An Inconvenient Customer or How Not to Treat the Customer Like a Queen


I had a customer experience today that had me fuming as I left the store and drove home. Well actually, I was pissed off well before l left and got in my car for the 2nd time in that one mall visit.

If you remember, I purchased a copy of the latest Mac OS — Leopard and that I waited a good 7 months since it’s release before deciding I was ready to make the transition. And then I got it home and attempted to install only to get stopped part way through with a rejector message telling me that the disc needed to be cleaned. When I pulled it out of the drive it was scratched. Not just one scratch, but two nice, deep scratches that an optical reader was never going to be happy with

I decided to get an early start on my day and get to the mall as it was opening so that I could get home and get the software installed before heading to the store for work.

When I got into the store at about 10:40, just a bit later than I’d planned, it was already quite busy. I saw a couple of specialists hanging around, doing something on floor machines, but decided to head right for the register to make the simple exchange. The guy behind the counter was welcoming and accommodating. Oh yeah, and he was apologetic and empathized with me. So far we were off to a good start.

The next step in the process, after pulling out a new copy of the software was for him to get his manager — Dean — to process an override for the exchange. Ok, still going swimmingly.

I buttoned up my raincoat and headed to the car. Once in I thought … hmm… it might be a good idea to open the package and ensure that I wasn’t the recipient of another defective disc. I decided to very gingerly remove the disc from the cardboard package and much to my surprise, there was a scratch! Not as deep or long as the other, but a scratch nonetheless.

I put it back in the package, buttoned my coat, put my hood up and headed back into the rain and into the mall. I made my way to the same rep behind the register and he was as surprised as I was to see that there was yet another bad disc being returned by the same woman.

This apparently did not make our manager friend very happy. He lumbered up to the counter and said, without looking at me, “Have you even tried to install the software?” To which I looked at him and replied, “Uh, no. I did not want to get all they way home and find yet another defective disc, no matter how unlikely.” When I expressed my dismay at his attitude with me and said that I wanted to open the 3rd package to ensure there was no scratch before leaving the store he scowled and fluffed his feathers and said, “NO Ma’am, we are not going to stand here and open every box of software with you. I can not promise you that others won’t have scratches, but that doesn’t mean that the optical drive won’t read them. They may work just fine.”

Oh now that didn’t make me happy at all. He did he earn the right to call me ma’am or to chastise me. Ma’am is reserved as a term of respect which I learned to accept when living in the Philippines just as Boss, although hard to swallow at first, became a term of endearment used by employees when I lived in India. But this guy, Dean was not using the word with any form of respect, rather he spit it out with anger in his voice.

I looked at him and said, “You know, I work retail too and some days can be very tough, but there is no reason to take this attitude with me. I am just trying to avoid having to drive all the way home and coming back on my next day off which is not until next week.

I didn’t win the battle. Nope, I left with a sealed Leopard package, but I knew that I had an outlet for my frustration right here in this blog, that I could rant about poor customer service and get it off my chest, so after a long day, I am looking at 1am and sharing this less than positive experience at the Apple store with you.

I work hard all day to make people happy. I notice my colleagues all do the same thing. Perhaps it’s the type of business we are in that we don’t dislike our customers. This is my second poor experience at this particular Apple store and it’s making me reconsider going back in the future. There are a few others around, although not as convenient. There are new Apple stores in the local Best Buy stores and one of those is within a 3 minute drive. I don’t care for it much, but hey, if I am only looking for software I might as well give them my business. Or better yet, why not just order it online?

The Tyson’s Corner, Virginia mall is big and services a wide customer base. The shoppers there are a rather captive audience. It’s one of the larger stores in the district from what I heard one of the specialists telling another customer this morning and it is always busy. They were staffed to the gills this morning. I was quite surprised. I guess they were expecting a big Mother’s Day gift and/or Graduation gift buying turn out, but if they are doing so well that they can afford that kind of payroll, I wonder if they don’t have much fear of letting unsatisfied customers walk out the door.

When I got into work and shared my experience, the others that have been to that store all agreed that they avoid going there at all costs, the unanimous feeling was that the employees there are “very cocky.” Is Apple that confident in their business that they can afford to have such unhappy, negative employees — Managers — that don’t smile, Specialists that don’t approach customers as they walk through the door? Does iJustine’s hero, Steve Jobs want his managers to wear frowns and alienate customers? I’m pretty sure he understands quite well that customers deserve your respect, not your disdain. Customers, especially in this economic climate should be celebrated and are not to be viewed as an inconvenience.

Hot Dog!

After getting home and getting the software install process started, I decided to make lunch. I had hot dogs in the fridge, but no hot dog buns. I decided to see how a flour tortilla wrapped Kosher hot dog would do for lunch. I learned from my mom many years ago to boil them in beer and it just so happened that I had purchased a few bottles for the Cinco de Mayo broadcast and rather than let them sit in the fridge for a year, I’d use a couple of bottles for the dogs.

It was a good lunch, although the hot dogs didn’t want to stay in the tortillas as I was eating them. One flew across the table and landed right on a training manual I was reading. Oops!

I work late again tomorrow so there will be no broadcast again, but I have a great cake to make on Sunday with a beautiful new pan! Wait until you see it. You’re going to want to do this yourself


3 Responses

  1. I love Hebrew National, but never tried them on tortillas!
    I know what you mean about “cocky” employees at certain tech stores. I think jobs are alot easier to get today, so workers are needed more than the jobs. Also, it seems like companies don’t hire “nice personable” people for their front line. They hire anyone, then give them a script to recite. Management thinks this script replaces the “nice personality”.
    I’m ordering more things online myself!
    I have to say though, it is refreshing to go into some stores where the employees are just nice and love to work with the public. Somehow, I think good management is behind those people. Management that stands behind their employees, instead of treating them like robots.
    I haven’t caught a “live” Justopia show lately. Both parents passed away within 10 months of each other. Things are finally settling down….

  2. Hi Sumdance,

    I am so sorry to hear about your losses! I can’t imagine how tough this time has been for you.

    And thank you so much for coming in and reading and taking the time to comment. I’ll tell you, I worked hard to keep going and smiling today as the customers ran in for Mother’s Day gifts. It was a grueling day, but actually, I think we all felt pretty accomplished. It’s a good team and a great store with great products, so what’s not to feel good about, right?

    I hope things look up for you soon!

  3. I’ve had so many bad customer service experiences from local brick and mortars I buy almost everything except food and cars on the internet now. The funny thing is when I have a problem I usually get much better customer service from an online retailer than I do from a local retailer. How sad is that?

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