working retail

i’ve been thinking about writing a post about working retail for a while now, and after today’s events, i figured it was time.  more about that in a minute.

when i left my job with the state, i returned back to a my job at a local ski / bike shop.  immediately, the stress of working as a PO was gone and it hasn’t returned since.  it’s a great place to work, and the vast majority of the customers we have are fantastic people who are passionate about the sports they do.  still, there are days that push my buttons.  let me explain.

senario 1:
man enters the store holding a heaping pile of green tarp-like material.  in his mad dash to the register, he knocks over a clothing rack, stumbles twice, and nearly takes out a customer.  breathing heavily, he reports he has ‘a crisis’.  he goes on to say his family is leaving in the morning for a camping trip, his tent is ripped, and he needs a warranty repair.  actually, he wants us to replace it for free.  at 7:30pm.  on a friday.  for a tent that appears to be at least five years old.  and it’s a brand we don’t even carry.

*at this point, i should tell you i fully believe in good customer service, and i strive everyday to provide people with just that.  i also believe that good customer service isn’t a right.  back to the story.*

“ok”, i say.  “what’s the crisis?”

“what do you mean what’s the crisis?  i need a new tent.  we’re leaving in the morning.  weren’t you listening?”

“sure i was, but i wouldn’t call that a crisis” i say thinking back on the past few years of my working life, dealing with sexual assaults, armed robberies, felons beating their wives, and murder cases.  “sounds more like you have an issue.”

after a few more questions, it turns out he knew the tent was ripped for over a year, forgot about it, and didn’t check the gear a few weeks before the trip like his wife asked him to do.  still, after telling me this, he presses me for a new replacement.

“but sir, you didn’t buy it here.  and it’s well out of warranty – this brand only has a three year replacement policy.  i’m not sure why you think we should give you a new tent.”

“so you’re not going to give me a replacement?”


“well this is the worst customer service ever” he says as he grabs his tent and makes for the door.

scenario 2:
it’s about 9:02am when the phone rings.  here’s how the conversation went down:

me – {name of the store} sporting goods, how can i help you?
customer – how many stores do you have?
me – just this location, sir.  and an online store.
c – good.  let me talk to your manager.
me – i’m actually one of the managers.  how can i help you?
c – one of the managers? how the hell does that work?
me – well, most days, we are open from 9:00am to 8:00pm.  since i really don’t want to work that many hours in a week, we have a few managers to cover both shifts.
c – whatever.  i called to tell you i don’t appreciate getting a text message from you at 5:03am this morning on my cell phone telling me we were going to get less than one inch of snow outside here today.
me (after a short pause to process his sentence) – a text from us?  we don’t send text messages to people.  our store doesn’t have that capability.
c – well it had your name on it.
me – the text message did?  are you sure it wasn’t an ad or something?
c – yeah, that’s what i just said.  your name was on it.  at the bottom.
me – sir, it sounds like you received a weather alert of some sort.  was there anything else listed in the text?  like a radio station or a local television name?
c – yeah, channel 7.
me – then i suggest you call them to remove your name from their mail / text list.  we don’t have any control over who they send messages to.
c – but your name was on it.
me – i think we’ve established that. you’ve mentioned that more than once.  unfortunately, like i just said, we don’t have any control over channel 7 sending you text messages.
c – how would you like to get a text message at 5 in the morning?
me – i wouldn’t like it, and that’s why i don’t sign up for weather alerts from channel 7.
c – well maybe you shouldn’t sponsor a company like channel 7 if all they do is bother people at 5 in the morning.
me – sir. is this really the biggest issue in your life right now? you really don’t have anything else better to be concerned with?
c – *click*

scenario 3:
the holiday season.

scenarios 4 – 10:
“i see this is 50% off. can you do any better on the price?”

“if i buy two, will you throw in a third bike for free?”

“i only used this snorkel set for a few days. can i return it?” (after he just got done telling me about his trip to cancun.)

“if my 12 year old’s feet are a size 4, can’t i just buy a size 8 so he can grow into them for the next few years?” – sure. why don’t you buy him these twelve foot tall skis while you’re at it. they’ll fit great should he grow up to be 9 feet tall.

“what size jacket should i get for my wife? she’s about yay big and pretty thin. most days anyways.” (followed by a throat clearing gut laugh)

“there isn’t a price tag on this kayak. must mean it’s free, right?”

“i see you have this hat in green, blue, yellow, red, orange, pink, black, white, purple, and brown. do you have it in any other colors?”

which leads me to today. i was chatting with a customer at the register when a younger man came in. he interrupted our conversation to ask for change for a $20 bill. still more focused on talking with the gal, i opened the till, gave him change, and he left. about 30 seconds later, i noticed the bill he gave me was a fake. i marked it with a counterfeit pen just to make sure – it did looked pretty good – but sure enough, it was fake. i quickly went out the front doors to see if i could spot the perp, and saw him a good three blocks down the road. he had to have run a few blocks to get down there that fast, and angered that someone tried to rip off our shop, i took off after him.

*i need to pause here again to let you know i work at a locally owned, family run shop. we feel more like family members than coworkers, and i really care about the owners. they are such great people, so when someone steals from the shop, i get pissed.*

about a half block away, i yelled out for him to stop. he did, turned around, and looked at me with worry in his face. it’s the face you see when you catch someone in a lie, one i saw all too often supervising offenders.

“ok dude, so you can either give me back the money or i’m calling the police”, i said bluntly.
“what do you mean?”
“you know the bill was a fake. don’t bullshit with me. i’m not going to ask you again.”
“i just got this at the health care center”, he said as he dug the money out of his pocket. “what am i supposed to live on?”
“not my problem, man.” i know the HCC doesn’t give out cash, so i didn’t feel bad for him at all.

as i took the money out of his hand, he immediately grabbed the fake $20 out of my other hand. he took off running, and not wanting to further risk my safety over a bum 20 dollar bill, i let him go. still, i felt like a local hero, and laughed as i walked back to the shop. after all, it would have been fun watching him trying to outrun me while i yelled something to him like ‘i’m not even at my zone 2 heart rate yet asshole. best pick up the pace a little.’

Published by septastic

i'm sep, a 35 year old photographer / volunteer / storyteller / traveler / nice guy living in rural Wisconsin.

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