Showdown at Big Sky

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Showdown at Big Sky.”
How do you handle conflict? Boldly and directly? Or, do you prefer a more subtle approach?

I hate conflict.  Like, it actually makes me extremely uncomfortable to the point it can leave me feeling physically sick.  It’s almost like I’m allergic to it.  I don’t know when that reaction started happening…I don’t remember it being there as a kid.  I also don’t know where it stems from, though I suppose my years in retail haven’t helped the issue.

In terms of how I handle it, I guess it depends on the situation.  If it’s between friends, for instance, I am all about subtly and talking it out.  I guess I’m bold in that I’m usually the first one to openly address the problem, but I won’t do it in a confrontational way, even if I’m angry or upset about it.  I know most people tend to shut down when you approach them that way, and the last thing I want is to lose one of the few good friends I have left over something that, even at the time, I can usually appreciate is small and probably trivial.

When I was in management at my old job, I handled confrontation differently.  I wasn’t afraid to tell angry, abusive customers where the door was, and that they are out of line speaking to staff in that manner.  I was never comfortable in those situations, but it was part of the job, and I learnt pretty quickly that subtly doesn’t usually work as they think they’re winning and getting their way.  My worst confrontation happened about six months or so prior to me leaving the job.  It was a flat out Saturday, all the staff were exhausted and run off their feet, and an older lady (not elderly, but not young either) came in, carrying on about her bill and the wait time to get served.  Basically, just being a real sour puss.  One of the girls served her and tried to explain the situation but the lady wouldn’t listen; she’d overtalk and argue and basically was being a rude cow, intentionally drawing attention to herself by speaking loudly and looking around the shop at all the people patiently waiting to be served.  This went on for a long time, I think maybe half an hour.  That’s a long time to put up with someone’s rudeness, even in retail.  Eventually the girl couldn’t handle it any more and excused herself to take five minutes out the back and cool off before she lost it at her customer.  Anyway, I was serving a different customer but I’d been keeping tabs on the rude bitch since she came in (that’s what managers in telco have to do in case it suddenly escalates).  My store manager was also on the floor, serving customers, listening to everything.

The rude bitch decides she’s had enough and gets up and marches over to the store manager, demanding he help her at once.  At this stage he’s at the register and there’s at least five people waiting, and her issue was one we actually couldn’t fix in store (the girl who was serving her tried to explain that many times).  Anyway, the store manager tells her in no uncertain terms that she is to sit back down and wait, and he’ll be over when he can.  He wasn’t rude about it, though he was blunt.  She wasn’t happy about this at all, and decides she wants to speak to the original consultant right then and there.  She marches over to the door leading into our back room and slams her fists against it so hard I thought she was going to punch through it.  I was standing right next to her (literally about 30 centimetres away) and I lost it.  I’d been getting pretty angry at her from the moment she’d come into the store, though I’d kept it inside as she wasn’t my customer, but I couldn’t handle it any more.  I completely forgot I was halfway through serving a customer.  I whirled around, screamed at her “EXCUSE ME, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
The lady took a second to realize that the yelling was actually directed at her, and from a member of staff no less (I have a feeling she didn’t even notice I was standing there).  She looked up at me, anger dancing in her eyes, but also a little bit of fear.  I’ll bet she wasn’t expecting anyone to stand up to her.  “I want to speak to the girl again.” She spat.
“SHE’S OUT THE BACK CRYING FROM THE WAY YOU TREATED HER.  YOU WON’T BE SPEAKING TO HER AGAIN.  NOW GO AND SIT DOWN LIKE THE MANAGER TOLD YOU TO OR GET OUT.”

I’d never raised my voice to anyone in public like that before in my life, let alone a customer.  I was seething.  She was rude, aggressive and wasn’t willing to listen.  The whole shop – which was still packed with customers – had gone dead silent the moment the old bitch started trying to break down the door.  I guess she’d only just noticed because suddenly, she looked around, embarrassment slowly overtaking her anger.  She slunk back to her seat, sat there for about ten seconds, then got up and left.

The customer I was midway through serving was so nice.  “Are you okay?” she asked.  “If you need to take a break, I’ll wait for someone else to serve me.  I worked in retail for awhile, I totally understand how that must have felt.  People just have no respect or manners any more.”

I assured her I was okay (a giant lie) and finished serving her, before going out the back.  Three staff members (including the girl who’d been serving the bitch) couldn’t stop talking about what happened and how brave I was and how it took them a minute to even work out it was me yelling because they’d never heard me do that before.  I felt physically sick.  I sat down, hunched over, my stomach in severe pain.  I don’t know why the yelling caused that reaction, but God did it hurt.  It took a good twenty minutes for it to start subsiding.  I was the hero of the store for the day, but I felt rotten for it.

This is why I’m kind of glad I’m not in management right now.  I mean, I enjoy leading the team and organising events and whatnot, but having to be the one to resolve conflict and disputes…it’s tough for someone who can’t handle fighting or aggression.  I’ve definitely gotten mentally stronger since I started in telco all those years ago (the first few times I got yelled at, I started crying), but the trade off is physical pain instead of mental.  Why can’t everyone just be nice to one another?  It’d make my life so much less complicated!

Time to Change – Day Forty-Two

Wow, it’s been a whole week since I blogged about my life.  I knew it’d been awhile but I didn’t realize it’d been that long.

Another weekend is here and again, I’m so grateful for it.  I really thought by now that I’d have started to readjust to full time work…I mean, I’d been doing it for four years prior to losing my job, and there was only a relatively short period of time in between that job and this.  It’s been three weeks and I still get home every night absolutely exhausted.  By the time the weekend finally arrives I wind up sleeping half the day.  I initially assumed it was just because I was in learning mode all day and it was taking its toll, but each day I’m getting more competient and independent so I don’t think I can really blame that any more.  I know it’s only going to get worse before it gets better as pretty soon I’m gonna have to start my public transport daily commute, which not only takes longer but is also more stressful and requires more exercise.  The last part is good, don’t get me wrong, but will definitely deplete my energy levels more.

Anyway, it’s been a pretty good week overall.  Much of the same of what I’ve been doing, but with more confidence this time around.  So much so the guys trust me to help teach the other trainees (who have all been there longer than me).  Lucky they didn’t take offence to that, because I probably would have if the roles had been switched.

I had my first aggro customer since starting there yesterday.  It’s weird, at my old job as part of management I’d serve heaps of aggros and it was fine.  I mean, not my favourite part of the job but I could do it.  At my new job though I just couldn’t.  She wasn’t even yelling, she was just really rude.  I’d made the mistake, I guess that was part of it (I’d have never made a mistake like that at my old job, but the systems were much different there).  I was really taken aback by the whole thing.  I guess I’ve always had an issue with rude people to a certain point, even at my old job.  There’s just something worse about it than yelling or swearing.  I think it also came down to not having the confidence yet to believe what I’m saying.  It didn’t help they were questioning everything I was doing which made me doubt myself.  It was a stupid mistake I made, but in the whole big scheme of mistakes I could have made in this job, it was probably the least damaging possible.  She didn’t see it like that though and I had to ask one of the other girls to help out.  I just couldn’t deal with it.  I suppose that’s what they wanted though – the second I said I was training they kept hounding me for stupid requests and questioning everything.  They basically didn’t want to ask for someone else (heaven forbid that might come across as rude) but they wanted me to feel obliged to get someone else.  Why are people so horrible?  I don’t know.  Either way I ended my working week feeling frazzled and horrible.  At least I learnt something out of it – double check everything, even if it seems simple!

My diet was very up and down.  I’d eat a pretty good breakfast most mornings (strawberries and blueberries with no fat vanilla yoghurt and Chia and quinoa), then back it up with fruit for lunch.  I just couldn’t see it through to dinner most nights and would wind up eating something really bad.  It all comes down to how exhausted I’ve been…I just don’t have the energy to cook.  My friends have been telling me to get onto Lite N Easy.  I’ve been putting it off because it’s expensive, but I think I might have to bite the bullet and go onto it, just for dinners.  I’m not losing any weight at all at the moment and it’s because I’m sabotaging myself at night.  Plus if I don’t have the energy to cook now, I definitely won’t in a couple of weeks.

What else is new this week?  I upgraded to the iPhone 6s Plus.  I already had the 6 Plus but I wanted to move my number over so I could get my staff discount.  I’d been waiting for it to come in stock and it finally did on Thursday.  There isn’t heaps of differences (as expected) though I have noticed it’s a lot quicker to unlock with fingerprint unlock, and the camera is a lot better.  3D Touch is pretty cool too, though I haven’t found a lot of use for it yet.  It’ll no doubt be better once more apps support it.  The best new feature of the phone though is the colour – rose gold is so pretty 💜

As part of my upgrade I also got a Sonos Play:1 WiFi speaker.  I haven’t had a lot of time to put it through its paces but so far it seems pretty awesome.  The set up was a bit of a pain.  It needed to be connected to the modem via an Ethernet cable, and my modem is plugged in up high in my wardrobe.  The speaker isn’t light so holding it awkwardly while trying to follow all the instructions was tough.  Plus the instructions were vague at times so it took longer than it should have.  Still, I got there in the end and it’s got decent sound quality for a semi-small speaker.  My other annoyance is that it doesn’t support Apple Music (apparently it will by the end of the year but we’ll see) so it can only play the songs physically stored on my phone, or songs through other paid streaming services.  A year ago it would have been fine because I used Spotify back then, but I made the switch to Apple Music and I’m not too keen to have to go back to Spotify just for the speaker.  I guess I’ll just have to ride it out.

This week is going to be interesting.  I’m in store again Monday, then it’s a public holiday Tuesday (yay extra sleep!), then I have 3 days of training (another round of it), then I’m working my first Saturday shift in store, which is going to be mental.  At least the day will go by quickly.  I guess I should get used to crazy though, my new store is probably going to be like that all the time.

I don’t think I have any more updates to add.  I really need to find time to write more often!  Hope everyone had a good week 😊

-JD

Telco Horror Stories – Part Two

Welcome to my second instalment of Telco Horror Stories!  To read my first one, click here.  As I said previously, while telco can be a challenging industry, these stories are ones that stuck with me purely because they don’t happen all the time.  Telco isn’t a horrible career.  In fact, overall, I enjoyed it, but regular customers don’t make for interesting stories!

“You’re all scammers!” Bill Issue Guy

This was a customer I had to deal with personally.  He’d come in about four months prior and signed up for a home phone and internet package, which all went smoothly (I didn’t serve him but the girl who did said they’d been no issues).  Anyway, the transaction started off okay, he came in wanting to pay his bill.  No big deal.  I process it and grab his receipt and expect that to be the end of it.  Instead, he asks nicely, “I just want to know why my bill is this much?”.  This is a question we get at least once a shift from bill payment customers, so I didn’t think much of it.  I glance at the bill, and look at him.  “Well, because that’s the plan you’re on.  See here?  $100 plan, and that’s what they’ve charged you”.  I didn’t understand why he was asking me that.  Seemed pretty logical.  But oh boy, had I started something.  He stated that he’d been promised that it was actually $80 per month, not $100, the girl who signed him up told him so.  I was very confused – we can’t offer random discounts in store, and we didn’t have a plan at all for the price he’s describing.  When I tell him that, he blows up, saying we’re all out to get his money and he wasn’t advised that the plan he was signing was $100 (despite all the paperwork stating that was the plan he was going on) and that’s it’s too much for him to pay each month.  Trying not to escalate the situation, I ask him if he has the paperwork at home, to which he says he does.  I advise him that if the rep has written anywhere on the paperwork that there was supposed to be a discount, that I can investigate it for him, but unless he can bring that in, I can’t help him.  Honestly, I didn’t believe him, but I would have looked into it further with paperwork.  He says he absolutely does not have time to come back and he wants it fixed right then and there because “the girl who served me is a scam artist and lied to me!”.  The argument went on for a long time, going around in circles.  I couldn’t just take his word for it, the girl wasn’t working and he refused to bring the paperwork in.  He wound up leaving, saying I was in on it too and we’re all just dirty liars who want his money.  I thought that was the end of it – I’d caught him out in a lie and he’d stop trying.

Nope.

A couple of months later he comes in again and I wind up serving him.  I didn’t recognise him straight away because it had been so long.  Once again, he processes his bill payment before starting up again about how the store is ripping him off.  I recognised him then.  I cut him off before he could start on his rant, and asked if he’d bought his paperwork in.  He said that he hadn’t, but that I he shouldn’t have to prove anything to me anyway and I should help him.  I gave him a big smile, told him I’m not going to argue with him again and that I’ll see him when he brings in the paperwork like he was asked to, and moved onto the next customer.  He never came back.

“Prove You’re a Manager!”

This guy will haunt my telco nightmares forever.  I knew it was going to be bad the second I laid eyes on him, though I’d never have guessed how bad at the time.  In telco, you know when someone is coming back into the store with one of our bags that there’s going to be a problem.  Nobody comes back with the bag for no reason.  Add to that he’d arrived right on the dot of 9am when we open, and shuffled impatiently back and forth until the door was opened.  As it was a weekday morning, there was only myself and one other person working.  Despite not being a morning person and feeling like death, I plastered a smile on my face and asked how I can help him.

“Can we sit down and talk?”

Oh God.  Not one of these people.  Whenever anyone uses that line, you know you’re in for a long “chat”.  I agree and we sit down.  The customer starts off nicely (surprisingly so, considering he’s bought back something in one of our bags) and explains that he signed up the previous night with Ashleigh and she’s made a big mistake.  I kept my pokerface, but instantly I become sceptical – I know Ashleigh and she doesn’t make stupid mistakes.  Some of the staff do (from lack of experience or from not doing well under pressure) but Ashleigh is rarely one of them.  Anyway, he states that he asked for a 64GB phone, not the 16GB he’d been issued.  I just couldn’t believe that Ash would have made that kind of rookie mistake.  Firstly, I had a look at his paperwork from the previous night, to make sure she’d chosen 16GB in the system – the easiest way to see if the rep has messed up is if the paperwork says 64GB, because it means she probably just grabbed a phone from the wrong pile.  Nope, it says 16GB.  I check the paperwork is signed, which it is.  Then I start asking questions.

“So, when Ash went through this with you, did she quote this price per month?”

He said that she did.  I then advised that if he were to get a bigger model, he’d be paying more each month.  Well, that did it.  He went from Mr Nice Guy to Mr Asshat just like that.

“What do you mean, pay more?  That’s ridiculous.  I came in and gave her this and told her this is what I wanted!”

He shoves a scrap of paper in my face.  I glance at it.  It literally had 4 words scribbled on it.  “iPhone 6 $69 monthly”.  I point out that he’s been given exactly that – his plan is coming to $69 per month, and he got an iPhone 6.  For that price, he gets a 16GB.  If he got 64GB it would be more than that per month.

“No no no!  Look at the paper!  The memory size isn’t big enough!”

I try to stay calm in the face of his irrationalism.  I point out that nowhere on that slip of paper does it state a memory size.  “Did you tell Ashleigh that you wanted 64GB?”

“No, I didn’t know I needed that at the time.  My daughter wrote this out.  I got home and she told me they’d given me the wrong one!”

Gotcha.

“So you’re telling me that you didn’t know that you needed 64GB, and you handed this over to Ashleigh with the 16GB price on it, and she was expected to know you needed a bigger memory size?” That probably sounds like I was being patronising.  Maybe I was, but I was doing my best to sound professional.  He didn’t appreciate the question.  He completely flipped out, demanding to speak to the manager.  The manager – right then – was me.  He really didn’t like that.

“So you’re saying you’re the manager but you won’t let me swap my phone over for a bigger memory size?  Even though your girl messed up?”

“Firstly, you’ve opened the phone, so I can’t take that back.  Secondly, even if I did swap it over, you’d be paying more for the 64GB model.  Lastly, like I’ve already explained to you, Ashleigh didn’t mess up.”

“But before I came in I looked online and the 64GB price was $69 per month!” he was yelling in my face now.

“The website has the same prices as us.  If Ashleigh could have given you the 64GB at that price, she would have.  The 16GB and 64GB are never the same price.”

“THAT’S RUBBISH!  YOU’RE TRYING TO RIP ME OFF!  I HAVE THE WEBSITE PRINTED OUT AT HOME!”

I tried to stay calm, but was quickly losing my patience.  “Well if you do, then bring it in and we can discuss it further.” I knew damn well he was bluffing.  The website would never have had the 64GB at that price.

“I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER!”

“Sir, I’ve already told you, you’re speaking to her.”

“I want a business card.  I want proof!”

I legitimately had run out of business cards.  We rarely order them because for the most part, we rarely give them out.  When I advised him of this, he raged harder, demanding again and again I produce a business card for him.  I offered several times to write my name and store number out for him, but that wasn’t good enough.  He then demanded I call my regional manager or the head of Optus or someone else who could change the situation.  I told him in no uncertain terms that it’s up to me and unfortunately, as the store has done nothing wrong, I wasn’t going to swap it (I wasn’t able to even if I wanted to since the box was opened, and I definitely couldn’t give him a bigger model for the same price).  Finally, I cracked.  By then there were other customers waiting and the other rep was already busy.

“Sir, we’re going around in circles and I’ve already told you many times I don’t have a business card for you and I can’t help you.  I’m going to serve someone else now.”

He kept raging.  Suddenly, the old lady who had been waiting patiently for at least ten minutes piped up.  “Leave her alone!  She’s trying to help you and you aren’t listening!” He didn’t like being called out on his rudeness, and finally stormed out.  I assumed that was the end of it.

I started serving the lovely old lady.  She knew I was upset from the previous customer and told me not to worry about him.  Customers like that are the reason why I like telco so much.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the guy has come back with someone else in tow.  I sighed and tried to keep my cool.  The lady smiled at me and told me to serve him, she’d wait.

I got up and realized who he’d dragged along with him.  Someone from the shopping centre’s helpdesk.  I couldn’t even hide my surprise.  What was he doing?

I awkwardly said hi to her, then looked at him.  He started out on his tirade again, telling the poor lady that I was ripping him off and I couldn’t prove I was the manager and he had proof (at home) that the 64GB model was $69 a month.  I felt awful for her.  This isn’t her job.

I calmly turned to her (and completely ignored him) and explained – again – the whole situation.  She turned to him and said “look, this isn’t my job, but what she’s saying makes sense.  Why don’t you just let her write down her details and if you want to make a complaint, call the company directly?”

If looks could kill, we’d both be dead.  He huffed and puffed by finally agreed that I could write down my name and store number.  “You’re getting fired for this, mark my words!” he called after him as he left.  I quickly apologised to the girl, who shrugged it off.  The old lady who’d been watching the whole thing piped up “she did nothing wrong, he’s just a bully!”.  The girl couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything from him – or anything about his complaint through customer service – again…well, except in my nightmares.

Faulty Accessory Kid

This wasn’t one of my customers – thankfully.  A kid, maybe 16, walks into the store and hangs around awkwardly at the back.  We at first aren’t sure if he wants service or whether he’s waiting for someone. Eventually we work out he does want help, and Lisa goes and serves him. He takes a seat, pulls out his dirty iPhone 5 in a protective case and tells her he wants a refund on the case.  Lisa looks at the grimy, dusty case and asks what’s wrong with it. “It’s supposed to be a tough case but it’s broken”. He points to a slight crack on the edge of it. “It says there’s a two year warranty so I want my money back.”

Lisa looks awkwardly at him. It was pretty obvious he’d given the case quite a beating and therefore it would fall under wear and tear. Being nice though, she decides to ask more questions to be sure. She finds out he’s had the case well over a year, doesn’t have the original packaging, doesn’t know which store it was purchased from and – best of all – doesn’t know if his mum kept the receipt.

“I’m sorry but without a receipt we can’t refund it.” Lisa tells him.  He doesn’t take it well, and despite being only young, asks to speak to the manager.

The manager Kye comes out and the kid once again demands a refund. Kye tells the kid the same thing as Lisa, adding that if he doesn’t even know where he got it, there’s really nothing the store can do.

“But why is there a warranty on it then?!” He asked.

Kye – in his typical patient fashion – explained what warranty covered and how he needs a receipt to claim it and he also needs to go back to the store he got it to refund it as our systems aren’t linked. The kid wasn’t buying it, assuming we just didn’t want to help him. After reinteratimg once more there’s nothing we can do right now, Kye goes back to what he was doing. Instead of leaving, the kid decides to randomly hang around for an awkwardly long period of time, I guess hoping if he did someone would cave and refund it to get him out of the store. If only it were actually as simple as that. He finally left after about twenty minutes and we thought the drama was over.

The next day Kye gets an angry phone call from the kid’s mother, demanding to know why he wasn’t issued a refund. He explained the whole policy again, adding that if she can’t supply a receipt, she might want to contact the case manufacturer directly. Again, we all thought that it was over.

Telco lesson: it’s never over.

The following morning a lady with a double pram and two young kids is waiting impatiently out the front before we’ve even opened the shop.  When the shop does open, she marches in and asks to speak to Kye. He comes out and is faced with the lady on the phone from yesterday, waving around the damaged case and saying things like “I know my rights!”.  Kye was at a loss as she still didn’t have her receipt. He also found out the case wasn’t purchased from our store, so he couldn’t refund it even if he wanted to.  She didn’t like that answer and yelled and screamed about how unfair it was and how she didn’t want to go back to the the other store. Once again Kye told her to contact the manufacturer directly.  She left in a huff.

The following week Kye received several more calls from the upset woman, with her demanding her money back each time.  She came back into the store again, telling him that she’d spoken to the manufacturer and they couldn’t help her either (without a receipt that’s hardly a surprise).  Being the nice guy he is, he tells her he’ll speak to the people we buy the cases off and see if they can recommend anything.

Unfortunately, the rep was away for a whole week (terrible timing) and the calls came in daily asking what we were going to do. Finally Kye managed to get onto the rep who said as a once off, we could swap it for her without a receipt.  When Kye told the lady that, she was upset at first, saying she didn’t want it swapped because it will just break again, but finally agreeing to it when she realized it was her only real option.

She came in again and the swap was about to be done when we realized we only had white in stock and not black like she’d originally purchased. We couldn’t even order in any black ones as they were on backorder with no ETA of when they’d be available again. Once again, Kye was screamed at and once again, he told her if she isn’t happy then she’d have to deal directly with the manufacturer.  She begrudgingly accepted the swap and finally the saga was over, almost 3 weeks later.

Stay tuned, there are plenty more stories to come!

-JD

Telco Horror Stories Part I

Now that I’m no longer a part of the company I spent the past five years with, I think it’s safe to disclose what it’s like to be on the firing line at one of the places where customers feel it’s okay to verbally abuse young people for things they had no control over.

I know this can be said about most retail jobs to some degree.  Retail is all about grinning and bearing it, everybody who’s ever done a stint in that field knows it.  But when people ask where you work then immediately and without fail follow up with “oh, you must get yelled at a lot” or “that must be a tough job”…you know you’ve probably got it worse than the local checkout chick.

Before I get into the horror stories, don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t have spent five years in the industry (and an open mind to rejoining it if the option is there) if it was completely awful.  There are a large amount of lovely, easy-going, wonderful customers that make our days great.  There is also a feeling of family between staff members, because we know we’re in this together.  I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in that place.  The job itself is actually quite enjoyable, if you like sales and meeting targets.  It keeps things a lot more interesting than restocking shelves.  This side of the job isn’t interesting though, so I’m not going to talk about it.  Just know that it is there, and that these stories – though memorable – are a small part of the job.

Sir Scream-A-Lot

This one has stuck with me for a long time, purely because it was my first real taste of the dark side of telco. I had only been there maybe two or three weeks at this point, and only part time, so I was brand new.  I’d started with another girl on the same day.  We’d been specifically told not to serve customers alone, but it was flat out and customers will approach you if they think you’re just standing there ignoring them, whether you’re clearly a trainee or not.

Anyway, we were both standing at the front counter and he comes in to pick up his phone that had been returned from a warranty repair.  Now, keep in mind five years ago the phones were more basic, people chucked them around a lot more, they broke easier (well, if they weren’t Nokias) and on top of that, telcos never ever replaced phones.  Ever.  They’d always attempt to fix them under warranty.  It sounds weird now because most places just swap faulty devices with referbs but back then, everyone just expected their phone would get fixed.  Also keep in mind that because of this, the turnaround time on warranty repairs was a lot longer.  I’m talking between 3 – 4 weeks, and that’s if it was an easy repair.  It’s a long time.

Now, being newbies, we didn’t really comprehend any of that.  I mean we’d been told, but we hadn’t served enough customers to know what their thoughts on it all were.  So when the guy said he was there to collect his phone, we thought “great!  Something easy we can do!” and I promptly went to the cupboard and dug around to find it.  I bought it over and handed it to him.  Nice and easy, next customer please!  But no.  He took off the paperwork that phone was wrapped in and had a quick read through it.

‘Why does this say returned unrepaired due to liquid damage?’

That stumped us.  We looked at each other then I tentatively said “Unfortunately, if the repair guys found signs of water damage it voids the warranty”.  WELL, DID THAT SET HIM OFF.  He went from zero to 1000 in a second.  I’d never experienced someone screaming in my face like that before, and I scared the shit out of me.  I was warned on day one that customers could get angry, but I never expected this.  He demanded that I personally get his broken phone fixed.  He demanded that the company compensate him for the time his phone was away.  He raged about how the repair guys must have gotten it wrong or how they must have damaged the phone themselves.  Meanwhile, myself and the other newbie both stared at him, wide-eyed, shaking and not having a clue what to do or what to say.  Nothing he was saying was possible, I knew that even then, but I also knew I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him that.  Not unless I wanted the phone hurled in my general direction.

*Cue valuable lesson*

My assistant store manager, overhearing the screaming (it was hard to miss), rushes over and tells the guy in no uncertain terms that he is absolutely out of line speaking to staff that way and that we will, under no circumstances, deal with him unless he calms down.  I watched on, thinking that this could only escalate the problem.  He kept yelling, though a little bit of the fight seemed to have gone out of him.  Once again my manager stood her ground.  “Sir, if you keep this up I won’t hesitate to call security to escort you out”. I’d never heard that line before.  It was like flicking a switch.  He stopped screaming, just like that.  He was still fuming, but the noise had subsided.  He looked around and noticed that the whole store – all the staff and customers – were dead still and staring at him, waiting for his next move.  He grabbed his still-broken phone and stormed off.

I was a mess afterwards, shaking and crying and generally just in shock.  I did, however, learn a lot from that experience, probably moreso than any other during my stint there.  It’s okay to stand your ground and refuse to be belittled and disrespected. While some people will read this and be horrified that we don’t have to lay down and take abuse, it’s 100% true and something I made every effort of teaching new staff members from day one.  If they are making you feel uncomfortable or upset, you can ask them to leave.  If they won’t leave, you can excuse yourself and call security.  We don’t get paid fantastically and it most certainly isn’t enough to warrant that level of aggression.  Reality check, future aggro customers: it’s a fucking phone.  There are wars raging right now, famines happening, people dying.  A lot of people don’t even have access to basic supplies like clean water, and here you are, speaking to a random employee who did nothing wrong worse than you’d speak to your ex over a gadget that, while useful, isn’t keeping your heart beating or your tummy full.  Just saying.

Vodka Lady

Ask anyone who worked in my store between 2012-2014 who Vodka Lady is and you’d get the same upturned nose and grimace.  She was a repeat offender (and probably still is), an old lady who clearly has a lot of addiction issues and an aggressive streak.  At her peak, she’d come in once every couple of weeks, her hair all matted and breath reeking of cigarettes.  Normally, with regulars, you get at least a 30 second warning as they approach the store so you can mentally prepare yourself.  Vodka Lady never gave you that option.  She’d come in when the store was at it’s busiest (and trust me, when the store is busy you can barely find anywhere to stand) and march straight up to you, demanding service then and there.  It didn’t matter that you were halfway through a contract with another customer and there were clearly half a dozen people waiting to be served.  When you’d politely tell her that unfortunately nobody is free and she’d have to wait, she would absolutely blow her stack.  She wouldn’t just yell though, that we could deal with.  Instead, she’d go around to each staff member individually and try her luck with each of them, getting progressively more worked up as she received the same “you’ll have to wait” line each time.  Once she’d exhausted that option, she’d then go around to customers, bad mouthing us and the store and the company, standing awkwardly close and making everyone feel on edge and uncomfortable.  In between this, she’d also have screaming outbursts of swearing and calling staff members rude names.  Finally, when one of us cracked (and it was usually me) and we’d ask her to leave, she’d then start on the “you never want to help me” path.  If we were feeling especially patient we’d try to explain – once again – she’s come in on an extremely busy day and we can’t help her just now.  It wouldn’t make a difference though, she didn’t want to hear it and would inevitably storm out, saying she’d never come back.  If only that were true.

Once, she came in when it wasn’t busy (there’s a first time for everything), got served by the manager who has the patience of a saint, and asked why her phone wasn’t working.  The phone was dirty, old and missing it’s backplate, but he humored her and had a look anyway, and found there wasn’t a SIM card in the phone.  She muttered something about leaving it somewhere and left.  We both knew it was too good to be true.  Sure enough, she storms back in ten minutes later, raging that the manager stole her phone battery and demanding it back.  He had no idea what to say – she’d left with the phone and battery ten minutes earlier.  After explaining multiple times that he didn’t have it, she changed her mind and decided to ask how much a replacement backplate would be for her crappy old phone.  The manager advised we don’t sell backplates, to which he copped a berating of “why the fuck not?!”.  Once again she marched out of the store, though luckily we didn’t see her again that day.

My Drug Dealer Stole My Phone

This lady also became a semi-regular.  The first time she’d come into store, one of the politest guys in our team had screamed at her and stormed off.  We’d never heard TJ raise his voice like that to anyone, much less a customer.  She is one of those people who honest to God think they’re above everyone else, and have this horrible attitude towards everyone.  She’d come in, asking about a particular phone, and TJ began explaining the features and the plans.  Instead of listening (or saying she’s changed her mind and wants to look at a different phone instead), she began inserting snide remarks and comments after everything TJ said, getting progressively more offensive and patronising.  There was no need for it or any reason to do it other than she just got enjoyment out of watching him squirm and try to pretend he didn’t hear her.  After twenty long minutes of this, he snapped, telling her in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t going to deal with her horrible attitude any more and to look everything up online if she wasn’t going to listen, before marching off.  Instead of leaving (like most people would have), she stayed around, waiting for him to come back so she can torture him some more.  He refused.  The store was empty aside from her and a couple of staff members, so she then started saying really loudly how unprofessional he is and that she needs service and he just walked off on her.  Sensing she actually wasn’t going to leave without more service, Ashleigh approached her, expecting to talk about a different handset because the customer had spent the last half an hour bad mouthing the phone she originally came in asking about.  Instead, she decided to sign up for it.  It was at that time we realized that the two terrors who had been climbing all over the children’s ride out the front of the store were hers, as she insisted they come into the shop while the contract was being put through.

It was a nightmare.  She kept up her bad attitude the whole time Ashleigh was going through the contract, asking dumb questions just to get a reaction, and giving unsatisfactory eye rolls each time an answer was given.  Meanwhile, her two monster children clambered all over the furniture, screamed the store down, spilled food all over the floor and left rubbish scattered everywhere.  Not once did the customer tell them to be quiet or to sit still.  Finally, the contract was done and the customer left.  We thought that was the end of it.

Wrong.

She comes in about a month later, her terrible entourage in tow again, but this time with her husband as well.  TJ spots her and immediately dives out the back, refusing to deal with her.  A different staff member approaches her and asks her how they can help.  She says she’s lost her phone and wants a replacement.  The rep asks if she’s got insurance, which she does, and they are advised they need to make a claim then wait for insurance to send out a replacement phone to the store.  It should only take a couple of days.  This is not what the customer is expecting.  She loses it, demanding a phone on the spot “because my child is very sick”.  Hard to believe, what with them once again climbing all over the furniture, but anyway.  She rep apologises but explains that there’s nothing we can do about the policy in store, it is what it is, and we could give her a replacement SIM card with the same number if she wants to use her old phone (keeping in mind we knew she’d only just gotten her new phone a month ago).  She refuses to even acknowledge that idea, and asks to speak to the manager.

Once again, the manager with the patience of a saint comes out, and tries to calmly explain the situation again, trying not to seem like he’s yelling at her as he fights to be heard over the two brats’ screaming. She begins to sob hysterically, saying she absolutely can’t be without a phone and that her drug dealer stole her new phone.  Although tempting, the manager bit his tongue and didn’t suggest that maybe she should just pay her drug dealer the money and get her phone back that way.  Instead, taking his patience to a new level, he agreed to see if customer service would arrange a loan phone for her.  This isn’t usually offered for insurance and still wouldn’t get her a phone today, but he wanted to at least look like he was trying to help.  Customer service refused, as expected.  Their reasoning was that she’d have her replacement phone before they’d get the chance to courier one out to her.  Fair call.  She then got back on her high horse and said she didn’t want a loan phone, she wanted a brand new phone exactly like what she had, and she isn’t leaving without it.  Her husband started up then too, demanding the same thing.

It got into an argument then.  She just wouldn’t accept the fact that we couldn’t just hand over a new phone because we felt sorry for her (which we didn’t but she thought we did).  The argument dragged on and on, nothing changing.  She spoke with insurance who advised her exactly the same thing, then the billing department, then tech support.  The longer it dragged on the worse behaved and louder her nasty children got, though who could blame them?  They were bored out of their minds.  Finally, realizing that she’d spent so long getting nowhere, she agreed to purchase a cheap phone only if the company would credit her back for it.  Although this was going to be an uphill battle too, the manager jumped back on the phone and got the credit arranged, and she left, cursing and swearing loudly as she did.

These are just a few of the stories I’ve got, I’ll be posting more later.  Like I said, telco isn’t all bad and these aren’t your typical customers, just ones that have stuck with me.

– JD