Saturday, January 28, 2012

What ever happened to customer service?

This week's  blog is going to be completely off topic. I probably shouldn't be posting something like this here, but I am going to anyway. The topic is just too important.

I am only 35 years old, but I remember being a kid and going shopping with my dad. I remember the butcher at the local grocery who wrapped your order in brown paper and the cashier who punched in item costs by hand -- no prepackaged meat or bar code scanners. But most of all, I remember how nice everyone was to each other. If you were in store, the associates were happy you were there and went out of their way to help you.

I have noticed a dramatic change in this over the past 10 years or so in the way customers are treated. Instead of businesses being grateful that a person has chosen to spend their hard-earned money with them, the customer is treated like a burden, like a complete pain in the arse.

Yes, I know some people can be irritating to deal with. I worked retail pharmacy for years and had to learn to smile, take a deep breath, and count to ten in my head before responding to someone who was particularly nasty. I have had my fair share of people bitching and moaning just to get a manager to give them something free to shut up.  Those people exist, no doubt about it, but they represent only a small fraction of consumers.

To be honest, though, I don't think "those" people have anything to do with the way customer service has gone downhill. I think it has to do with lack of respect for consumers and the hiring of  employees who feel their job is beneath them, who are more concerned with what they're going to be doing with their friends later than the quality of the job they are performing. 

I can't begin to count the times I've had a cashier texting or talking on their phone while ringing up my purchases.  Or how many times I've had to hunt down an associate to help me get an item down from a top shelf, all the while giving me that "Oh my god, are you serious?!" glare.

I work hard for what money I earn and will not spend it with an establishment that mistreats me or acts in a poor a manner. I have been pondering how to deal with such a situation and it is with that in mind that I write this post tonight. There is a certain store with which I will never, ever do business again. Ever. 

Back on November 27, 2011 I met my Dad and sister in Columbia, S.C.  We were going to spend the day together -- do a little shopping, have lunch, and see the Body Works Vital exhibit at the State Museum.  Columbia is the middle point for us as we each live two hours away from the city.

My sister suffers from horrible migraines, so I was thrilled that she was making the trip. When we were planning our meeting time, she expressed a desire to go to the mall so she could buy some stuff at her favorite store -- Forever 21.

When I get there with my children, my sister is standing outside, visibly upset. She tells me that she was denied a purchase in the store. We proceed to go in and she shows me three shirts she was going to buy, each were on a marked down rack. One of the shirts rang up full price and the stupid bitch cashier all but accused my sister of changing the price on the tag. We pointed out that all the tags were written in the same ink and the girl just rolled her eyes, twitched her neck, and goes, "Well, we are not selling it for that price. SOMEONE changed the price, trying to shoplift."

There were other customers in the store and here we are being talking down to and accused of being shoplifters by a snotty, 19-year-old bitch. I was PISSED. 

 I asked for the distract manager's number but she REFUSED to give it to me. She told me to "call back tomorrow and talk to Matilda." I asked if she was the manger of the store and she said no, then told me to try Sara. Huh? Then why the hell are you telling me to ask for this Mitilda?

So, I call the store the next morning. Manager Sara proceeds to feed me a line about how the shirt was mistakenly marked down.  I pointed out that it's illegal to advertise a product for one price then mark it up on the consumer. It's not the customer's fault that someone effed up. So I ask, again, for a district manager. Sara, too, REFUSED to give it to me. She wouldn't give me a corporate number either.

So, I hit the internet and find the number for the corporate office in California. That number, in case you ever need it, is (213) 741-5100.   I explain the situation to the operator and that I was in search of a district manager's number. The operator was shocked and told me to call Kelly at (919) 208-1372

So, I call Kelly and tell her the whole story.  She is all horrified and complaining about how the Columbia, S.C. is the worst store in her area and that she was going to speak with Sara at the store and they were going to get to the bottom of it and they'll call me back. Yadda, yadda, yadda. That was November 28, 2011.

I sent a text to Kelly in mid December "reminding" her and she said she was working on it, that she was just bogged down with the holidays.  Bullshit. They think that I'll just give up if they give me the run around long enough.  Well, I've given them two months. I'm calling the corporate office on Monday.

And based on the massive amounts of complaints I've seen online, this is par for the course for Forever 21. They have lost at least three customers in this debacle.

And it's not over by a long shot.

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