Of Prices and Powerbombs

There is a dictum that states "the customer is always right".

Sorry, no.

The customer is not right when accuse an "evil" store worker of rigging prices just to trip up an "innocent" shopper. I'm sure there are businesspeople Out There ruthless enough to do such a thing, but I'm not one of them. Nor, can I safely say, are my co-workers.

Ah, but an explanation is in order, framed by a bit of background: Yesterday, I had a chance to work in the ad agency in Winston for a half-day, but I had to decline, as I was already scheduled to work in the store. I wasn't happy at this turn of events because I would've made five times as much money at the agency that I would've at the store. This certainly colored my mood as I reported for my shift.

As I was cleaning up the Domestics department, I get a page over the store speakers to call the Customer Service desk. Such pages are usually to inform me that a customer needs help finding [insert desired object here] and that they're on their way back to the department. This time, however, was a little different. A woman wanted to buy a rug, and had seen that it was on sale by dint of the little red sign toppers we use to indicate sales. But the price was coming up as the regular price. Okay, so this one was going to be slightly more complicated than the usual "somebody needs help finding something." With a sigh, I headed to the desk to see what the problem was.

When I got there, a stern-looking woman was standing hard by with a long hallway rug rolled up on the desk. Whipping out my hand scanner, I scanned the barcode to see if my scanner would register a sale price. (It's rare that the hand scanner and the cash register disagree, but it's happened before.) My scanner also showed a regular, non-sale price. I asked the woman to show me the sale sign that she saw. This is standard procedure; when there's a price dispute where the customer claims to have seen "their" price on a sign, I have to verify it for myself. Most times, it's simply due to an error; a sale topper or sign will be inadvertently left up after the sale ended or some similar problem. In such a case, we simply give the customer the sale price and explain the store policy on discrepancies. They go away happy, and we all get on with our lives.

This time, however, the problem was a little thornier. The sign, which advertised the regular price, was correct, but the sale topper should not have been on the sign. Probably just an oversight by the Sign Crew. I explained to the Stern Looking Woman what the problem was, and that the presence of the sale topper was no doubt just an error. After all, we have to change hundreds of those signs -- of varying sizes -- in that store on a regular basis; some are bound to get overlooked.

The response cam in an exasperated huff: "Well why does it say 'Sale' if it's not on sale?"

I tried to explain patiently -- again -- that the presence of the sale topper was no doubt an error...

"Well, if it says 'sale', I ought to get it on sale, shouldn't I?"

Yes, ma'am, but the policy is we have to give you the price that the sign says, and in this case, the sign doesn't actually indicate a sale, despite the sale topper, which is no doubt an oversight by the Sign Team...

"Well I ought to get it on sale if it says 'sale'!"

Sensing the approach of a spiral argument, and my own rising ire at having to deal with such a dullard on a day when I didn't even want to be there in the first place, I tried to end the affair quickly by offering Miss Stern a 10% discount, which is all I'm authorized to do on the spot. And more than I was required to do, since the blasted rug wasn't even on sale to begin with. But it's Good Customer Relations to at least offer.

The stern look turned to a look of disgust. "That's not enough!" she spat as she thrust the rug back on the shelf. "You only offer me ten percent after you tell me the rug was on sale!"

But ma'am, I didn't say that it...

"That's why I don't have an account here! You people do this all the time...!"

My shields went down. Hard. Ordinarily, my customer service training would've allowed me to simply stand there and let the old bag rant while I simply smiled, nodded and repeated store policy until she shut up and stalked off. But I didn't want to be there in the first place. I didn't want to be making a pittance listening to some rogue 70-year old who should've had the good sense to die fifty years ago harangue me about a situation I had no knowledge or control over, all to get a few lousy bucks knocked off the price of a rug she could've just as easily bought from a half-dozen other stores in the immediate area for half the price. I wanted to be making far more money farther away in a far cooler town with far smarter people. Yet here I was, having to stand there and be verbally lashed by some old twit with more money than sense. Probably harrassed her husband into giving her that money; poor guy probably gave it to her so she'd go away and leave him alone to have a glass of beer in peace.

Then I felt it. Sensing a disturbed psyche, the Beast came shambling out of his corner headed straight for my forebrain. But it wasn't me he was after this time. His focus was on Miss Stern as she went on about how she felt cheated and how store policies were dishonest and how the Universe In General Seemed To Be Created To Pick On Poor Little Old Ladies...

She really needs to shut up.

"...and there's no reason to have a sale sign up there if it's not on sale, right?"

My responses by this point were flat and monosyllabic. "Yes, ma'am."

You stupid piece of [expletive]*!"

"Then why in the world would there be a sale sign if it's not..."

"I don't know, ma'am."

I'd love to smack your ugly face lopsided, you withered [expletive]!

By this point, the Beast was being granted full reign. He was getting bigger by the second. He was currently the size of T Rex and growing. Claws scraped dangerously on the walls of my psyche. His spines scrawled across the ceiling of my emotions. His growls as he anticipated finally letting loose on someone were horrible to behold.

Miss Stern had no idea how close she was to a Major Incident.

"...and talk to the Corporate Office..."

I'll break your arms, piledrive you through the floor and twist your back until it snaps like a dry twig!

Bring it!

That last was me. The Beast was in full control now.

You'll be fired for this.

I don't care. Let's do it!

My gaze, which had been trained on one of the upper-level store fixtures in a final Customer Service technique to try and let Miss Stern's stupidity roll off my back snapped onto her old, tired face. The Beast, by now Godzilla-sized, bared his claws and fangs, eagerly ready to pounce. I had everything locked and loaded. Questions about her ancestry and intellectual level. Insults about her, her family, her upbringing and how she made her money. Jibes about her age and her lack of beauty. Inquiries as to why she had lived through three major military conflicts without becoming a casualty. Yes, even the Race Card**.

I opened my mouth to begin the salvo...

"Ma'am, that sign is there because someone here at the store made a mistake."

A co-worker of mine, who unbeknownst to me had been working in the aisle just behind us and who no doubt heard the entire exchange, had stepped in just in time. As she took over the conversation, I had a moment to hail another co-worker who was passing by. I told him to go get the manager. The look on my face must've been fearsome because he went scampering off at double speed.

Meanwhile, the girl who had stepped in for me was doing an admirable job of defending store policy against Miss Stern. The Beast deflated back into his corner, a little disappointed that his full fury wouldn't be needed after all. A few more seconds of explanation, and Miss Stern finally gave up, storming off in a huff.

Good riddance.

Although I still wanted to give her that piledriver.

The manager showed up a few seconds later. I gave her the 25-words-or-less version of what happened and let her know in no uncertain terms that I was within two seconds of letting that old bag have it, and I didn't care if I'd gotten fired for cussing out a customer. I let the co-worker who'd stepped in know that I was grateful to her for her help, and that I'd been close to losing it. She said I'd actually handled the situation calmly, but had stepped in because she'd wondered, as she heard the event unfold, if I were suddenly going to start yelling at the old lady. I told her that yes, I was but she'd stopped me in the nick of time.

The Beast wasn't done yet, however. For the rest of the afternoon, I was treated to fantasies of actually doing violence to that old lady and her husband too, if he dared to show trying to do the manly thing and defend his wife. Luckily, it was all in my head. Can't get arrested for fantasizing about it. Yet.

And wouldn't you know most of those fantasies involved piledrivers, powerbombs and other painful-looking wrestling moves.

*In the interest of not corrupting impressionable young minds that might be reading this (not to mention all the IHN volunteers in the various churches around here, I'll keep things clean. But you know what was running through my mind at that point.

**An indication of just how the situation had deteriorated, if I was even for a moment contemplating dredging up that uncharacteristic unpleasantness.

Last night I watched an episode of the Simpsons from Season 5, Disc 3 - sorry can't recall the name of the episode - in which Grandpa takes a job at the burger joint only to face a mob of angry elderly at the counter complaining about the quality of the food, the prices, the fact that they can't have breakfast at 10:31, etc... Grandpa keeps repeating the company line over and over until his cognitive dissonance overwhelms him. He has an epiphany and shouts, "That's right! The good Lord wouldn't let somebody get elderly if he didn't intend for them to criticize every last thing He created!"

I've worked with "the public" in past jobs. It took me a good long while to learn that other people already have enough power over me (or ability to affect me or my life) -- I don't have to give them emotional power over me too. At least my emotions are always mine. I'm not going to give someone else control over how I feel. So when I encouter an unpleasant person, I thank the universe for teaching me patience. And after the situation is over, I thank the universe for not letting that person be in my family.

As for the people who are in my family... it helps to remind oneself, that nobody's perfect. Including me.
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come to think of it, i dress like a slob, maybe thats why I not god with the ladies. Hmmmm, Off to the goodwill I go....I shall return like Max Julien in 'The Mack'
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Man, thanx for making my day brighter! Your writing style, I really like it.
Fingers crossed for your dreams coming true. You never know when things happen, both good and bad.
Take care
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