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May 21st, 2003

Strange Checkouts

I had a couple of strange customer service experiences the other day… nothing particularly bad, just strange.

First, I went into Old Navy to return a pair of jeans. When I was there last week, they didn’t have my size, so I bought one waist size bigger. That turned out to be a mistake, as I was swimming in the jeans, so I figured I’d return them and see if they recieved any jeans in my size over the weekend. They didn’t have any in the same line of jeans, but they did in a line with tapered legs (fine by me) and the price was $2.50 cheaper. So, I took the two pair to the front with the intention of doing a simple exchange and getting a $2.50 refund. The young woman at the counter ran things through once, but had to do it again because she said she screwed up. She ran it through a second time and told me, “OK, that’s an even exchange…” and I said, “Wait, I don’t get $2.50 back?”

“No,” she replied, “I just did an even exchange.”

I persisted, “But I should get $2.50 back…”

She looked at me like I was crazy, “We don’t just give you money back because you’re exchanging jeans!” A touch of attitude was shining through.

“But these are two different pairs of jeans… the pair I’m returning were $22.50 and the new pair cost $20.” I remained polite.

“Oh. They’re two different pairs?” she asked. “Man, my boss is going to be so pissed.” This, of course, despite the fact I mentioned to her earlier that I couldn’t find any jeans in my size in the same line, so I had to get a different pair.

So things got worked out, but it took three tries and help from a manager to do a simple jeans exchange. Oh, and I had to take my own credit card back from the machine because she forgot to hand it to me.

My next experience came later that night when I went to Safeway to pick up a few small items. I got in line behind a thirty-something woman wearing capri pants buying wine and a bag of plastic cups. I put the divider down on the conveyer and placed my few items behind it. After the woman’s items were rung up and she was writing a check, the checkout woman (named “Lamb,” I swear) moved the divider bar and started scanning my items. Problem: the items were coming up on the woman’s bill. She and I both noticed… I said to Lamb, “Excuse me… those are coming up on her bill and they’re my items.”

Lamb looked at me, again like I was crazy, and said, “What? This is yours? Did you put one of the dividers between your stuff and hers?” I smiled and said, “Sure did,” resisting the urge to tell her than she had moved the divider herself less than 15 seconds ago.

I’ve gotta say that I admire checkout people, in a way. It can’t be a terribly high-paying job, but they have to stand on their feet and deal with PITA customers most of the day, so I try to be friendly to them and chat with them if they are in a talkative mood. I can also understand them getting a bit frazzled and screwing up on occasion. But that certainly doesn’t mean I won’t write about it here when they do. 🙂

Posted in Consumer Commentary

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