Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Retail Tales: Why the World is Falling Apart #2 - Dumb Questions

      When you deal daily with the public at large, you realize perhaps there ought to be a test to pass for voting. Sometimes, when I can't fathom such unintelligence, I concoct back stories that make people not seem so bad. A lot of customers end up being elves from the North Pole or refugees from Darfur.
      Because I am contractually obligated to grin like a goon and humour these round-headed cads and their inane inquiry, I am never able to respond how I'd really like to. So, for my own therapy more than anything, here are the dumbest questions, the answers I give, the thoughts in my head, and what I'd like to say.

Do you work here?

I say..."Sometimes, other times I just show up." or "Only when they make me."

I'm thinking... I can't wait until I don't have to say 'yes' to this! Sometimes people ask me this when I'm shopping in places I certainly do not work at, and it's so great to practice saying "No!" Or even better, to give them my best People's Eyebrow:

until the sheer force of my masculine facial muscles causes them to BTFO.

I'd like to say... (In a very cheery, bubbly voice) "Nooo, me and a bunch of friends just thought it would be a total larf to go into stores all dressed the same and act like we were putting things on shelves and operating cash registers! Isn't that hilarious and likely?!"


[As a follow-up, after I've told them we don't carry the item they're looking for]
 Do you know where I could find that item?

I say... "No, I'm sorry I don't." OR "I'm sorry, I only know what we have here."

I'm thinking... What psychic powers are these that would let me know the location of everything in the world that is not in our store? What could I do with such abilites?  Find Kennedy's killer? Hoffa's body? Pirate treasure? I know they're just taking a shot that "Hey, maybe somebody here knows, it's related to what they sell," but it's not related. We sell what we sell, so I know about that stuff. And, I know this will come as a shocker, but we don't sell stuff that we don't sell.

I'd like to say..."Yes, we have all that information, we're just holding out on you because there is any reason for me to bother trying to confuse someone so obviously confused already. I'll tell you where your popcorn boxes are if you tell me what colour I'm thinking of. How does it feel?"

It was taupe, by the way.

Do you have a washroom?
I say... "Yes." No frills, I'm not going to volunteer our store thrones for your brat to sprinkle the seat or your aging mother to nuke the chamber. I know there's a follow up coming but I don't care. Shouldn't people have to say what they mean? Did you honestly suspect we didn't have a washroom?

I'm thinking... Is there ANYWHERE that does not have a washroom? When was the last time you were in any kind of functional building besides maybe a barn (which doesn't count, trust) that didn't have a washroom? Do you think us some kind of Phillistines? Does it smell that bad in here that this question is legitimate?

I'd like to say... "No." Now what?!
"Do you have a washroom?" A good question on an Indian railway, perhaps.
Source: Maclean's

Doesn't that mean it's free?

I say... "No, I'm sorry, it doesn't." OR "Unfortunately not." And then I have to listen to an avalanche of grievances before they either huff out of the store or pay the extra 24 cents for the plastic forks.

I'm thinking... This usually comes from either a total misunderstanding of the Scanning Code of Practice or people who think Wal-Mart's rules apply to the world. Just please read a book. Oh please, oh please, won't you just read a book? Look something up before you blab on about it, or about your "rights" or "entitlement" (these are actual customers' words) to free stuff. In addition, my time is also not free. I'm going to start wearing a sign that says "Stupid Questions: $3.49." Nothing scares someone off like having to pay for something that used to be free.

I'd like to say... "Hey there's no price tag on your car, does that mean I can just take it? Bugger off, you cheap mouth-breather."

Can I return this? [almost always accompanied by an item that is beyond saving]
I say... "Noooo, I'm so sorry, it's our policy but I'm not allowed to take back anything that's been opened already. I really apologize for that but we can't take it."
I'm thinking... Why do people try this? Do they also bring back half-eaten bags of chips? Does this work anywhere? About 25 percent of the time the item is both appropriate to return and in good enough condition. Perhaps if we didn't take stuff like this back everywhere, people would think more about their decisions; perhaps a little permanence would be good for them!
I'd like to say... "There's a stain on this toga! Right there! It smells like booze, smoke, and poo! Do I look like a moron to you?!"

Can I return this?

How much is this?
I say..."[Whatever the price is]."
I'm thinking...Well if my time is worth about $15.50 an hour, that stupid question was worth about a dollar, the actual item cost around 9 cents to make and the little Chinese girl working the injection mold was paid half a carrot, factor in shipping at a volume discount from overseas, then to our warehouse, then to our store, so the subtotal plus environmental cost puts that plastic whistle at ten billion dollars.

Can I ask you a question?

I say... "Another one?" (The customer gets the joke about half the time.The other half they either look at me blankly or say "Oh, did I talk to you already?" which is, of course, another question, and it all goes pear-shaped if I say "Going for three, are ya?")

I'm thinking... You just demonstrated you could, were you proving this to me, or yourself? Why do we have to preface a question with a question? I file this one under unnecessary pleasantries, one of the things that drives me crazy about society in general; wasted words. What would you do if I said "no?" You already know I'm going to answer your question because it is my job to do so, let's not drag this out any longer than it needs.

I'd like to say... "Well, you got through that one, ironic though it may have unintentionally been. Let's take a chance that it didn't eat up your brain power for the day and go for broke!" OR "Didn't really give me an option there, did you?"

"Can I ask a question?" - The original facepalm.

Are you sure?

I say... "Yes, I'm sure."

I'm thinking... This question pisses me off everywhere in life, as why would I say something if I weren't sure of it? Why would I answer your question thusly, just to have you on? Another question that is always wasted words. Why would I bother saying something to you that I'm not sure of? I'm paid to inform you and you aren't important enough to confuse. The best part is that customers usually ask this because they got an answer they didn't like and almost invariably go ask somebody else, who gives them the same answer.

I'd like to say... "No, I'm having a go at you!" OR "Yes, in fact so sure, I'd bet your screaming baby on it." OR "No, I'm pretty much guessing. Can I ask you a question?" OR "Yes, but you'd probably better go ask somebody else."

[After a customer walks in and I've said "Hello, how are you?"]
Good, how are you?
I say... [Nothing]. I don't even answer. That's how stupid this question is: the person who asks it knows it's stupid and doesn't even bother to pursue the inquiry. I have not once had someone say "No, really, how are you?" or wait for me to answer; they immediately go about their consuming, because that's what's important.

I'm thinking... I don't even think about it anymore. This is a pointless question because you don't care how I am, and you shouldn't, you don't know me. I have to care how you are because if you're in a bad mood you might ruin my day, or my store, or complain I was discourteous but the whole point is, just don't ask. Your mood is important to our transaction, mine is not. Save the oxygen, we'll need it.

I'd like to say... "Well, times are tight - I could use a raise but whatcha gonna do, you know?. My dog's got it coming out both ends and I'm a bit gassy myself, probably the beans last night and coffee this morning. My knees are aching with the cold, but I still can't stop sweating, I feel like I should have an armpit diaper. Do you find it hot in here? Thanks for asking!"


And now for something completely different: one of my dogs with his head stuck in the bars of his crate!


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