Caustic Retail

From the other side of the counter, stories about nasty customers and how to deal with them

Defining “determined customer” can be tricky. It can be summed up to something simple. They want what they want, and want it now.

When first encountering this type of customer, one can feel that it’s impossible to reason with them. For some that’s very true. Others however, with a bit of work can be reasoned with.

The most common interaction with a “determined customer” tends to start off with a question relating to stock. The interaction will start with the customer asking if an item is in stock. If the customer is told “no” they will almost always ask, “do you have any in the back?”. This is a somewhat pointless question, most stores don't have a “back”. Now when being told that there are none in the back, the customer can respond in a number of ways. The most common being “ok”, “Can I place an order/get a rain check?”, or “what do you mean/you're lying.”. The first two are pretty simple, but the last one, oh boy.

This is where we separate a determined and “determined” customer (we'll call them TDs for truly determined). A customer that responds with “ok” or wishes to place an order are easy to deal with. They want the item, but are willing to work with the store and wait, or go somewhere else. Now when a customer answers with “what do you mean?/you're lying.”, things can get weird.

TDs can go beyond just item stock. They can ask for something after that department is closed, want to pay for lottery tickets with card (lottery tickets are cash only in the US), buy something with out an ID (they get real nasty), or do something illegal with their money involving a money transfer service (they get super nasty).

Now having seen quite a number of TDs, that also means I have seen some extreme reactions, and odd reactions. That includes a few who refused to believe that the store was closed. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to reason with a TD. The best way to get them to go away is to just stand your ground, and get a manager if they ask.

Dealing with a TD can be tricky. You might just think they are just dim, I can assure you reader, we have yet to cover those (I've had someone tell me they were sending money to buy drugs, and didn't understand why I told them I couldn't send money for that.). As I've said, you just have to stand you ground and think, “this will make a good story online”. (That thought will get you through almost anything.)

Being able to pickup an order with out have to go into the store is a wonderful idea. However, the service can bring to light an interesting kind of customer. The overly paranoid.

Right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to have you're order pre-paid and loaded in you car is a great way to limit contact with others. (If you do use a store pickup service, please try to keep your order small. Large orders can overwhelm the pickup staff.) Unfortunately there is an issue with pickup, it requires the costumer to do something.

Requiring a customer to do something is a grade A way to incite problems. After the customer places an order, they have to do two things. Show up, and tell the store that they are there. Out of those, showing up is the one people have the most problems with. If they can show up, they will call. However my co-worker and I have seen something new today. A customer that didn't call.

The interaction started off pretty normal. The customer called and asked if their kid can pick up the order instead of them. We didn't have a problem with that and told the customer that was fine. When the kid showed up, he comes in the store as says he here for a pickup. (while customers are supposed to call, a good number just come up to the desk) The order is handed off and the customer denies help out to their car.

Later that day a phone call comes in from the customer that placed that order. The “complaint” was that we “made their kid come in to that store”. (I put complaint is quotes because they were just screaming on the phone.) Turns out their kid that picked up the order, parked outside and just sat there. That's right, they didn't call the store. The root of their “complaint” was that, because their kid “had” to go into the store. Their “entire household has been exposed to the virus”.

At this time the store requires everyone to wear a face mask. It is understandable to be worried during these times. However, some will be worried to the point they can't think straight.

A combination of a paranoid customer, and a dim kid brought forth this situation. There isn't really a good way to deal with this kind of customer. Letting them vent and send them on their way works well. The important thing to remember in a situation like this, is that it will make a good story online. As for the customer's kid, call the store next time.

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