Sunday, 23rd February '03

On the Customer from HELL

It is long past the actual date when this happened, but it was just so traumatising that I have to write about it. Some form of theraphy, perhaps. It was my first Sunday working, and working late, at that. Which means I had to close shop by myself. And just at closing time, comes the most RIDICULOUS customer I have ever met. My goodness, I thought Limin was a real terror all by herself. This woman made her look like a SAINT. No joke, man.

So my darlin' customer waltzs up to my pushcart, her boyfriend in tow. I can still see it now in slow motion. Ohhh... the sheer horror of it all. I am scarred for life. She starts innocently enough, enquiring about the price of a heart-shaped standing lamp with three blue hearts printed on it. She does the same with a round standing lamp with pink flowers. She notes a similar heart lamp with red hearts, and entirely different model of pink-flowered lamp which has a smaller lampshade. She considers them all for a while and turns to me. She fires her first bullet:

"Why are the hearts so low down? It doesn't look nice. I like this colour, but I want the same position as that of the red lamp."
"Oh, each piece is handmade and unique. I'm sorry, but that's the way they come."
"No. Cannot. Not nice."
"If you like, I could place an order for a new blue lamp to be brought in tomorrow? I can't guarantee that the picture position will be higher, but we can try our luck?"
"No. I want it now."

Not much I can say to that, is there? So I just stand around. A sitting duck. She picks up the round standing lamp and tells me to turn it on. I do. Then she tells me to turn off the blue heart. I do. On, off, on, off... this happy little dance (me running back and forth to the sockets to turn of my lamps) goes on for a good 10 minutes. She fires bullet number two:

"I like the blue heart lamp (I know that. Why don't you BUY it then? Hmm?) but it's crooked. I also like the round lamp (Oh. Really?) but it's too big. Can you make it smaller? (What the...?)"
"I'm sorry miss, I can't do that."
"Yes you can."

Yes indeedy, folks. Not only does she expect me to be able to magically change the position on pictures on the lamps, she expects me to go "A la peanut butter sandwiches" and be able to miraculously SHRINK the lamp. If I could do that i wouldn't be working at a pushcart, dearie. I would be doing a David Blaine on the streets and making way more moolah. To her credit, I think she wants me to swap the bigger lamp shade for the smaller one on the other model, but I have already told her this is impossible. (Her answer to that was a very understanding "Oh, you haven't a screwdriver.")

She moves back to the blue heart lamp. "Are you sure you can't make the picture higher?" Good golly. Where do these people come from?

Forget bullets. She whips out a hand grenade. SHE STARTS TO TRY AND PRESS THE OFFENDING BLUE LAMP STAND INTO THE RAMROD STRAIGHT THING SHE WANTS. If any of my readers have worked in a novelties shop, you'll know that tampering with the items in a way that endangers their original state is a definate no-no. This is the customer's cardial sin. Contrary to popular belief, customers can go WRONG. VERY WRONG. But of course salespeople have to act like they're still right. I very gently tell her to take her dirty paws off my lamp. Needless to say I rephrased that.

I have spent fifteen minutes with this customer, which means I am fifteen minutes late to meet my parents who have been kind enough to pick me up from my late shift. Oh, the agony of a salesperson who has to smile through all this. But by now I know that this amount of time spent on a customer must produce a sale. Grin and bear it, En Ying.

Like the servile salesperson I am, I smile my saccharine sweet smile as I flick lamps on and off for her highness' perusal. I explain at least two more times each that I am neither capable of moving preset pictures, nor of shrinking lamp sizes at whim. Twenty minutes have elapsed. To be honest, I am nearly in tears from the exertion of not giving them a hulking piece of my mind. I have been standing at this shop for almost 12 hours without a break.

She decides on the blue heart stand and I am close to colapsing from relief. Sweet relief. I fold up a cardboard box in record time, detach the lamp's wire (not an easy task in a pushcart) and coil it up. I am just about to load the lamp and seal the box when...

"Hold on a minute. Could you take that lamp out again? I'd like to compare it with the round lamp again." Holy *beep*.

More grouching about pictures and sizes. I have to explain AGAIN about my woeful inability to shrink lamps. She selects the round lamp this time, and I am unable to contain myself. "Are you sure?" I ask. She replies in the affirmative. "Really sure?" I ask again. She replies again, but I think she misses the sarcasm. Damn. Oh well, I couldn't make it too obvious.

I tell her the price, $15.90, which is pretty cheap for a nice lamp like this. She wants a discount and I am too weary to haggle. Alright, 15 bucks. No, she wants it at $13. Again, where do these people come from? I tell her I'm but an employee in this shop. My boss will scold me. This is true enough, but she thinks I lying, and repeats the request about 3 more times. This is going absolutely nowhere but by now I am angry enough to do the little kid "will not, will too" arguement for a good long while. She cannot contend with me in this state and retreats to the corner of the rink while I seal up her lamp.

I really thought I had her beat by then, but she can't resist a last shot. After asking for $13 again ("No, no, a thousand times, no.") she thinks for a millisecond and comes up with a new battle plan. Screw grenades and bullets. She launches a scud missile:

"Then give me two free lightbulbs!"

I am shocked and awed. For two seconds I can do nothing but gape at the absurdity of the request. Oh no you don't. Again I tell her it is impossible. She pesters more and it's about twenty-five minutes of my youth wasted on this woman. In a last ditch attempt, she asks for a receipt, saying she'll come back and ask my boss for the lightbulbs then. I am very close to bursting out laughing. Threaten me with telling my boss, willya? Be my guest. I relish telling her I am very sure she will get nothing out of my boss and she finally pays up and leaves without the receipt. Victory. Aww yeah. (For interested parties, this whole exchange was in CHINESE. Qiong seems to find this irresistably amusing.)

P/S The next day my boss tells me I should have sent her packing. My thirty cents commission isn't quite worth it. But what can I say? I'm a professional. Ha. I got my performance bonus at the end of the month. *grin*

en ying snapped a shot of life @ 09:51 am
[2 photographs developed.]

2 photographs developed.

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