Christmas was 28 days away and I had the distinct craziness in my life of working in retail. Not just in retail, but in one of the most notorious BIG BOX monsters that ever wreaked havoc on the American pocketbook. Pity me. People were in my store with a vengeance.
The morning after Thanksgiving we opened at 5 a.m. The line to enter the store extended the length of two city blocks. It had started to form at 2 o’clock in the morning….2 o’clock in the morning.
At 2 o’clock in the morning people lined up outside an electronics and entertainment store to spend their money. Not outside a food store or a soup kitchen. Not for sustenance, not for milk for their babies…for entertainment goods. CD players, cell phones, IPODs, high definition televisions, portable DVD players, laptops and $600 games. And it was 40 degrees outside.
One woman who finally made it inside became very upset because she thought a 27 inch TV, which she’d rolled up to the checkout counter, was supposed to sell for $99. She misread the sign that read “after mail-in rebate.” She was absolutely livid. When I retrieved the sign and brought it up for her to see she’d been mistaken she lambasted me, reminding me that she had been standing outside in that line since 3 in the morning. Now it was 7 a.m. She had wheeled a cart around the store trying to snatch up as many of the fantastic bargains as she could probably not really afford. The TV was one of the four things she’d picked up. I very calmly informed her that I and my staff had been here even longer than she’d been in the line waiting. “Yeah, but that’s your JOB!” she reminded me– quite proud of putting me in my place. “Yes it is,” I replied, “We had to be here.. and you,… you chose to be here.”
That is not very good customer service skill…but I could not resist.
I looked over the crowd of impatient spenders. Some were wearing pleasant, normal, un-agitated faces; but most looked like they were about to blow. Frowns and twisted lips. Eye rolling, sweating, scowls. Upset, angry and seemingly unable to understand the concept of a queue.
I wanted to take a megaphone and give them all a good tongue-lashing .
“People. We are checking you out and handling all of your purchases as quickly as humanly possible. You better believe that WE want to get you OUT of here even MORE than you want to GET OUT. Please do not push each other.
Do not shout at us. PLEASE don’t take your holiday rush frustrations out on my associates at the cash registers. The associates are getting your products as fast as they can. When we run out of the $600 Playstation or Nintendo, do not curse at us. We are not personally withholding it from you because we don’t like you. We are not hiding them. We WANT to sell it to you.
We know what the ad you received in your newspaper reads. If you shake it in our faces and poke at it repeatedly with your finger it does not make more of them materialize in our warehouse. If we have 50 of them that’s all we can sell. The man in front of you got the last one because he just happened to be the 50th customer to ask for the product. He is not my cousin.
You are not standing in line for food to sustain your family. You are not standing in line for the last vial of the cure for the plague that is ravishing your body. You are not standing in line for a plane ticket to leave a countryside that is vanquishing under the bombs of war. YOU ARE STANDING IN LINE AT 3 IN THE MORNING FOR VIDEO EQUIPMENT. SHUT THE F–K UP AND WAIT QUIETLY OR GET THE F–K OUT.”
That’s what I wanted to say…but instead I said….”Next customer please.”