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Story from Work (aka Retail Sucks)
Posted Sep 27, 2001 - 6:06:37

As most of you know, my day job is as a salesperson for a major consumer electronics retailer in the Cellular Phone department. Well, a few days ago, everything that could go wrong... did go wrong.

Y'see, recently said retailer switched database systems, and a few days ago - said system CRASHED. Went down. Central mainframe, kaputz. So, that means - everything has to be done manually. Everything. And last time I checked, I didn't know how to do everything manually. Also, my FAX machine, and only nonrestricted line to the world, has gone on the fritz, and won't work. Now, that considered - my story may begin.

It was around three, three thirty in the afternoon when the Cellular phone counter got hit hard. We had three different people wanting to buy phones at once. Now, the only person on staff right then was me, and we had a 'swatter' named Simon from SprintPCS helping out (Simon is my personal hero right now, by the way). Fortunately, two of the people were looking at Sprint, so I could use Simon to some degree to balance things out. Now, one of these people - well, a married couple to be exact - want to look at a CenturyTel phone -- which is cool, and fine by me. I talk to them, and all personal opinions about carriers aside, CenturyTel does look like it's the best deal for them. Of course, this entire time they keep assuming I want to talk them out of the plan (which baffled me to no end). Now, I tell them that it takes twenty minutes to a half hour to set up a phone for that carrier (which is pretty short for most carriers that I have to manually program), and while they seem annoyed - they say 'lets go for it'. So, I have them fill out the information for a credit check. While they're filling this out, Simon finishes a sale on a Sprint phone (to a gentleman who had been waiting as long as the couple I was dealing with). So, since I don't have time to ring him up myself, I walk him up to a register with the two phones he's buying (company policy about lock up items and all - I do like keeping my job). When I return, the couple I was talking to have finished with the form, and the husband is tapping the pen I gave him impatiently. I then take the form, and realize that the Credit check number might not be a 1-800 number, and therefore inaccessable to me from the desk (with the FAX line down). So I walk up to Customer Service, and promptly realize it *IS* a 1-800 number... manage to feel like an idiot, but finish the credit check without problems (A-0 credit and all). I then return to have the people finish the contract (they seem very unhappy, but heck... what am I supposed to do?) and I fax it off to Activations from the Customer Service FAX Machine. I return to tell them to "Come back in 20 minutes" because it will take some time to do the activation. They leave... and come back in eight minutes (I checked my watch). Now, at this time, Simon is running a credit check on my main phone, so when CenturyTel's activations office calls, I have to get it at Customer Service. They tell me that I left the preprinted $10 activation fee unchanged, and that it had been raised to $20... so I needed to change it, present it to the customer (y'know, it IS a contract that we want to remain valid) and re-FAX it. I've also filled out the "authorized user" portion for the wife wrong, and I'd need to refill that portion out. So, I walk over to the customers, and relay that information. The husband then looks at me like I'm an idiot, and says "Why are you bothering asking me? Just do it already!"... like I'm wasting his time. I then countered (probably more irrately than I should have) that I'm legally required to report any changes to the contract. But, I reFAX it, and return to my counter. I, at this point, am realizing how little time I want to spend with these jerks, and begin to program their phone (so all I have to do is input the phone number and be done with it). While I'm doing this, the couple is standing about ten feet away from me glaring. My supervisor, who was shopping on his day off, then stopped by to tell me a few things that had happened while I was off sick the other day (which I am still sick at this point, just not willing to miss work), and we talk quietly. Then the phone rings. I answer it, and Clark heads off. It's activations, everything has gone through fine, and I have a number.


So, I program the phone, run a test call (which rings through without problem), and I get ready to ring them out... when I realize I have absolutely no idea how to ring out a cell phone when the system is offline. So, I go up to the front lanes to see if anyone up there knows. They don't. So, I run over to Customer service -- they don't, but I decide to friggin' fly with it, and figure it out on my own. Why? Because the couple looks like they want to gouge my eyes out with sharp pointy things. I will mention, at this point, that total elapsed time is about 25 minutes - right about as long as I told them it would take at the BEGINNING. So, if you think "man, they've been waiting"... they haven't. In fact, It's gone pretty smoothly, with little to no snags on the service end (some activations can take up to an hour and a half). So, I ring them up... and their total is One Cent (they went for the Free Phone). I don't even bother mentioning the Service plan (I had wayyy back before we started the activation procedure) because... well... you know d@*&ed well at this point they wouldn't get it. I figure out how to ring it up after all, and survive the offline system rather quickly. When I tell them the total, the husband gets flustered and says "You made us wait that long for a Penny!". I'm rather annoyed (and using every bit of self control to keep myself from leaping the customer service counter and murdering the two of them where they stand) and say (probably in a more annoyed tone than I should have) "Y'know what? I'll cover it." and pay the damned penny out of my own pocket. The husband sarcastically replied "How generous," and continued, "Why couldn't have you done all that after we left!" Well, let's see... the answer to that is simple, but I didn't voice it. Why? Because he didn't wait that long for "A penny." He waited that long so we could run his credit, process a service request, and program a phone. While all he was paying for at the store was the phone, he was also setting up a year of service through a rather lengthly, complex contract. I hope he payed attention too, because I'll be laughing my arse off if he slips up on something that I told him about, and he just wasn't listening. At this point, the wife demands my name, the name of my supervisor (who I had spoken to during the activation), and my Manager. They also want to speak to a manager - so I page one over. About two minutes pass, and the couple's anger grows. They storm off, saying something to the effect of "we'll just write in", and walk out the door. Literally, the second they walk out, a Manager turns the corner, and asks me what I need.

So, is there a lesson? Probably not. I'm not going to chance prison to teach them one (I do have access to their financial information from the credit check). No, I'm far too honest as well. But, if they keep going around pissing people off like that... chances are, the next person might not be.

"Treat others as you wish to be treated, that way they're less likely to try to kill you later"
- Traegorn

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