were high school students on their first job interview, so they were especially nervous. That actually worked well for me because I got more honest answers to my questions since they haven't heard them before or practiced how to interview.

"Why do you want to work here?"………"Because I think it seems like a fun place to work." In and of itself, not a completely disqualifying answer, but when it was obvious by further questioning that "fun" was the most important part of a job to the applicant………we don't always have fun here, so perhaps you should work at a carnival or something.

Being a little on the quiet/shy side is ok. But if I have to drag words out of you…… don't belong here. There's a LOT of talking that you have to do with customers, co-workers, vendors, on the phone……

The "probably yes" person is very enthusiastic, positive, friendly, had all the right answers (yet I think they were honest answers), and will fit in perfectly.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Finally Gone

The problem employee I mentioned at the end of this post is FINALLY gone. I won't go into many details, but here's a summary of what this employee has been over the last months:

huge insubordination, my story vs. his story, him lying to the boss in front of me about what happened, the boss not supporting me as strongly as I would have liked, him then claiming both harassment and discrimination; finding out that he's Mr. Tax Evasion Expert with 6 invisible kids and 15 years of not filing taxes equaling upwards of $50,000; boss finally starting to see how big a liar he is; continued coming in late or not at all which boss ignores; disappears from the galaxy for two weeks and boss finally decides to fire him, which surprises him. "I was sick!" says he as he plans his trip to the unemployment office to further defraud the government while he works his under-the-table job.

I was close to quitting several times in those months…… many headaches and a boss who did nothing. I know you have to be careful when firing someone, but when an employee messes up, DOCUMENT IT. If they mess up again, DOCUMENT IT AGAIN. Establish a pattern, and then FIRE THEM. Throughout it all, I was determined that he WOULD NOT force me to leave. He's finally gone but it's not as satisfying as I thought it would be. Oh well, at least the headaches are gone. Chances are another headache will come along before too long, but as long as I'm doing the hiring, hopefully they'll be minor ones.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Defective or Misuse?

All the crazy people come out on the weekend.

There was a girl trying to return an item that was MONTHS old (well past our return policy). She didn't want a replacement; she wanted a refund. According to her, the item was defective. I agreed that there was obviously something wrong with it. But the problem was more than likely due to her misuse of the item. If it had been like that to start with, then she should have returned it earlier.

I told her that because it had been so long, we couldn't take it back. First she protested, then she threatened to sue.....the item was defective, it's our fault, the employee who sold it to her sold her the wrong accessories, etc. The whole "I'm going to sue you!" line was particularly funny because she didn't have a receipt or any proof that she bought it in our store. She probably did get it at our store; she might even have bought it, but with no receipt, there was no way to know.

She, surprisingly enough, knew the name of the employee who "sold" it to her. (I use that term very loosely because I'm not sure that any money changed hands.) When there's a problem with an employee telling a customer the wrong thing, most customers barely remember if it was a male or female employee. They don't remember the name, or even if the employee was short or tall, what color hair…………NOTHING. So the fact that she remembered the name of the former employee who was fired more than three months ago is not only surprising, it's also a little suspicious. (She wanted a REFUND, not a replacement. Yet no receipt..........)

Just to cover myself, I called the regional manager to advise her of the situation. She agreed that at this point, MONTHS later, we have no responsibility for this particular item. So the girl can call the office or try to sue us or whatever……'s not our fault nor our responsibility. Doesn't sound too customer-oriented, huh? Trust me, my company loves to please the customer, even if the customer is completely unreasonable. But let me give you some examples.

If you buy a car and never change the oil, it will eventually explode (or something like that). If you buy a bird and don't feed it, it will die. If you buy a wood table and throw it in your swimming pool and get it out two months later, then it will probably be rotten. If it's several months after the purchase, how do we know if you maintained the item properly or if it's a defect? We don't. That's what warranties are for, covering appropriate items for appropriate lengths of time. No warranty would cover this type of item for this length of time. Sorry, you're out of luck. Go away.