I hate bad customer service. It's one of my pet peeves. Yes, I know that dealing with the public sucks, but if you must do so either do it properly or find some other job.
Yesterday I encountered the most obnoxious store manager ever after my 22-year-old daughter Jessica called me, frustrated and nearly in tears, to recount her experience at one of our local Halloween costume stores.
She’d gone there between classes and work to pick up an inmate costume for the downtown festivities we’re all going to tonight. Since the package said “One Size Fits All,” she plunked down her twenty bucks without trying the costume on. Once at home, she took it out to hang it so the wrinkles would come out and found a huge rip along one seam.
But when she called to let the store manager - a woman named Julie - know she’d be exchanging it, Jessica was told that All Sales Were Final. Arguments that the product was defective didn’t sway Julie. As far as she was concerned, Jessica was screwed.
So Jessica did the smartest thing she could do. She called me, thus invoking the Maternal Power To Get Things Done. And since Hell hath no wrath like me when you’ve screwed with one of my kids, I couldn’t wait to get to work.
My first act, surprisingly enough, was to be merciful to Julie and give her the chance to change her mind. But I didn’t get any further with her than Jessica did, even after explaining to Julie that her rudeness to my daughter was likely because her store was so swamped and she was so stressed. But the soft touch did not work. Julie not only repeated the All Sales Are Final sign, but told me that customers are told that after October 17th no returns can be accepted.
“I understand that,” I said. “And if my daughter had bought the costume at the first of the month, damaged it and now insisted you take it back, I wouldn’t be helping her. But she bought this costume an hour ago, it’s defective and you should stand by your product.”
Julie began talking over me, her voice raised and shaky. I could tell she was a lost cause, but I still gave her once last chance. “Am I going to have to call corporate?” I asked her. “Because you don’t want me to call corporate."
"Fine, call corporate," she snapped.
"I will then," I said. "And I guarantee you that by the end of the day you will exchange that costume. Now what's the number for corporate?"
That's when Julie hung up on me.
But no worries. I've been hung up on before. I called back, and while her associate manager refused to put her back on the phone, he did give me an 800 number which - after a forty minute wait - directed me to one of three beleaguered customer service representatives who promised me that a district manager would contact me within ten hours.
As if. Like I was actually going to wait for some district manager. Pfft.
Instead, I called the Internet customer service line, explained the situation, and asked if they had another number. I found out that the costume store chain was owned by Spencer gifts, so I got their corporate number. It was now quarter till five, and time was running out as I listened to a list of departments. When I got the option for “Legal,” I chose it and got - lo and behold - one of the company’s corporate lawyers, a really nice guy named Vince.
I explained to him that while he may find it odd to have a disgruntled customer calling, I felt he might want to know what was going on in this particular store. Within five minutes I had him nearly as mad as I was. He looked up the store’s number and told me to sit by the phone while he had a word with Julie.
Three minutes later he called back and told me Julie was prepared to exchange the costume, and asked that I accept an apology from him on behalf of the company.
My daughter’s friend Stephen was already in the parking lot with the costume, and I got a play by play from him via cell phone as he swapped out the costume. Julie was apparently quite pissed, and too stupid to realize that her anger only made my little victory even sweeter.
Later, Jessica said her friend wanted to know how in the earth I pulled everything off. The answer is quite simple. Never accept ‘no’ for an answer from someone not qualified to give you a ‘yes’ in the first place. Years as a working reporter have taught me that the less significant the peon, the less willing they are to work with you, for they have less at stake. The higher up one goes in a company, the more of a vested interest they have in that company’s reputation. And the more willing they are to correct mistakes.
The problem with most people is that they cave too quickly when they are told ’no.’ That’s a mistake. A squeaky wheel doesn’t have to make much noise, it just needs to know how to roll.
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