Monday, May 7, 2007

The New Motto at Staples: Attitude? Yeah, We Got That

So I'm in Staples buying a three pack of Pilot pens. According to the sign, there's a rebate. Cost: $4.99. Instant Rebate: $4.99. Free pens. Cool! But when the cashier rings it up, no rebate. Strange. She said, "Let me have someone check the sign."

Enter Karen. A young woman in her late teens, perhaps early 20s.

While I waited at the register, Karen checked the sign. She reported back that while there was a rebate sign, the offer had expired. Legally, expired or not, if a sale or rebate sign is still posted, a store has to honor the offer. But it was no biggie, the pens were only $4.99. I wasn’t gonna to make a big deal out of it, but somebody else might, so I said, "Wow, you guys really need to change the sign."

That's when Karen had an episode; a mild outburst, an angry muttering loud enough for me, the cashier and another customer to hear: "This is a big store, they're aren't a lot of people here and everybody has to do their part."

I didn't need to hear about the store's staffing problems.

As an employee that's the kind of thing you say to yourself, your manager, a coworker, a sympathetic loved one, not a customer. And definitely not this customer.

The cashier and the other customer at the register looked shocked. I was too. Shocked enough to say, "Excuse me, Karen. That wasn't a personal attack. This is business." The only thing I should have heard from Miss Karen was, "Sorry about that. You're right. Thanks for bringing it to my attention."

But I showed Karen more courtesy and professionalism than she showed me. Had I allowed myself the freedom of an episode I might have said: "Why are you giving me lip? You don't quite get the hang of customer service do you, Sweetheart? It’s not my fault if you’re at a job you don’t like. If the red shirt doesn’t fit, then maybe you should quit."

What offended me most was that technically I was doing my part. I brought a problem to the attention of a store employee. Who was I supposed to mention the problem to? But I wasn’t dissuaded. I continued to do my part by having an nice chat with Karen’s manager about her lack of professionalism and customer service skills. Maybe the store will do something about those pesky staffing problems they seem to be having.

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