Time to Change – Day Forty-Nine

I’m writing this in my car, pulled into a random side street a few kilometres from my house, waiting for my dad go come and save me.  My car is playing up big time and stalled on me while I was crossing a 4-lane Freeway.  Luckily I had a green light, luckily it was rolling just quick enough for me to get into the street before the lights changed, luckily there wasn’t anyone behind me.  Still, despite all that, I’m not feeling really lucky.  It’s times like this I wish I knew more about cars.  It’ll never happen though because to know about them you have to have at least a basic interest or passion in them and honestly, I don’t.  I can’t even pretend to.  When guys talk about cars my eyes glaze over and my mind starts to do this:

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This is why I either over react about things that don’t matter (like when my car was leaking oil and I dragged my dad 40 mins away to my house for him to say they probably just over filled it during the service it had just had) or I completely under react and assume if I just keep driving, the problem will fix itself (which is basically what happened in this instance…only it did not fix itself).  This is also why I asked my dad to come and look at the car today and not use roadside assist.  It’s one thing for dad to roll his eyes and tell me it’s nothing, it’s different if a professional comes out and has to point out you’ve overlooked something dumb (it’s happened before).

Even aside from the fact I’m stuck annoyingly-close-but-not-close-enough to my house right now, today hasn’t been the best day.  I woke up feeling pretty good, after falling asleep at 8pm on the couch when my time-of-the-month cramps let up for a little bit, then dragged myself to bed at 9.30.  I slept pretty solidly right  through til about 6.30, then remembered there’s no traffic on Saturdays and fell back asleep.  Woke up with just enough time to get dressed and organised but not to eat breakfast (gahhh) and rushed off to work – the first Saturday I’ve had to work in months.  I was dreading it because I know how crazy my old work was on Saturdays, and my new work was always at least double that on a normal day.

I was greeted by the manager who I hadn’t seen for over a week, and he made me feel a little better about the day, though whole heartedly agreed it was going to be chaos.  Despite that, he was so cheerful that it made me feel good.  We need more people like that, I think.  They’re who you want around on hard-to-get-out-of-bed mornings.

Anyway, the day went okay I guess.  Crazy busy by lunchtime but thankfully the floor manager (aka the conceirge) was on the ball and putting everyone on the list and advising of the long wait time.  I can’t stress enough how wonderful floor managers are.  We had a good one at my old work too, but prior to telco introducing them, it was bedlam on busy days.  Everyone just had to cue up and wait, and they never knew how long they’d be in line for.  They also weren’t acknowledged or greeted or thanked for waiting.  As a staff member at that time you were so focused on getting your customer in and out it just never occurred to you to do any of that as people waited.  Then you’d finally get to the people in line and they were already in filthy moods before the interaction even happened.  Now, with the floor manager greeting everyone who walks in, filtering the customers between one-minute jobs (bill payments, recharges, simple tech issues) and longer issues (contracts, bill disputes, more complex tech problems), it means everyone is spoken to, advised of the appropriate wait time, and allowed to leave and come back.  It makes the customers happy they’re acknowledged, and they love that we aren’t taking up huge chunks of their day making them wait, especially bill payers who would otherwise be stuck behind all sorts of longer issues (personally I don’t understand why anyone under about 60 needs to come into a store to pay a bill these days anyway but that’s beside the point).

Having everyone on a list meant that the franticness and pressure of a weekend shift is lifted a little, as there aren’t dozens of people greedily eyeing you off as you wrap up with your current customer.  It also means everyone can take a lunch break without feeling guilty or people huffing and puffing as you walk out of the store.

So that part of the day went okay.  The store got so hot though.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it previously but oh god, does this store heat up.  My other store did too, but not like this.  Everyone sweats even on cool days, and it’s made worse when it’s busy as there are more bodies (staff and customers) in the space.  It’s horrible.

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So, I got interrupted because my dad arrived.  And just like I’d fully expected, he drove it to the petrol station then the rest of the way to my place without so much as a hint of stalling or issues with getting into gear.  Trust.  My dad knows a bit about cars (he used to race them when he was younger – which explains where I get my lead foot from 😉 – and his brother is a mechanic) but he didn’t really have much to say except maybe I’d just bought cheap dirty fuel and it was causing issues.  As I was on a bit of a budget until now, this is potentially true.  Honestly, I can’t remember what I filled up with last time.  I know I used a gift card so I’d have assumed I’d have put the high quality stuff in, but I may not have in an effort to stretch the voucher.  I know right back when the car was brand new, bad fuel caused issues as well, so I’m not ruling it out.  Dad filled it with premium (which I generally do) and said the whole way home it ran fine.  Honestly, I don’t care what was causing the issue, as long as it doesn’t keep coming back.  Or if it must come back, not temporarily so everyone thinks I’m crazy!

Oh wait.  I just remembered I didn’t fill up at my usual place last time.  I filled up near work.  And I don’t remember what I put in but it very well could have been cheap stuff.  God, I’m so stupid.  I never really trusted that place (though I never had any issues for the years I’ve been going there) so maybe dad is right.  I hope so.  Easy fix if it is, as I won’t be driving past that petrol station much longer anyway!

Anyway, where was I before the interruption?  Right, work.  So, overall the day went about as well as I expected.  Busy, but under control, and really hot and uncomfortable.  I really hope my new store is wonderfully temperature-controlled.  I figure it probably will be since it’s not part of a shopping complex.  Looking forward to that!

I was naughty on the way home.  I’ve said previously I have very little self-control with food.  I ate well for lunch (after skipping breakfast), but I couldn’t resist Maccas on the way home.  I know, I’m supposed to be dieting.  I am going to eat well all weekend (having very little junk at home, that isn’t going to be too difficult) so I saw it as a cheat meal.  I know my trigger is being in the car, after a long day (and a long week), driving past my regular Maccas.  I know that very soon I won’t have this trigger any more, so this could be one of the last times I let it get the better of me.  As much as I love Maccas, I’m relieved that I won’t have to constantly fight my temptations on the way home every day.  But you’ll be passing Maccas on your way home from your new store!  I hear you cry.  You aren’t wrong.  The difference is, firstly, that’s not part of a bad routine I’ve let myself get into, so the temptation isn’t anywhere near as strong, and secondly, I don’t want to be one of those people eating on the train.  I also don’t want to be the sadcase sitting in a fast food restaurant by myself.  I know there will be times where my workmates want to eat out – and on those occasions I probably will too – but I feel like this isn’t going to be a super regular thing so I’m not too concerned.

I think the first point is the strongest though.  If it isn’t part of a routine or habit, I generally don’t have any issue with it.  A Maccas opened up about 3kms from my house, and you’d think I’d eat there all the time, but I’ve never eaten there.  Although I see it on the way home, I have to go out of my way to get it, which I just wouldn’t do.  I also made a conscious effort to make sure I didn’t eat there so that it didn’t form a habit.  I’m going to try to do that where possible with the places near my work too.  I’m going to bring my lunch each day, and as much as possible, go straight home after work.  The less food I buy there, the better.  I know this is all just talk at the moment, and it’s easier said than done, but I think I can do it.  It’s a chance to have a fresh start.  I built up a lot of bad habits in my five-and-a-half years in this shopping centre and surrounding area, whereas I’ve never worked in the city.

What else is new today?  Well, I woke up with a sore ear (again).  This one I think is self-inflicted.  I have a bad habit (there’s that word again!) of cleaning my ears frequently with cotton buds.  I know, I know, that’s really bad.  That’s why I think it’s self-inflicted.  It happens every now and again, and gets really sore, then clears up within a few days.  You’d think I’d learn but because I’m so used to cleaning them, I find it very hard to stop.  Plus, they get really itchy if I let wax build up.  I need to kick this habit too, but it’s just part of my routine.  Still, if I can shake the fast food addition, I can easily do the same with this!

I’m gonna wrap this up here by saying I’m so glad it’s finally the weekend.  It seems like it was Monday an eternity ago.  I’m getting my nails redone tomorrow, then I have to clean the house as I’ve got an inspection on Thursday.  I hate inspections so much, but at least I started cleaning last weekend so it’s not such a huge job.  It’s still big as I avoid cleaning at all costs normally, just not as big as it often is.  At least the backyard looks nice.  That’s usually the main issue they have, but the grass got mowed on Tuesday so it’s not out of control!

Happy weekend, y’all!

-JD

Time to Change – Day Forty-Eight

Today is being written of as another good one.  It’s funny that the days slated to be the most boring of the week have become some of the best.  Don’t get me wrong, even the best training sessions in the world are still classroom-based and at least moderately sleep-enducing, but this course (can three days be considered a course?  Hmmm) was definitely one of the better I’ve done.  So far I’m very impressed with the quality of the trainers my new job employs.  World’s apart from a large portion of the trainers at my old job.  I suppose it also comes down to the content as well, and I have found both three-day “courses” I’ve attended so far at this job have content worth learning.

Anyway, where was I?  Today’s training was focused on tying up lose ends for the previous two days, as well as introducing us to a few more sales tools we’ll have at our disposal.  I love sales tools.  The more they can throw at me, the better.  I’m lazy in every sense of the word (hence the weight issue), and sales tools save me time and energy.  I’m seriously excited my new store is going to be bursting at the seams with them.  I can’t wait to get in there and mess around with them and put them through their paces.

We also learnt about an existing product that I hadn’t really learnt much about yet.  It was really good to have to broken down and the differences thoroughly explained, as I really feel like I can now see the benefits for customers and I can properly sell it.  It’s not a product that was offered at my old job, and one that is very underused and not spoken about at the store I’m working at now.  I don’t blame them for not teaching me, as the product isn’t something you’d sell (or even mention) to some customers, but I really want to start talking about it more now I know about it.

We wrapped up the training with a pep talk and group activity led by my new store manager.  As I wasn’t interviewed by her and I haven’t worked in store with her yet, I only really know her by face and name.  She knows who I am well enough to say hi in passing (she may or may not remember my name).  It doesn’t bother me, given she’s now a store leader of 90 odd staff (at least 20 of them newbies), but it was really nice to hear her story and how she wants the new store to run.  She’s really big on store culture and making it a focus, which I think is fantastic as it would be really easy for a store that big to fall into a mess of cliques, chaos and gossip.  None of that leads to a workplace anyone wants to come in to each day.

She seems really friendly and down-to-earth.  I’m looking forward to getting to know her a bit better.  I’m also hoping to let her (or someone else who can address it) know that I’m looking to be trained up in other areas.  The new store is full of people who specialise in things.  I’m not really picky about what to be trained in (the more, the merrier!), I just don’t like being seen as “just another full timer”.  I know I just started so for the moment I’m trying not to let it bother me, but I know pretty soon I’m going to start getting restless.  Coming from management in my old job, it’s tough to feel like you’ve taken a step backward.  I’m trying my best not to look at it that way, as this new store is going to be world’s apart in every way from what I’m used to, but ultimately I have been demoted.  I’m not expecting to be given management for quite awhile so being trained in different areas will have to do.  Anything to keep the job interesting.

The best part of today was being let out at 3pm. So good!  We were rostered until 5 so an early home time is fantastic.  I’m currently sitting (not standing!) on a train which is full of empty seats.  I was expecting to battle peak hour madness so this is the best feeling.

The weather is still pretty miserable but no storms or tornadoes today (touch wood).  If it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain when I get home, I might take the dog for a walk.  I walked to the bus stop today so my step count will be pretty good either way but I feel bad for the dog being cooped up all day.  No promises though, the sky is pretty grey and I really don’t want to get caught in a downpour with my new phone.

Today I ate about as well as yesterday.  Chocolate snacks to keep away the headache (more successfully today than the previous two days!).  The same breakfast and lunch, with the exception I swapped an apple at lunch for a banana.  Tonight I’ve got Lite N Easy Butter Chicken.  I’m a little nervous because I’m not a huge fan of Indian food a lot of the time, but it looked good in the picture so I’m going to try to be open minded.

I best wrap it up here.  My stop is fast approaching!  Hope you had a great day too 😊

-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