Saturday, June 18, 2011

Passive Aggression In Action

I know I've been gone for a while I have a really good explanation for my sudden disappearance, but I don't want to talk about that quite yet.

I want to talk about yesterday, which was all sorts of just messed up, starting with the fact that I was behind the counter instead of at my desk, where I fully expected to be blogging happily all day.

Not that I don't love working the counter. Not only do I make more money that way, but it keeps me occupied. And I'm good with people in person. It doesn't take much effort for me to calm down an irritated customer. It might be the smile. It might be the eyes. It might be the young, innocent face combined with the high, innocent voice that on the phone often gets mistaken for that of a twelve year old. (B-Midi and I have discussed this and we've decided that the reason so many people get frustrated with me on the phone is because I sound so young and they think I have no authority to tell them "no" when they want something unreasonable.)  Either way, I'm generally very good when it comes to customers.

Well, yesterday I had the unfortunate luck of being stuck with a customer who just didn't want to be calmed down. Oh, she came in calm enough, just wanting to return her trumpet because her kid wasn't going to be in band anymore. Rental returns take two minutes at the most when they're up to date on their payments and they've brought back the mouthpieces.

She filled out the paperwork (filling out past the part that I told her to stop at, but they always do) and I pulled out the mouthpiece to inspect it so I could write down the make and model. This was when we hit our first snag.

"Oh, that's our mouthpiece," she said, and she reached forward to take it from me.

"No, it's part of your rental. You didn't buy it, so you have to return it with the rental."

"No, I remember I bought a bunch of accessories when I rented the trumpet."

"You purchased a book, a maintenance kit, and valve oil, but if you had purchased the mouthpiece you would have paid a lot more. I can tell you for sure that it's our mouthpiece when I look up your account number. If it has an 'M' on the end, it means the mouthpiece is ours."

"Okay." She crossed her arms of her chest and stuck one foot out, looking like she fully expected things would end her way. Although why she really wanted the mouthpiece anyway is beyond me. It's not like she could possibly have a use for it without the trumpet.

Sure enough, the account number ended in "M" and I showed her.

"Well, that's ridiculous. I remember paying all of this money for it."

"I can reprint your receipt and have a copy of your original contract faxed over. You signed under the section saying you understood the mouthpiece was ours, and if you returned the rental you had to return the mouthpiece. If you really want the mouthpiece, you can buy it today and keep it." 

I said this very calmly, very kindly. It's not like I don't deal with this all of the time. A lot of people assume they purchased the mouthpiece even after we take the time to specifically explain that it's ours and they sign saying they understand. People just forget. 

"It's not necessary. I wouldn't know what to do with it anyway."

We continued through the paperwork, I noted that she had no past due balance, she signed, and then said, "My next payment isn't due until the twentieth, I think. Do I get a refund for the three days I won't be using the instrument?"

I had just looked at her account, and her payments were automatically drafted on the sixteenth of every month, not the twentieth. So I told her that it had been drafted yesterday and she was paid up until the seventeenth of July, and that all she had to do to get her prorated rent back would be to call the south store and talk to someone in Band Accounting.

"That's ridiculous! Why did you guys charge me? I would have brought it in yesterday, but I couldn't!"

"Your payments are always taken out on the sixteenth." Poker face.

"Yes, but I'm only a day too late and you're going to charge me a full month for one day? And why charge me for that one day? I want my whole payment back!" 

First of all, I had just told her that she could call our south store and they would issue her a prorated refund for the days she didn't have the instrument. We weren't going to keep her money for a whole month she didn't have the instrument. Second, she was making a big deal about having to pay for a day she had it when she had just told me she wanted a mere three days prorated back to her. She was just being a bitch at this point.

"If you didn't want the payment to be drafted, you should have brought it back yesterday. There's really..."

But then B-Midi cut me off, and I was thankful. "Ma'am, how were we supposed to know you would be bringing it back the day after the payment was due? We can't read your mind. We only know that you authorized us to take payments on the 16th of every month, and you didn't bring it back yesterday so we did exactly the same as we do every month."

"Well, I want a refund."

"She just told you who to call to get it refunded. They'll either credit it back to your card within three business days, or they'll mail you a check."

"I want you to fix it now.

I already knew what I was going to do at this point. I pulled out a piece of paper, wrote down the number for the south store, and wrote the name of the person I wanted her to talk to. Note that I said the person I wanted her to talk to, and the not necessarily the one she needed. 

Meanwhile, B-Midi was saying, "Ma'am, we don't handle your payments here. It's done through our south store. I can't just take money out of our register and hand it to you. Our drawer would be short without a transaction to refund it through."

"Well I want to talk to someone in your billing office then."

"We don't have billing here. It's all at our south store."

That's when I slipped the piece of paper with the number and name forward. "You have to call this number right here and ask for Randy. He's who you need to talk to in order to get this taken care of today." I smiled. B-Midi shot me a quick, amused look. The woman had out her cell phone, already dialing the number, saying she wanted this taken care of now.

There's a reason for the look we shared. There are three people to talk to in Band Accounting at our South Store. Glory, Moll, and Randy.

If someone is super sweet and extremely understanding, I tell them to call Glory. She's the sweetest, most gentle souled woman in the world, and working with her is always quick, easy, and generally ends happily. If it doesn't, nobody ever gets angry or has a hard time.

For someone who is mildly irritated with me but not altogether offensive, I tell them to call Moll. She is tough, but fair. She won't mince her words to protect feelings, and if something is impossible, she doesn't take the time to sugar coat it. She's not exactly friendly, but she's never rude. She's all business.

And then there's the name I hand out to only the worst of the worst customers, to the ones who have irritated me beyond forgiveness. Randy. The coldest, rudest, most condescending man I've ever met in my entire life. The few times I've had to call him with questions, I've hung up feeling cold and small and stupid. There is no nice trigger in Randy. When he's not irritated, he's a jerk. When you piss him off, he's a straight up asshole in the most severe, anal retentive way.

We generally don't suggest Randy unless someone really deserves it.

I wasn't disappointed as she stood in front of me, arguing with Randy on the other end of the phone. Finally, she hung up and said, in a beaten, ashamed voice, "He said as soon as you fax over the paperwork he can issue the refund."

"I already faxed it."

"Thank you. I'm...sorry for this. I'm just frustrated." And then she turned and left with her tail between her legs.

This is exactly why you don't go around giving people a hard time for no reason when they're just doing their job and trying to help you. It's the same everywhere: people in service industries can send you on paths that are relatively pleasant, mildly irritating, or downright miserable. All it takes is a little patience, understanding, and a basic ability to reason and you're guaranteed to have a painless, pleasant experience. 


  1. Glad to have you back =) I was starting to miss the overwhelming pink in my days.

  2. I'm oh so very glad that you had an ace up your sleeve for this one. I hate rude people who are just hell-bent on making life miserable for everyone else. They could all use a healthy slice of humble pie, and possibly a kick in the face. I"m glad I'm not one of those types of people. If anything, I'm a little too nice.

    Either way, well done you! :)

  3. You're not going to tell us where you were, huh? Well, then I'm not going to tell you about the cyborg baby from the future we adopted and trained to swallow swords in the circus. Oh...well I guess that's pretty much the whole story. Whoops.

    It's amazing how many people get angry in a music store, but as you said, it's like that everywhere. People in general have a hard time accepting that rules weren't made to be bent and broken in their favor. Incidents like this are a consequence of that fact.

  4. Rebecca, I'm glad I'm back, too. I missed my pink brick wall.

    Candice, be careful being too nice. It doesn't happen here, but a lot of places people will take advantage of your kindness and walk all over you. Like people who fix your breaks. God, they will WAY overcharge you if you seem like a pushover.

    Bryan, I wasn't anywhere out of the ordinary. I promise, I'll explain it all to you tomorrow! I'm sorry I missed the cyborg future baby that swallows swords at the circus...but she probably wasn't even aware I haven't been around so it's not like I'm a stranger to her. It'll be fine.

    It's mostly parents of band students that get angry and frustrated.

  5. I think this one strictly falls under the "Lawful Evil" category.

  6. I can be all three of those people, if I need be. I can be pleasant, patient and reasonable. I can be cool, professional and no-nonsense or I can blister the hide off of their ears and leave them cowering in a corner wondering what the snap just happened if that's what they want. And sometimes I can make the shift without them seeing it coming. I do tend to get alot of complaints from my "customers". I suppose it's a good thing I work where I do. I will not suffer fools gladly.

    Good to have you back, dear. We were lonely.

  7. I think you must be really patient if you can be all three. I find myself either the first or the third. The in between is hard for me. Your "customers" deserve anything you dish out to them, I think. They landed themselves in there because they did something bad.

    Glad to be back. I wonder if it's like when I don't go to work. Does it get quiet in the blogosphere when I'm not around?

  8. Eerily quiet. Too quiet. Like waiting for the injuns to attack quiet. Enough to make me chew my fingernails all the way to my elbows.

    And we just missed you, as well.

  9. FINALLY, I can see your blog!!! Has anyone had any trouble with it not loading?

    Okay, anyway...

    ...ANNOYING WOMAN!!! My Lord, it's not your fault--why do people get all pissy and take it out on those who are just doing their job! Ugh. I'm glad you sent her to Randy! *laughed my butt off at that part* People need to learn two things: 1. Responsibility and 2. Accountability.

    It's unnerving how many people need to learn those things. You handled everything perfectly.

  10. Rev, that's pretty quiet. I missed you guys, too, so it's mutual.

    Frisky, sometimes when I try to view my blog I get a 503 error page. It's been happening frequently.

    Sometimes I imagine all the things I'd say if I could be like Randy when people are rude. Of course he's like a million years old and has worked with the company forever so he has a lot more wiggle room than I it's just fantasy. But it's so awesome in my head.

  11. You would have steered me to Randy or if you felt charitable that day Moll. I can't see me ever getting Glory.
    As much as I hate those people when I have to talk to them, I am sometimes one of them.

  12. That's terrible, George. You're telling me that you'd give me a hard time even though I was doing nothing but helping you? That hurts my feelings. Except that I find it's easier to keep men calm. I don't think you'd give me a hard time.

  13. I guess in person it's a different deal. Especially if a pretty girl is there explaining all of this to me.

  14. I find men are less inclined to get worked up over little things in the first place because details don't really concern them.

  15. Indeed, George. I find it hard to get vexed with a pretty girl. I'm a softie like that.

  16. Is that really all it takes? A pretty face and a smile? Jeeze. I've been going about this the wrong way.

  17. I like how you handled that without losing your patience with her. You gave her a nice swift kick in the ass by just handing her over to Randy. Good one.
    I'm one of those people anytime I go into a store or have to call customer service because of a problem I always make sure the first thing I say is something to the affect of "I'm sorry if this comes off as rude but please understand I don't mean to direct it at you." By saying that first, it usually prevents me from making an ass of myself and keeps me calmer. However, if the employee is a dick then all bets are off.

  18. Love the story.

    PS- I miss reading your stories. If I promise to be better about leaving comments will you tell me more stories? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

  19. Asha, I fully understand people getting angry when an employee is being an asshole. We have that problem frequently with one of our employees who starts rolling her eyes and snapping answers as soon as she gets asked a question, even if it's a perfectly logical question. You would be well within your rights to get angry at someone like that. Sometimes there is DEFINITELY a reason to get angry.

    Jenna, my work stories or just story stories? I promise I'll tell more stories. I was planning on posting one today.


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