I Hate Our Freedom: Customer Service

Big news: we’re having a masculine child. Luca Brasi would be pleased. This momentous piece of information, though, is not what today’s post is about. Sorry.

We decided to go to Macy’s to look for some baby clothes, and found a few cute items. We took them to the register, and while in line, the lady currently at the register made the cashier’s life a minor hell. From what I could gather, she found some dresses she wanted, but she had other merchandise at home and wanted to exchange them. She asked the cashier if she could have the dresses held until she came back with the other merchandise. Now, this request in and of itself isn’t problematic. You can ask whatever you want in this country, I say, but you need to be ready to possibly hear “no.” And “no” is what she heard.

Now, I think it’s just a Macy’s policy not to hold merchandise like that, and that’s fine, but on top of it, I think she was originally asking for 3 days. Yeah, I didn’t think so either. She could have just taken this news politely and figured out what else to do, but instead she decided to bitch about how terrible it was that they couldn’t hold these dresses for her for 3 days, or even 12 hours, and that she’s been shopping around all of LA for days, and they should know how exhausting that is, and how ridiculous it is that they just couldn’t hold salable product behind the counter for at least half a day in the hope that she gets her shit together and comes back with the returns. And all of this with that faux-amused attitude that thinly masks the dripping disdain she obviously had for the guy behind the counter who’s just following goddamn company policy. I felt even worse when he asked the corporate-mandated question, “Would you like to apply for a Macy’s card today?”

“Why should I,” she asked, the condescension so thick you could stab it with a knife. “You can’t even hold an item for 12 hours!”

You know that joke in movies where someone does something horrible to someone else as a reaction to something, then they cut away and that horrible thing was just a quick dream? Before the cutaway, I smacked that lady in the head. I wasn’t proud of that thought as she was an older lady, but there it is.

Now, this Alamo Drafthouse video (which is now an internet legend) doesn’t involve the exact same kind of customer behavior, but it’s on a similar path: this idea that no matter what, as a customer you are allowed to ask for whatever you want, and if management says no, they’re horrible people who don’t believe in freedom. Look, there are businesses out there doing terrible things to people, but that’s only about 0.0002% of them. The rest are just trying to sell goods and services, and are as open with their policies as they can allow.

I get it, movie the-a-ter lady, the Constitution doesn’t specifically say anything about texting in a theater. Fine. But you’re in the Alamo Drafthouse, a private business that makes its own policies. And maybe you‘re fine with using your phone in the dark of a movie, but they aren’t, and they make the rules. And you can disagree with the rules all you want, but then you can go somewhere else. But don’t whine about how your freedoms have been violated when a private business with policies adheres to their policies.

Macy’s lady didn’t cry “fascism,” but it was a similar idea; that because they didn’t do something they don’t advertise, they’re somehow a terrible company. I get that it’s hard to find clothing you like, but you don’t just get to go around town putting shit on hold until you figure it out. Find some dresses you like and buy them. You have things to exchange? Shoulda brought them too. But don’t get on the cashier about this, since he has no authority to change it. I don’t even work at Macy’s, and I have almost equal authority to the cashiers regarding their sales policy. So don’t give him shit about your own terrible decisions.

The answer is simple: you don’t just get to do whatever you want in a business transaction. If that offends you, then don’t purchase anything ever again.

Keep it up and you might get this.


About Louis

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5 Responses to I Hate Our Freedom: Customer Service

  1. Andrew says:

    This is one reason I will never be in sales. I don’t buy into “the customer is always right.” My policy is that the customer is always right except for such times when the customer is wrong.

  2. David D. says:

    As a long-time customer service professional, you’re dead-on. In particular, people who berate the lowest level cashiers at large corporate stores who are unable to circumvent corporate policy. In many cases, it would cost them their jobs. Anybody who feels they have a legitimate complaint about policy needs to calmly ask to speak to a manager. Yelling at a cashier provides no benefit other than catharsis (if you’re a douche bag).

    It’s important for management, however, to train point-of-sale employees not just on corporate policy but on the reasoning behind the corporate policy. I’ve found that explaining WHY we can’t do something goes a long way to mitigate ire.

    • Louis says:

      I don’t want to minimize people’s jobs, but in a lot of cases, the guy at the register is a guy at a register. He has no influence on corporate policy.

      Training staff on the theory behind policies is good. Sometimes is still doesn’t help the situation, but if nothing else, the front-line staff knows they’ve done what they could before escalating it.

      I think the other lesson in all this is that managers sometimes need to chill out about the occasional difficult customer. It’s in your best interest to keep business, of course, but once in a while, someone just wants to yell for no sane reason. You won’t be hurting yourself that much letting these outliers go.

  3. Pingback: I Hate Our Freedom Too: C.E.S. | The Satellite Show

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