Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hall of Shame: Volume III

This incident took place long before I was in a position of responsibility. I was a lowly checkout assistant and, to boot, I was under-18. At the time, the company didn't pay 16 and 17 year olds at the same rate as older employees - I was probably earning little more than £3.00. So hardly in any sort of position to be dealing with the stroppier customers, wouldn't you think?

This is, however, a customer encounter that is remembered much more fondly than the other Hall of Shamers.

Round One
It's 23rd December. The store is heaving and the checkouts aren't a particularly nice place to be. We're all penned into our little cubicles, each with a queue snaking back so far, the end is out of sight. Everybody is totally fed up, staff and customers alike.

My till receipt roll starts to come through red, signalling it needs changed. Typically, there's none on my till, or any of the adjacent ones, so I apologise to the next customer and dash to get one from the cupboard. But I'm stopped in my tracks.

"Excuse me."

This isn't said as a kind opener to an impending verbal exchange. It comes across as more of a 'Oi! Shopboy!' greeting.

I smile politely at the woman before me. I can see by looking she's not the type I'd want to roll a red carpet out for. She's got a stupid hairdo, obviously the work of an overpriced, elite 'studio', and is wearing clothes that would pass in Los Angeles but look rather ridiculous in Food Place.

She takes an exaggerated breath and begins: "Two things." She gestures her hand, frowns and adopts the pose that people take on before launching into a 'this is OUTRAGEOUS!" tirade. "I've come here, with my children, for our shopping and there are no parent & child parking bays. Also, your cash dispenser is out of order. What are you going to do about it?"

Two things. Firstly, do I look like a manager? No. I'm a sloppy, cocky student worker who's got a queue of waiting customers to deal with. Secondly, who the hell are you? Speaking to people like that, you snotty bitch! Amazing how you can have such detailed thoughts in a mere split second.

"I'm afraid I'm serving on that till over there, I'll call the supervisor for you, it shouldn't take a moment."

She performs an over-the-top 'what a farce!' sigh, obviously done for dramatic effect, as though I've just told her that her hairdo is breaking the law.

I get back to my till and ring the bell. I carry on serving, thankfully the next customer isn't moody about being held up. But Mrs Lampshade Haircut isn't going away. She positions herself at the end of my till and taps her (fake) fingernails on the surface. Oh she's getting right on my wick alright.

Round Two
I thought, rather naïvely, that as soon as Annette arrived to deal with Mrs Lampshade Haircut, she would be out of my way and my brief dealings with the woman would be over. Not quite.

"Yes love?" Annette says on arrival. She's not the cheeriest of supervisors and is known for her habit of aggravating situations that are bad enough to begin with.

Mrs Lampshade raises an eyebrow, evidently thinking herself unsuited to the title of 'luv'. She should count herself lucky it wasn't 'doll'. Nevertheless, she begins by repeating her two complaints, only this time she adds a bit of a speech about having to guide her children across a car park 'teeming with traffic' because there were no special bays.

Annette is undiplomatic and straight-to-the-mark as ever: "Well I'm sorry love, but it's two days before Christmas and the schools are off. You're not the only one with kids. You can't just expect to get a place when we're as busy as this!"

I'm enjoying the unfolding scene from the relative safety of my seat behind the till.

Mrs Lampshade takes issue: "Excuse me, but were you speaking to me just then? I've never come across such rude people..."

"I'm not being rude love, I'm just saying - we're very busy, which is to be expected at this time of year!"

"And your cash dispenser? What about that? Do you not think it's a bit of a silly time to be getting that wrong?"

"What do you think this is love, a bank? We don't run that thing, it's only on our premises."

"Which makes it your responsibility! Is this a business you're running here or a circus? What kind of company lets the cash supply for their customers stop working on one of the busiest days of the year?"

"Ask NatWest darling."

The exchange continues. Much as I dislike working under Annette, I absolutely adore her manner with customers. I wish I had the cheek to be so shirty with them. Eventually, however, Mrs Lampshade tires of Annette's attitude and announces she's going to do her shopping because her children are tired! But, like most Hall of Shame candidates, doesn't leave without promising we haven't heard the last of the matter.

Round Three
And I certainly haven't heard the last of her.

About an hour later, her face appears amongst the sea of customers queuing to be served. When I first notice her, she's too far back to be able to tell whether she's in my queue and I pray to God she isn't. She is. Oh Jesus Christ, why do they all come back to haunt me? I'm due a break and get through the next ten minutes hoping cover arrives before Mrs Lampshade's turn.

It doesn't.

"Hi," I begin once she's got to the front. For once, I'm hoping a customer is rude and doesn't reply. In fact, I'd be happy if she totally blanked me, didn't say a word and never came back.

She shoots a look at me, giving it the eyebrow and pursed lips. She packs a couple of items before letting out a rant that's, clearly, been bursting to escape.

"Do you know something, I have never been in a shop like this. Where the staff think the customers are just cattle. If I'd gone to [insert swear word] none of this would have happened. I've never known such ignorant staff! It's completely ruined my Christmas up to now, coming here!"

What do you say to somebody like that? I know what I think about somebody like that. Piss off to [insert swear word] then you melodramatic, self-obsessed bitch.

"It's always a bit hectic at this time of year." That's the best I can come up with? I can't stand the bitch, so why be such a Judas to my own thoughts? Go on. Tell her what you think of her. Of course I don't.

"It's disgraceful. I won't be coming back in here ever again. I'm drained, my children are fed up. We just want to go home. Don't we Courtenay?" she says to her child, who's too young to dribble, let alone speak, "we're sick of these awful people aren't we?"

The customer behind is slightly gobsmacked. But by this point, I'm starting to see the comedy value Mrs Lampshade offers and couldn't care less that she classes me as awful.

"Well just you take note," she addresses me directly, "I won't be letting this go lightly. A big company like this isn't getting away with treating customers like this for much longer. Not when I've finished. That car park was like a minefield, and because of the complete lack of proper parking facilities, my children could have been hurt!"

OK, I'm now starting to think you're on drugs.

"Thanks very much now, have a nice Christmas," I say at the close of the transaction.

"I will, no thanks to this place."


Al said...

That's what I liked about checkouts, when someone has a problem or complaint you can pass it on to someone who gets paid to deal with it.

I can't really do that anymore.

AggressiveAdmin said...

I can only get away with palming them off onto the duty manager if they're ABSOLUTELY awful now. I used to usher them into a corner and get a supervisor.

Now, all the cashiers do the exact same and it's me that gets to deal with all these lovely people.