I have always believed that everyone should have a job in customer service at some point in their lives. I learned more working retail this holiday season, after leaving my office job, than I ever did at that office job. However, the best part is that while you may have to deal with irrational people in corporate life (I know I did. All the time), the irrational people stories in retail are usually more colorful, although there's a lot to be said about the temp at my old firm whose "contract wasn't renewed" about four months after he punched a wall because I guess that's how long the paperwork takes.
But anyway, now that I've already blurbed my (second) worst corporate story, I thought I'd share my worst retail experience.
Just before Christmas I was ringing up a woman's purchases - a vase and a particularly unwieldy bunch of fake flowering branches, which were too large for our standard bags, but who the woman had insisted be "wrapped up so [she] could get them home safely." She handed me her credit card, and after I swiped it, I turned to look for a solution while she signed the pad. I was in the middle of shimmying these things into one of our umbrella bags, when she reached over the counter and grabbed her card, telling me, "I'm going to take my card. I've been a customer here for years."
I smiled and nodded (who cares how long you've been a customer here?), then wrestled with the branches some more. After finally getting the things settled in their bag, I put the charge through to get her receipt, when she asked me if I was going to check her signature.
Stunned, I said, "Sure, can I see your card?"
She showed me her card, but kept a death grip on the thing instead of letting me have it. "Looks good to me. Here's your branches...and..."
"How could you possibly remember what my signature looked like?" She demanded.
I told her that, out of habit, I had glanced at her signature before I cleared the screen, and her A's were similar. She was clearly bat-shit crazy, but hadn't deliberately signed the two differently (although I wouldn't have put it past her).
I handed her things to her over the counter, but she wouldn't have any of it, and kept insisting that we discuss why I was so stupid—at no point did she even give me time to interject with niceties—and after a few minutes of listening to her berate me, I was done. I just wanted to get to the long line that was building behind her.
Finally, I interrupted her. "Okay," was all I said, then turned around to help another customer who had been patiently waiting for this lady's insanity to simmer down. Thinking that if the worst I could do to this woman was not say "Have a nice day," (since she wouldn't let me, anyway) I thought ignoring her might get rid of her, and it did. I proceeded to help a very nice man choose some cookware...
Until about thirty seconds later, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Crazy had come back to tell me that she didn't appreciate my attitude, and she did not like the way I'd left things with her. She wanted to know how on earth I decided to work in retail if I hated people so much. Then she asked to speak to a manager.
She asked my manager if they could speak privately while she looked at me with crazy eyes. Out of earshot, she told my manager that she would not, could not buy anything from someone with such a negative energy. She returned everything, but that's not the best part. She then made my manager RING HER UP AGAIN.
The store didn't lose any money, and this woman got to go home with some ugly fake branches no one sane would ever need. My manager and I had a "talk" about this situation—we talked about how bat-shit crazy that woman had to have been. So the moral, here?
Maybe there is no moral. One thing I know for sure - this woman has never worked in retail. She could also use some lessons in common courtesy ("Would you please check my signature so I can have my card back? I'd hate to forget it"), as well as a refresher on cause and effect (before the incident, I had been smiling happily, and chatting about how beautiful those stupid, ugly branches were going to look in her house). I hope that her cat (this woman had at least three cats, trust me) ate every last fake flower on those hideous branches and cost that woman thousands in vet bills, because I'll bet those ugly branches are not very good for cats' stomachs.