"The successful man is the one who finds out what is the matter with his business before his competitors do. " --- Roy L. Smith.
The following incident could best be described as a noteworthy example of unintentional customer abuse initiated by two poorly trained sales associates and exacerbated by an indifferent floor manager who valued her social networking time more important than customer service. The customer's names are fictitious while the service received is not.
In November 2011 on a somewhat laid back Thursday afternoon around two p.m. my neighbor Lew, a retiree, and his wife Jackie visited a nearby shopping mall with every intention of purchasing a new winter coat for her upcoming birthday. She was excited about the planned shopping excursion and looked forward to spending the time with Lew at the mall.
They visited one particularly fashionable department store's women's department and browsed through the fall and winter collection section for roughly 30 minutes. She eventually found the coat she wanted and they then headed to the nearest customer service station.
There were no service clerks available in the immediate area so they had to wend their way to a another customer service station in a nearby department of the outlet a fair distance from their current one. The checkout station's service light was turned on and two employees, a young female and an older male, were manning the desk. They noted that the time was now 2:40 p.m. It was beyond this important point in time that their real shopping experience began.
The sales associates greeted them in a friendly, professional manner , scanned the UPC Code on the sales ticket and asked them how they would like to pay for the item. Lew handed the female cashier his store charge card and customer points card. The checkout's computer terminal needed to be turned on and set up before the transaction could be handled. Both associates stated that they had just started their shift.
The terminal refused to initiate properly and after two noble attempts the male clerk tried his turn. After ten minutes of knuckle wrenching uncertainty, nervous inactivity and breath holding the terminal finally worked. The charge card was scanned and the enter key pressed. The expected transaction receipt did not print but got jammed in the terminal's innards. Bits and pieces of the gnarled and chewed receipt clogged the mechanism. At that point in time they shut off the service light and closed down the checkout station.
Both of these staff members admitted they were newbies. They never had to deal with a situation like this before. They decided to unclog the paper, replace it with a new roll, turn off the computer and reboot it again. Then they tried to print up a new receipt to show proof of purchase but did not realize at that time that turning off the unit would delete all electronic records of the transaction. They struggled with the computer for a few minutes before deciding to cancel the entire transaction and reenter it from scratch.
They then faced another problem: cancelling the purchase with minimal information could not be done. So, they attempted to write up the order as a return item, issue a printed receipt, reenter the order and then process the sale. When this did not work they then decided to process the order as a return item, issue a credit card receipt and try to process the order again as a new transaction. This creative approach also failed to get results.
After a few more minutes of struggling with the terminal they both decided to contact the floor supervisor and seek her assistance. To their dismay and Lew's she had just started her coffee break and informed the caller she would be back on the floor in 20 minutes. This seemed reasonable and Lew and Jackie decided to wait it out and see what would happen next.
Thirty five minutes later she telephoned the sales associates and told them she would be unable to help them out and encouraged them to use another station to complete the sale. They told her that the sale was lost in cyberspace and could not be retrieved. She then recommended that they write it up "as best they could". You have to also realize that Lew by this time was holding one gnarled receipt, one returned goods receipt and one exchanged item receipt.
The clock was ticking. By the time the sales associates had transacted the sale 90 minutes of waiting time had passed. No apologies were made for the inconvenience they experienced. Both associates were uncomfortable with their lame performance. Lew had four receipts in his hand and his wife's winter coat in hand for his patience. He and his wife left the store in a confused but relieved state of mind.
In case you were wondering the coat was on sale for $275 -- half of its original value. It was worth the wait. The kicker comes in when you realize that one month later the item was not charged to their account. Somehow the coat had been sent into merchandise limbo, written off the books and treated as a damaged good return item.
Lew and his wife reviewed their receipts for the next several months. No charge was made to their account for the item. The time they had spent waiting for their sale to be processed taught them that patience often pays off to those folks who handle ineptness and other people's rudeness with understanding and kindness.
The couple does not have any pangs of conscience about receiving the coat for free. Their time spent at the checkout station, the ineptness and inexperience of the attending sales personnel, and the indifference of the sales floor manager justified their position. Over the past 12 months Jackie has monitored their credit purchases both online and on the telephone. There is absolutely no record of their purchase.
The sales staff did not at any time during the encounter apologize for the inconvenience. After a period of time the couple stated that they were treated more as a nuisance than a cash paying, long term customer. They still shop at this outlet but now are more cautious about their check out options and alternatives.