Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


unite and take over
December 19, 2005 7:54 AM   Subscribe

If you shop at Urban Outfitters a $10/hour manager will accuse you of stealing. Or something.
posted by The Jesse Helms (96 comments total)

 
Person signs significant document without reading it first. Full report after an all-new episode of House.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:02 AM on December 19, 2005


Person signs significant document without reading it first. Full report after an all-new episode of House.

Bingo. Why is it that people will completely fold rather than face conflict.

Here's a tip you can file away. Do not sign anything, anything, anything, anything, without reading it first. Next, when that letter comes from the lawyer saying you owe $150, don't just pay it, take it to your lawyer, now.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2005


Yeah she needs to drop a pair. Though I don't believe signing a piece of paper legally obliges you to pay for something you didn't do. Any half-assed lawyer could get this taken care of, albeit for more than $150.
posted by geoff. at 8:12 AM on December 19, 2005


I'll open with: this article stinks. Poor writing, high sensationalism.

By way of summary: Spoiled 11-year-old girl. Irresponsible mother signs a contract that she didn't read. Then, despite believing her spoiled daughter didn't steal anything, she pays $150 to the lawyers representing the case, effectively waiving her right to claim innocence.

To even offer to buy your 11-year-old girl an $80 shirt, to not even have to care about $150 that she claims was wrongly taken from her, to have the bliss of ignorance to sign contracts without reading them... that all must be incredibly nice.

I'm not saying Urban Outfitters didn't do anything shady, but without their side of the story, it's hard to pass complete judgement. And regardless, this woman is still a complete maroon. And how do we know anyway that the girl didn't rip the security tag off?

Oh wait, she's a straight-A student. She'd never steal!
posted by symphonik at 8:13 AM on December 19, 2005


I work in a mall. Thank you for this post. It makes me want to kill myself a little less today.
posted by carsonb at 8:14 AM on December 19, 2005


Bad ju-ju all around in this story...none of us know what really happened, so it's easy (or hard) to feel sympathetic with either party. But the lady who signed the document without reading it -- for shame -- that was the single biggest mistake in this whole stupid mess.

But I'm puzzled about all of the other links in the FPP -- relevance?
posted by davidmsc at 8:17 AM on December 19, 2005


Coming to us with questions along the lines of "I want this book. I don't remember what it's called, or who wrote it, or what it was about, or when I saw it, but it was about this big and had a blue cover," and threatening to call Corporate when we can't help you.

ALL DAY LONG with this shit. you are not a god.

or "I heard on the today show that this CD is supposed to be really good and I want to get it for my grandfather because he's dying and really likes to listen to music when he's dying and I thought I could help him out a bit by getting him this tape in the spirit of the holidays and have I mentioned that my Grandma hates music and will probably disown me for getting this for Grandpa but whatever because she's just an in-law and we all know how crazy those people are this time of year and I don't care what she thinks because he's dying and I want to get him this CD that I really think he'll enj--

WHAT FUCKING CD????!!!

...

oh, we're out of it.
posted by carsonb at 8:18 AM on December 19, 2005


So, I should read all these terms of service contracts I digitally sign? I always wonder if they have some funky clause in them that would allow them to annex my house or somesuch insanity.

Wage wanks complaining about customer service shouldn't be in customer service positions, obviously. And the writing was bad.
posted by fenriq at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2005


But I'm puzzled about all of the other links in the FPP -- relevance?
I think they are there to save it from being one of those single-link FPPs that people complain about. Other than that - I have no idea.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:24 AM on December 19, 2005


But the customer is ALWAYS right?!?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:24 AM on December 19, 2005


Carsonb. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot? Are you in the right thread?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:24 AM on December 19, 2005


Kevin, I think carson is elaborating on his original comment about hating his mall job.

Interesting, though, that his example question mimicks many AskMeFi threads. ;)
posted by symphonik at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2005


Wage wanks complaining about customer service shouldn't be in customer service positions, obviously.

Exactly. If there's anything I can't stand it's Customer Service Reps who complain about customers. If you can't handle it, or see the humor in it, GET OUT of customer service. Holy crap these people are annoying.
posted by dobbs at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2005


It's pretty much the same as any internet scam: try to get people to do something with an unexpected result that costs them money.

In this case, nowhere in the form does it say that "we will bill you hundreds of dollars if you sign this".

You can blame the victim in all scams - and the victims do bear some share of the blame, since generally if the victims exercise extra diligence they have a chance of seeing through the scam before it is completed - but the primary blame should fall on the scam artist.

If only there were a Firefox anti-phishing extension for the real world.

The comparison just above with cell phone contracts is quite apt. Let he who has read - who has had a lawyer read, since laymen don't necessarily understand the gotchas - every single word of every cell phone contract, every click-through contract, every online banking contract, every e-commerce site contract that they've ever signed, clicked "I Agree" or "Continue" to, cast the first stone.
posted by jellicle at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2005


that first link was an anecdote that primed me for the meat of the next few links, KevinSkomsvold. here:

employees can be paranoid about shoplifting because bigwigs like to come down from their corporate thrones all the time and ask why merchandise walks out of the store and insinuate it's the clerk's fault some 14 year old wants to look cool at school tomorrow. most retailers have a policy not to chase customers out of the store; if you're stealing and you make it that far you've pretty much home free. it's weird that UO's supervisor would make the effort to get those people back in the store (especially if they didn't trigger any security gates or alarms). I've been given to believe that there's some sort of legal recourse for that kind of thing...if she hadn't signed a confession.
posted by carsonb at 8:30 AM on December 19, 2005


and no, I don't really hate it at all. I'm (we're...clerks, that is) are not the only ones bitching about malls/major retail outfits/lifestyle enhancement centers this time of year.
posted by carsonb at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2005


EULAs and cellphone agreements that contain consumer-abusing provisions that no ordinary person would ever detect, even upon a careful perusal, are not the same thing as a store manager confronting you, accusing you of shoplifting, and then demanding you sign a document.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2005


Just watched a front desk assistant get fired on-point for being snotty with a consumer over the phone.
She thought that since she works for a radio station, and the caller was a "listener," she had a right to tell them whatever the hell she wanted Idon'thavetimetoputupwiththiscraptheydon'tpaymeenoughetc.

The shocking discovery that she was, in fact, the ambassador for our company to the entire fucking outside world was probably only rivaled by the revelation that she would be finding a new job tomorrow.

People who cannot handle dealing with other people should be relieved of the terrible burden of having a job where they have to employ "people skills."

Either positively represent the company you work for, or quit. It's not hard.

And the whole, "It's not that easy you can't just quit your shitty job in retail where you hate everybody and actually damage the company you work for" line is complete bullshit.
Don't work for companies you don't agree with. It's as simple as not handing in a job application.

I can't stand people who take out their resentment about their shitty jobs on customers.

Shut up, sit down, and put on a happy face you fuckers.
:-D
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:37 AM on December 19, 2005


sorry. that whole rant was sorta in response to carsonb's little anti-customer rant.

shoulda pointed it out in the beginning.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2005


of course, kids stealing clothes makes the clothes more popular, leading to more sales. Shoplifting helps the industry, why can't the corporate fat-cats see that? </snark>
posted by blue_beetle at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2005


"The Customer is Always Right" does not mean "the customer can be a dickhead and not be rebuked for it."

"The customer is always right" means that the customer is in the best position to understand his own needs, and the salesperson shouldn't try to push the customer into buying something else because s/he believes the customer is "wrong." On one hand, this means if the customer wants item X, the salesperson shouldn't try to convince the customer to buy item Y, which is twice as expensive. On the other hand, if the customer wants to buy item Y, even if the customer doesn't need it, the salesperson's job is not to stand in the customer's way of wasting his or her money.

And I did once exchange a pair of running shoes that probably weren't in resaleable condition. On one hand I feel vaguely guilty about this. On the other hand, I followed the "rules" (had the receipt, returned within 14 days, and didn't demand a refund, just an exchange), and it was my knee joints that were at risk from having a pair of shoes that caused me pain.
posted by deanc at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2005


Baby_Balrog eats the blue_beetle.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2005


I think every sales person at some time utters the phrase: This would be a great job if it weren't for the customers.

That said, I know that there are endless variations of the customer from hell. But as a percentage of the customers, I think they are over all a small fraction. The foibles (serious though they can be) of this segment unfortunately seem to poison a percentage of retail sales people toward all customers.

To the anonymous clerk who ranted on Craigslist, I would say this: the customer signs your paycheck. Please tell me what store you work in so I never have to bother you--ever.

As for UO, I stopped shopping there years ago when I realized that their overpriced crap was not worth my time or interest. The lead link? The writing was overly biased toward the claims of an indulged and privileged family who only now realize that having money does not equate with intelligence, infact, in their case, it seems to be inversely related. However, if that's the best way that UO could think to deal with it, they deserve the scarlet letter of retailing. Whatever that is.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:45 AM on December 19, 2005


Props, Jesse Helms, on The Smiths reference...
posted by AspectRatio at 8:45 AM on December 19, 2005


it figures that it's taken me this long to read the last link in the post.

most of us are not stunned by our stupidity, which is our problem.
posted by carsonb at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2005


I'm sure people shoplift from Urban Outfitters. The store has to be vigilant. But are its employees qualified to serve as police, judge and jury? Whatever really happened -- and I would love to hear the other side -- I see a whole lot of reasonable doubt in this case.

The UO people didn't act like "judge and jury" they acted like sleazebags, but the real problem here is that the 'victims' were complete idiots who signed a confession for something they didn't do. How stupid can you get?

In the old days they used to have to squeeze your head to get a confession out of people, these days all you have to do is wear a nametag and look a the confesee funny.

People need to stop being such pussies before authority.
posted by delmoi at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2005


most retailers have a policy not to chase customers out of the store; if you're stealing and you make it that far you've pretty much home free.

Funny - I've had friends who worked retail security in Toronto, and it was pretty much the case that they couldn't confront the customer UNTIL they had left the store with the merchandise - didn't matter if it was in a bag, pocket, etc, and was clearly GOING to be shoplifted, until it left the store it hadn't technically been stolen.
posted by antifuse at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2005


maybe my "most" was mostly wrong, antifuse. I am encouraged by my employers to "assist" customers within the store--see if they need "help" finding anything--if I see them shoplifting. I am not supposed to chase them for reasons regarding my own safety. Doesn't mean it never happens, of course. It's a nice rush of adrenaline on occasion.
posted by carsonb at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2005


Either positively represent the company you work for, or quit. It's not hard.

Just an intresting story to tell. I used to work in telemarking so I have some sympathy for 'em, and I know that just hanging up really doesn’t bother them, so that's normally what I do.

Anyway, I once had some random dude knock on my apartment door. I wasn't dressed so I asked who it was and if they had the right apartment, and he said he did. So I got dressed and he starts telling me about this great deal on getting my car lubed. I almost never drive, and I told him I didn't have a car, and then he kept trying to sell me. I'm thinking "wtf" right? So I just close the door and after the door is closed I hear him say "ya piece of shit". I was livid. How dare he come up to my apartment, bug me for no reason and then expect that I be courteous to him and then insult me to my face!

I ended up looking up the company he was representing and complaining (he was supposed only be putting up fliers, but I guess he ran out or something). But ugh.
posted by delmoi at 8:55 AM on December 19, 2005


without their side of the story, it's hard to pass complete judgement

Oh, bull. UO *decided* to not give its side of the story. It's classic sleazy PR in a situation where you fucked up. Judge away for that, at least.
posted by mediareport at 8:55 AM on December 19, 2005


Deanc pretty much nails it.

I've worked in retail for more than 8 years. I work at one of the best possible retail jobs, but it's still retail. Over time, I've managed to develop a wide array of psychological strategies for dealing with customers, to the point that I can talk most angry customers down from the ledge.

There are definitely some employees (including managers) at my store that have a chip on their shoulder when it comes to dealing with people. There are just as many, if not more, customers that will act as if dealing in a friendly manner with a mere retail employee is beneath them.
posted by drezdn at 8:57 AM on December 19, 2005


i love how some people think that waving a wad of money around can make them into some kind of god who can never do wrong ... and that the people they interact with are nothing more than vending machines they can kick around at will if things just aren't what they expected

the only real qualification some have for saying that someone shouldn't be working at a place is that they have a wad of money in their hands

get the fuck over yourselves

it's my observation that many of the complainers and self-righteous seem to have problems with a lot of places, not just a few

btw, i'm a factory rat, so don't tell me to get out of retail, ok?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:59 AM on December 19, 2005


In all my years in customer service, I've had to deal with management from hell about a thousand times more often than customers from hell. The freaky, crazy, obnoxious, or needy customer is generally the very rare exception, rather than the rule.

People who can't handle basic customer service should be out on their ass. And there either has been a decline in customer service in this country, or it has always sucked, because I can't go shopping without dealing with an employee who makes me want to see them fired on the spot. I am amazed at how common it is for employees to ignore customers while, in the meanwhile, complaining loudly about their job.

Fine. Fucking quit, you useless lump.
posted by maxsparber at 9:00 AM on December 19, 2005


Most retailers have a policy not to chase customers out of the store; if you're stealing and you make it that far you've pretty much home free.

That was my experience working at a mall chain store. We were told never to confront someone we suspected of stealing unless we actually saw them commit the act AND someone else saw it too AND they were still in the store. My manager once caught 3 children shoplifting, but everyone else got away. Most of the shoplifting that happened in our store was committed by "professional" shoplifters- groups that would come prepared with lookouts, distractors, and huge bags lined with duct tape. They could steal our whole front table in the blink of an eye. I don't know why a store would go waste their energy going after someone they suspected of stealing one shirt.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:01 AM on December 19, 2005 [1 favorite]


...Tina noticed a rip in the collar seam, near the security tag. She says she returned the shirt to the dressing room attendant and pointed out the rip.

The manager accused Tina's daughter of trying to remove the security tag, an offense equivalent to shoplifting.

The funniest part of the story is that the accused shoplifter allegedly pointed out where she had damaged merchandise. Who would do that? Either the clerks were profoundly dumb or this was a very sophisticated double bluff that doesn't make sense to an outsider.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:01 AM on December 19, 2005


I suspect Baby_Balrog is a middle-manager or supervisor somewhere, or at the very least has a profoundly receeding hairline.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2005


UO generally has entertaining t-shirts and amusing gadgets that make decent gifts. Also, because their styles change so often, they have a fairly active bargain bin full of deep-discounted stuff they're desperate to get rid of. I wouldn't buy any other kinds of clothes from there, however--particularly not an $80 shirt. Who buys such expensive clothing for an 11-year old? I don't even buy stuff like that for myself, outside of suits.
posted by deanc at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2005


Oh look. Nobody likes customer service jobs. Almost everybody has to take one as they enter the job market. They have all the right in the world to hate customers. They're stuck there with an endless stream of no-nothing shits for eight hours who wave cash around and want want want and drive drive drive and don't think, ever. Shopping brings out the worst in people.

Suggesting they get out of that line of employment? You don't think they're trying?
posted by jon_kill at 9:05 AM on December 19, 2005


Anyway, this is how this situation should have been dealt with:

Tina's mom: "That sounds ridiculous. [to her sister]: please take my daughter somewhere and get her some milk or something. [to employee]: your accusation is baseless. If you want to pursue it, call the police. Well? Call them."
posted by jon_kill at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2005


/tangent
Why do I get the feeling Baby_Balrog does not deal with the general public day in and day out? Or have to deal with the work he can get at 16-18 without previous experience/contacts. We're not all as lucky as to simply choose where we apply to for a job.

I'm nice to people who are nice to me. I will never resort to yelling or insulting a customer (well, didn't use to, have since left retail-hell behind) but don't expect me to take your shit with a smile.

I also know enough people that have worked in retail/customer service to treat the people I deal with in stores with a bit of respect. It's a thankless job and there's no need for the customer to be an asshole.

Then again, I don't live in America where customer service has a deeper cultural meaning...

(On a further tangent, there should be mandatory national retail service that one must do between the age of 18-28. Teach people some humility.)
posted by slimepuppy at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2005


I always wonder if they have some funky clause in them that would allow them to annex my house

Years ago I had bought my first house (joined terrace) and was getting cable TV installed. When the contract arrived I read through it. Buried away in the middle was a contract term granting the cable company wayleave/easement rights in perpetuity to the exterior of my house in order to deliver cable. No restriction on the size or ugliness of the wayleave was specified, and no suggestion of monetary compensation. I crossed that clause out, wrote "ABSOLUTELY NO WAYLEAVE GRANTED", and initialled it. And took a copy, of course. Never heard anything back - I figured these things get filed automatically without anyone looking at them.

Imagine my surprise several years later when I arrived home from work and found that a new, huge, ugly clusterfuck cable box attached outside a bedroom window. It looked like the borg had begun assimilating my house, and ugly tendrils ran along the exterior, following the drainpipe over to other houses. The cable crew had arrived and merrily spliced off a bunch of cables - SOP.

It took over a year but I was finally able to get the damn cable company to remove that festering sore from the front of my house (which had been slowly growing during the interim). They claimed, of course, that they had a signed contract granted them wayleave. I countered with my copy of the document. Of course they then announced that they had lost their copy, but they knew what it said. I had a wonderful conversation with a manager who told me that they could keep adding as many cables as they wanted. And so on. Eventually, they caved. The borg apparatus was moved two houses down and began sprouting over some other poor sap exterior.

Moral - read crap like this and try deleting stuff you don't like. Odds are the receiver probably never reads your amendments anyway.
posted by meehawl at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2005 [2 favorites]


Exactly. If there's anything I can't stand it's Customer Service Reps who complain about customers. If you can't handle it, or see the humor in it, GET OUT of customer service. Holy crap these people are annoying.
My wife was, and did. For the year or so that she really needed that job, however, 'just getting out' wasn't much of an option. She did, but it takes time.

It eventually came down to both of us deciding that it was worth having the gas shut off to not go through another holiday season in retail.

My favorite story was the lady who came in at 5:30 PM on Christmas eve and said that she absolutely, positively, MUST have a particular book for a gift. Sorry, out of stock. The lady started screaming at the staff. At 5:30 on Christmas Eve, it's really hard to care about that sort of poor planning. Less favorite stories involve mopping the spooge from the restrooms on a daily basis; when the bookstore stocks penthouse, your restrooms get really popular. As another friend said, 'Working retail -- especially customer service -- is the fastest ticket to hating humanity ever.'

We're tremendously fortunate that she was able to find something else -- a job that pays better and involves her being treated like a human being by patrons.
posted by verb at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2005


I wouldn't get out of bed for $10 an hour. But would a $35/hr manager do things different?
posted by wakko at 9:13 AM on December 19, 2005


blue_beetle: of course, kids stealing clothes makes the clothes more popular, leading to more sales. Shoplifting helps the industry, why can't the corporate fat-cats see that?

When star trek replicator technology is installed in ever mall and every home, this line of thinking will be quite insightful.
posted by verb at 9:16 AM on December 19, 2005


Isn't this racketeering that Urabn Outfitters is practicing?
posted by j-urb at 9:16 AM on December 19, 2005


Sorry Carsonb. My bad.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:20 AM on December 19, 2005


j-urb: Isn't this racketeering that Urabn Outfitters is practicing?
I don't know what the law is in Maryland or Delaware or Virginia, but in NY you pretty much have to catch someone in the act to get teh cops involved. So civil remedies are probably their only "loss recovery" option in cases where they don't have an eye-witness.

It's not really "racketeering" per se, but the only way that a loss recovery strategy works as loss prevention (i.e., as a deterrent) is if you practice it aggressively and make it known. So Urban Outfitters' Loss Prevention department is probably completely pleased with the way everything has worked out so far; hell, they're probably happy about the Post article, too.
posted by lodurr at 9:22 AM on December 19, 2005


Folkses here on Metafilters is tough. You guys, you all knows the scores. Nobody ever gonna scam you guys. You are too smarts. I want to be likes you.
posted by lodurr at 9:25 AM on December 19, 2005


The twerp who wrote that second linked article illustrates well why an increasing number of people choose to do a good portion of their shopping online...

I'm rather at a loss as to how links 3, 4 and 5 are relevant to the story though. I know that there are some, er, "tight" individuals here who seem to have problems with single-link posts, but I don't think that adding irrelevant links to a post really brings much to the experience.
posted by clevershark at 9:26 AM on December 19, 2005


I've been going through some retail heck of late with my pendingpendingpending Xbox 360 preorder from August. I've done my stint in retail* so I know all the screw-ups are not the fault of the guys behind the counter. I was told to call back once a week or so for updates on my order by the manager and do so, complete with pleases and thank-yous.

Normally the guy on the other end of the phone is understanding (if saddly unknowing about anything going on with my order status), but week before last I got some dude who downright shouted at me. While I expect that his frustration is born from dealing with eager folk like me all day, he shouldn't be shouting. Uncool.

Oftentimes, it's the management that sucks. It's not their fault they don't know anything, they're just relaying what they've been told. Likewise with this UO snafu, the manager had to obey certain rules and I doubt the company gives enough latitude for independant decision making. She could have been kinder about it, though, and that's her failing.

* I agree this should be required, though I worry that forcing everyone to work a summer in retail will turn them into 'know-it-all' customers in the future.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:34 AM on December 19, 2005


CarsonB is in the middle of Retail Christmas Hell, and deserves a break. Better to bitch here than at customers. Interesting story. Most kids don't shoplift when they're shopping with Mom, and the manager and the company sound like jackasses. Mom should be a little more fierce and should've fought back.

When I worked corporate retail, we had an inventory that showed high losses. Lots of management visits, scary posters about employee theft = jail in the back room, etc. 3 months later, another inventory showed an increase in merchandise. The 1st inventory was faulty, stealing was minimal, and it's nice to live in Maine where people are pretty trustworthy.
posted by theora55 at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2005


Courtesy. Customers *and* retailers. It will get you anywhere you want to be. It will also alert you to those cases where you may not want to be where you think you do. This is a lesson learned from both sides of the counter. carsonb's employers are right to recommend the "provide exemplary attention to suspected shoplifters" approach. It is a polite way of letting the perps know you are on to them and one can derive a great deal of pleasure from watching attempted shoplifters squirm under one's saccharine obsequiousness.

Then again, those that fail to take the hint are hella fun to run down and citizen's arrest once they leave the premises. or so I have heard. Is it only me who finds wrapping petty retorts in small tags meta-amusing?
posted by Fezboy! at 9:39 AM on December 19, 2005


(On a further tangent, there should be mandatory national retail service that one must do between the age of 18-28. Teach people some humility.)

Ex-fucking-actly. I suspect that most everyone who is an asshole to retail employees (and from what i'm reading so far, a good number of them comment here), would change their tune if they had to spend a given amount of time dealing with themselves.

For every one of you "model" customers on here who apparently never asks a stupid question, never neglects to read a fucking sign and use a sliver of deductive logic to triangulate the general vicinity of where an item would be or how much it might cost, who never blames the guy putting stuff on shelves or running a register for ANY and EVERY other aspect of the store's operations, who never blames a floor person for not having an item and cursing them in the process, who always know what they're looking for and doesn't get snippy when the employee can't guess "boiled peanuts" from a series of "um... y'knows" and interesting hand motions, there are about 20 who DO, and folk like the guy in the second article and myself have to deal with them for 8 hours at a clip.

A barrage of idiots doesn't mean that one can't keep a smiling facade and helpful demeanor (I once had to explain to a man that 'prunes' and 'dried plums' are in fact the same thing). But don't think you'll be revered and respected after you're gone. Making fun of you in the breakroom is what KEEPS our spirit so high.

The irony of this whole discussion is most of the people saying "if you don't like customers, don't work there" are former help-desk people with at least one "cd-rom = cupholder" story, told often and over laughs with friends.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:41 AM on December 19, 2005


I missed the part that showed that the 11 year old was a "spoiled brat."

I've got my heart set on an $80 football jersey. I can't afford it but if my dad purchased it for me that somehow makes me a spoiled brat?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:50 AM on December 19, 2005


With regards to shopping online, one of the things that occassionally slightly vexes this retail employee's heart is when someone calls us to complain about trying to do something online or returning something they bought online.

People who shop exclusively online do not pay my wages and it can get frustrating when you spend 20-30 minutes helping find the perfect book for someone, and then they end the interaction with "I'll just order it online."

My personal favorite customer story is when I had to explain the idea of an index to a nurse.
posted by drezdn at 9:50 AM on December 19, 2005


[quote]The irony of this whole discussion is most of the people saying "if you don't like customers, don't work there" are former help-desk people with at least one "cd-rom = cupholder" story, told often and over laughs with friends.[/quote]

I'm not. I've done retail and customer servicew off and on for 20 years, and it is exactly my experience working in customer service that leads me to have no tolerence for how unpleasant and incompetent so many people in retail currently are.

I mean, it's all well and good to complain about customers, but, when the shoe is on the other foot and you're faced with an employee who cannot or will not do their job, you lose patience pretty quickly. It's just not that hard a job. Know you're damn inventory. Know your damn store policies. Don't even say, "I don't know" when you should say "I'll find out." You're in customer service, for the love of god. Actually try helping the customer once in a while, instead of treating them like they are an imposition in what would otherwise be a very pleasant day.
posted by maxsparber at 9:58 AM on December 19, 2005


"I want this book. I don't remember what it's called, or who wrote it, or what it was about, or when I saw it, but it was about this big and had a blue cover"

If you don't know there's about an 80% chance that this book is either The Lovely Bones or the original cover version of Cold Mountain then you don't know your stock and/or your likely customer base.

(Only slightly joking. I specialized in answering these kind of inquiries when I was a bookseller.)
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:01 AM on December 19, 2005


Uther: The irony of this whole discussion is most of the people saying "if you don't like customers, don't work there" are former help-desk people with at least one "cd-rom = cupholder" story, told often and over laughs with friends.

Well, one of the things I've found about IT support, retail, and teaching is that people employed in these jobs can both joke about their problem customers, AND love them to death.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2005


Sternberg is, of course, father of the Triarchic Theory of Intelligence.
posted by Eideteker at 10:05 AM on December 19, 2005


I wouldn't get out of bed for $10 an hour.

Lucky, lucky you. Why don't those stupid retail slobs heed wakko's advice and get better jobs?

When I show up for work tonight, I think I'll demand a $25/hr raise.
posted by item at 10:06 AM on December 19, 2005


wow. pissy much?
posted by wakko at 10:10 AM on December 19, 2005


also, you need a better fucking job.
posted by wakko at 10:12 AM on December 19, 2005


A retail employee getting angry at every crazy customer is like an auto mechanic who gets pissed off every time he has to tighten a lugnut. They're a huge part of your job, don't let them defeat you. Channel your rage into amusement. It's easy.
posted by bondcliff at 10:25 AM on December 19, 2005


I've never worked retail but it sure doesn't look easy, if customers_suck is any indication.
posted by agregoli at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2005


At least we can all bitch about shopping... there are a lot of people in this world who can't even buy the clothes they make.
posted by j-urb at 10:58 AM on December 19, 2005


Urban Outfitters? But I thought stealing was hip?
posted by iamck at 11:12 AM on December 19, 2005


At least we can all bitch about shopping... there are a lot of people in this world who can't even buy the clothes they make.

Maybe they should try shoplifting them.
posted by Jart at 11:22 AM on December 19, 2005


Maybe they should try shoplifting them.

And thus the thread comes full circle.
posted by drezdn at 11:35 AM on December 19, 2005


Without trying to be too defensive here... a lot of you folks have huge sticks up your ass. You want to complain about every little thing that doesn't go your way. News flash folks, you are not always right. Some of the time you're so far wrong that it's plain scary even. I'm not trying to bash every customer out there because I know that the majority of customers are great. They come in and shop. They do their thing and politely ask for help when they need it. Most customers provide a great service to me by being normal.

It's the people with sticks up their asses that are the problem. I've been working in retail pretty much for the entirety of my employment history and can say confidently that the people who complain the loudest are the ones who should shut the hell up. Mistakes happen and can be corrected, it is not the end of the world. Please don't jump down the throat of the cashier who has no authority to correct the mistake. Just be polite. It's not hard. I'd also like to confirm that the people with the most problems while shopping seem to have problems with most places they shop. At some point one must ask themselves if they are really the problem.

That said, I understand that there are also some problem employees out there too. I can assure you that most managers(such as myself) will not allow idle chatter when customers are waiting to be rung out. We like to make sure the customers get fast and easy service. Yet sometimes there are employees that are getting the proper paperwork done on them so they will be fired as quickly as possible(my company tends to have high requirements to terminate due to potential threats of lawsuits).

Like I said, most customers and employees are fine. It's the extreme ends of both sides that provide the problem. The problem being that no one remembers the average to good experiences but mostly the really bad or really good ones. I guess both customers and employees should be working towards giving a good experience to each other. It's that whole give and take thing.

Oh and to who ever said up above about knowing the stock where you work, I'd really like to see you memorize anything you'd need to know about when you carry well over 100,000 products in your store. It's not such an easy task.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 11:42 AM on December 19, 2005


wow. pissy much?

Only towards classist assholes such as yourself.

also, you need a better fucking job.

Maybe so. Maybe that's the reason I'm paying my own way through college in my late 20's after living a life that was worth not going to school for.

By the way, I worked for UrbanOutfitters.com (and sister companies Anthropologie.com & Freepeople.com), the direct division of UO, for about a year - up until last June, when I was laid off. I could bitch and kvetch about what a bunch of greedy, swinish cocksuckers the lot of 'em are, but it's not relevant to this thread. So I won't mention how, as a whole, their employment policies are straight out of the industrial revolution and how the phlegmlickers in corporate get rich off the (mostly single mother and college student) employees in customer service who are continuously being promised a piece of the pie that never does materialize.
posted by item at 12:27 PM on December 19, 2005


I mean, it's all well and good to complain about customers, but, when the shoe is on the other foot and you're faced with an employee who cannot or will not do their job, you lose patience pretty quickly.

First of all, it's simply ridiculous to for the customer to decide whether an employee is 'doing their job' or not. You didn't hire them, and you don't write their paychecks. If you don't like shopping there, then don't shop there. Otherwise, STFU.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 PM on December 19, 2005


Why does this only happen to straight A students?
posted by skallas at 1:05 PM on December 19, 2005


"I suspect Baby_Balrog is a middle-manager or supervisor somewhere, or at the very least has a profoundly receeding hairline."

Nope. I suppose I'm a supervisor if you count my admin asst., but in all honesty he spends most of his day supervising me. And my head do be covered by hair. I have yet to reach prime balding age.

"Why do I get the feeling Baby_Balrog does not deal with the general public day in and day out? Or have to deal with the work he can get at 16-18 without previous experience/contacts. We're not all as lucky as to simply choose where we apply to for a job."

I'm an account executive for a rock radio station. I am the king of customer service. When I get home I have to manually remove my smile with pliers.

And you are lucky enough to chose where you're going to apply for a job.

And for your information, it was a lengthy stint (my entire college career) working at f*ing GAMESTOP that led me into this job. After selling videogames for a healthy chunk of your youth, under brutal numbers for bosses who hate you where a significant percentage of the customers ARE trying to steal shit, you learn the art of sales or you sink. And you learn how to grow up and help the customer find what they're looking for.

Before that I worked the Christmas shift at a gift shop at the mall.

Not that any of this matters. My original point stands.
Bondcliff hit the nail on the head when s/he wrote:
"A retail employee getting angry at every crazy customer is like an auto mechanic who gets pissed off every time he has to tighten a lugnut. They're a huge part of your job, don't let them defeat you."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:06 PM on December 19, 2005


As great as it is to work for a company that you are passionate about or that treats you fairly, those companies are getting way the hell fewer and farther between. The whole hierarchical corporate "don't take reports from more than five people" ideology insures that the people making the decisions are insanely insulated from the day-to-day work.

This is no different from those Randian wonks who say, "if you hate your telephone co. so much, why don't you start your own!?!" Uh, ever heard of the phrase "barriers to entry?"

Have you even worked a retail job ever? I think a lot of us get into the job figuring that most people are at least so-so reasonable and we are incredibly naive to the fact that the average person is a complete moronic asshat. Oh, I know we all think that we know the depths of human stupidity and meanness, but it always goes so much deeper and retail environments tend to breed it. Bad customer service is not excusable, but blowing off steam is how you survive. When I worked retail, I had the luxary of working in an environment where there was a lot of room to make the customer happy and when the customer was being unreasonable, my direct supervisers would do their best to make everyone happy but when the smoke cleared, they had my back. I couldn't imagine the Hell of working at a place like UO that actively exploits customer and staff alike.
posted by Skwirl at 1:10 PM on December 19, 2005


Coming to us with questions along the lines of "I want this book. I don't remember what it's called, or who wrote it, or what it was about, or when I saw it, but it was about this big and had a blue cover," and threatening to call Corporate when we can't help you.

I actually went up to a clerk at a local book/dvd/cd store today and said: 'I'm looking for this movie for a present, it's with Hugh Grant and has a photo on the cover split into four with a red ribbon..."

"Love Actually?"

"Yes, thank you"

I felt like a total ass doing it, but she was very helpful.
posted by jedrek at 1:35 PM on December 19, 2005


I'm also suprised nobody here has mentioned (as far as my cursory glance of the discussion tells me) the customers_suck community over at LiveJournal. While a lot of the posts are just bitchy, there are some great stories in there, and probably a great release for people who work these kinds of jobs.
posted by jedrek at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2005


You know, the worst place I'm a customer at is the bookstore. I'm always looking for some obscure author's work which has some foreign title I can't pronounce and some author's name I half remember (I always seem to leave the paper I wrote it down on at home). Point being, I grovel and keep apologizing and they're always nice and impressed I'm not buying a Dan Brown book.
posted by geoff. at 1:44 PM on December 19, 2005


"... it's with Hugh Grant and has a photo on the cover split into four with a red ribbon..." I felt like a total ass doing it, but she was very helpful."

See, you remembered helpful information that helped the clerk narrow it down to the movie you wanted. You knew who was in the movie and a key design feature of the cover. Anyone could find this movie in about sixty seconds with IMDB or Amazon. You are not, in other words, the kind of customer clerks complain about.
posted by kindall at 1:55 PM on December 19, 2005


The clerks at bookstores and media stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble generally keep up on a lot of stuff to deal with the masses coming through the doors. When my wife was working at just such a chain, they kepd cheat sheets with all the latest stuff mentioned on Oprah, Good Morning America, etc etc.

As others have said, the guy who remembers a key actor and a design feature is not the customer from hell. The one who only remembers hearing about it on the radio -- and that it was "about brain surgery" or what not... AND then goes on to yell at the clerk for not being able to find the title after a few minutes of hunting... that's the customer from hell. Bonus points if the clerk actually FINDS the book, by some lucky break, and the customer says, 'Oh, I'll just go get it from Amazon. Thanks.'

Not many people realize that Joe Schmoe with google has tools decades more advanced than the crappy POS systems bookstore employees are given to work with.
posted by verb at 2:05 PM on December 19, 2005


People need to stop being such pussies before authority.
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM EST on December 19


Obedience to Authority
posted by prak at 2:13 PM on December 19, 2005


jedrek, see agregoli's comment.

...

My night job is in retail. There are some real jerks (for example: some people yesterday said they'd prepaid an order but couldn't find the receipt, and started to insist on getting order anyway) but by and large, the people are pretty nice. Some customers are very sweet, and most are at least nicely polite.

I really think it's a class issue. The American ideal, that working hard and being smart will get you lots of money, means that people who're not making much money must be either lazy or stupid. "You're a wage-earner, so you must not be worthy of my respect."
posted by jiawen at 3:03 PM on December 19, 2005


I normally like the Washington Post but this article is not very good. I abhor cliched rants. Especially the type that originate on the Best of Craigslist. If you ever want someone to beat you over the head on how you should act for every conceivable type of situation I'm sure BOC will help you out.
posted by andendau at 3:33 PM on December 19, 2005


After reading the "$10/hour Manager" link, I'm a little confused.
First off, how much would he have to make an hour for his temerity to be excused? $10.01? $15.00? How about you write a figure on a piece of paper. And then shove it.
Secondly, though his tone is definitely teh snark, all but two of the points he makes are completely valid. It's customer service, not supplication, and the time wasted on an stroking some asshole's ego could be better spent on patrons who have legit needs.
Thirdly, what is it even doing here? It just seems to me that it put a hair up your ass and you decided while cleaning out your del.icio.us to slap it into an FPP. The gist of it - Retail respect is a two-way street, duh - doesn't advocate, excuse, or apologize for the sleazy goings-on at UO in that poorly written WaPo story. (Man, I hate those $60 0000.00+/year Columnists.)
FD: Believe it or not, I was a $10.00/hour manager for 4 years - no really, I was! And I was fucking awesome at it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:50 PM on December 19, 2005


I normally like the Washington Post but this article is not very good.
Many of John Kelly's columns are either half-assed sob stories like this one or pleas for some obscure charity.
I abhor cliched rants.
Don't we all...
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:27 PM on December 19, 2005


From the second link:
2. Thou shalt not make Graven Images in an attempt to fake us out.

Xeroxed coupons, phony receipts, counterfeit bills, expired this, issued-by-our-competitor that. We are not obligated to take your Graven Images, and don't you DARE give us a hard time when we refuse


Fourth Graders Accused of Counterfeiting
All three face juvenile charges of forgery and theft, Cpl. Nelson Otano after the students were brought to the police station.

Police found the bills in a trash can next to a computer when they went to the first boy's home Tuesday, Gary Police Cpl. Nelson Otano said.

"It looked like they were trying to perfect them," he said.

Police arrested two 10-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl. In all, police identified seven fake 20s, three 10s, one five and four ones, Otano said.

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2005


It's all about class. I've worked retail in a small, working-class city, and now I'm working on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and the difference in the way the customer treats me is amazing. I was never called racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or "utterly incompetent," to my face, in a city where most of my customers had worked retail and knew what it was like. I have been called all four in the last month, because my store did not have books on the Yazidi religion, a book on Jewish weddings that did not, technically, exist, an Advent calendar with Jesus on it, or a bargain atlas, respectively.
Conversely, I work with people who are horrible to customers.
Wow, I guess that some customers are mean to clerks, and some clerks are mean to customers!
posted by 235w103 at 9:43 PM on December 19, 2005


no seriously, you still buy retail?
posted by telstar at 11:20 PM on December 19, 2005


Who knew there were so many booksellers and former booksellers on Metafilter? In addition to Customers Suck, there are: the Borders Group Employees' Journal, B&N Booksellers' Journal, and Booksellers journal.

And the whole, "It's not that easy you can't just quit your shitty job in retail where you hate everybody and actually damage the company you work for" line is complete bullshit.
Don't work for companies you don't agree with. It's as simple as not handing in a job application.

I can't stand people who take out their resentment about their shitty jobs on customers.

Shut up, sit down, and put on a happy face you fuckers.
:-D
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:37 AM PST on December 19 [!]


I do put on a happy face. I'll happily kiss your rude, demanding, entitled ass all day long, because that's what I get paid to do. Hell, I've won freaking customer service awards! Doesn't mean I don't secretly hate you, baby_balrog, and curse you and your unborn children unto the seventh generation.

Just sayin'.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:49 PM on December 19, 2005


Aw, I suck at links. The B&N Booksellers' Journal got left out.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:51 PM on December 19, 2005


my store did not have books on the Yazidi religion

Consider yourself lucky then, that on that day you were not wearing blue while eating a sandwich with some lettuce in it...
posted by meehawl at 8:50 AM on December 20, 2005


First of all, it's simply ridiculous to for the customer to decide whether an employee is 'doing their job' or not.

Sometimes, yes. Oftentimes, it's very easy to decide if they are doing their job or not. Standing around gossiping about how John asked out Sarah and like isn't he totally the cutest? Yeah, I'm pretty fucking sure that's not in your job description. That's the only problem I ever have with retail employees - trying to get ACTUAL HELP when they are busy yakking away.
posted by antifuse at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2005


Oftentimes, it's very easy to decide if they are doing their job or not.

Yeah, I can certainly see that; I fully understand that some people suck major donkey balls re: customer service. It just stuck in my craw a little bit that members consider it some sort of grand sin that a customer service person might complain about a customer, because "it's your JOB to deal with them!"
There are people out there who jerk off cattle for a living. Yeah, "jacking off cows" is in the job description, but I'm not going to tell them not to complain about it, because the poor bastards jack off cows. I think a lot of retail people here have gotten a sense of being considered "lower" than their customers (an assumption I'm seeing here, sadly) and have been treated as punching bags for the inadequacies of the customer, and if we can't reassert our personal worth by complaining about the asshole who got mad that we didn't have a book what is red and yea-big, what CAN we do, man?
posted by 235w103 at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2005


Actually, I think some people have to jack off bulls, but your point stands.

Retail workers are going to complain about customers. It's either that, or go insane. The best one can do is not be a customer that is so mind-bogglingly stupid or mean that it's worth the employee's precious break-time to relate the tale to other co-workers.
posted by Durhey at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2005


Actually, I think some people have to jack off bulls, but your point stands.

Hahaha, see, THIS is why I make $7.50 an hour. Although, to be personally honest, sometimes I jack off both, just to be sure.
posted by 235w103 at 1:53 PM on December 20, 2005


I brought this up at work yesterday (during lunch, as there's absolutely no time to jabber as long as our doors are unlocked lately), and came away with a pretty good line:
Good customer service requires good customers.
There's more to it, of course, but I think that stands up as a dem fine point.

On a tangent, I have a huge bitch that is not related to customers. What the fuck is up with stores that don't deactivate their RF tags? I'm tired of talking down customers that are riled because they "just walked in!" and set off the security gates with junk from another store. Seriously, whiskey tango foxtrot?. That's all, and sorry--from now on I'll rant all over one of those links above. (thanks ereshkigal45)
posted by carsonb at 5:21 PM on December 20, 2005


Retail employees bitch about customers b/c thats a large part of their jobs... I've never worked anywhere where people didn't bitch about some aspect of their job, it's human nature for most people. I don't have to deal with customers, so instead it's managers/requirements/salespeople/etc, but same thing. The complaints aren't even valid most of the time, but the point of bitching (unlike criticism) is not to change things, but to vent and express emotion. Don't read tooo much into it.

On the effort/$ thing... it's a complicated relationship. Low-end jobs _do_ have a higher percentage of slackers, because there is very little penalty for being fired, depending on the job market at the time. This is especially visible in low-end food service jobs. There is ridiculous turnover, and it's not like people check references obsessively, so there is definitely less "professionalism" than in an industry where reputation matters. However, this is a trend, not an absolute.

Mostly, I hear the above from those I know in retail who _do_ work hard... they often resent those who purposefully slack with the knowledge that bad actions wont follow them to the next job the way the would for a lawyer or an engineer. Combine that with the too-frequent unfulfilled promises of advancement for those who put in the effort and you end up with a work force that is either slacking or demoralized. People may slack everywhere, but in higher-wage jobs there is more room for some good carrot-and-stick action. In low-end retail, the corporate-set wage caps are so low that there is little they can do to reward employees properly even if they want to.

Throw in customers, some % of which will be assholes (since some % of all people are assholes) and you end up with good material for all this.

This, of course, is obvious to customers, who get pissed off that the employees aren't cheerfully helping them... and so on....
posted by wildcrdj at 8:58 PM on December 20, 2005


« Older A young man comes to the city. He has no name, no ...  |  the dead puppet show... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments