Just Telling It Like It Is

I am re-blogging this in toto from “Not Always Right” because it’s hilarious, and pretty much summarizes a huge percentage of the kind of nonsense retail workers have to deal with.

Just Telling It Like It Is

(Two customers approach the counter, the first being a tall, bald man and the second being an elderly lady.)

Customer: “Hi. I’m every customer ever, and I have a bunch of stupid questions and unreasonable demands.”

Me: “Hi. I’m every employee ever, and I present a negative attitude as well as an unforgivable ignorance of both the products my employer sells and how to conduct myself civilly with other human beings.”

Customer: “Like an idiot, I have approached you with no idea what I want. But I nevertheless expect you to keep your full attention on me while I waste your time.”

Me: “That’s fine. I’ve already tuned you out and began to sing the theme song to Duck Tales to myself in my head as you bring us collectively closer to death without having accomplished anything meaningful.”

Customer: “Regarding [liquor], I will now proceed to barrage you with questions about it that either you have no way of knowing, or which I should already d*** well know the answers to.”

(I hand him a bottle of the liquor he mentioned and start to ring it up.)

Me: “I respond to your worthless questions with vague and unsatisfying responses, as my cranial faculties are occupied with lewd and lascivious irrelevancies. That will be [price], you personification of the downfall of western civilization.”

Customer: “I object to the price quoted, even though it is clearly indicated on the shelf behind you, and suggest some sort of extortion on your part, undoubtedly fueled by prejudice towards some aspect of my appearance, race, culture, or creed.”

Me: “Although mentally I am most certainly questioning your intelligence, parentage and/or upbringing, I merely offer transparently insincere apologies.”

Customer: “I proclaim in brash and vulgar terms my dissatisfaction. I make a laughable and grandiose claim of my own importance, such as being a millionaire, the brother of your company’s CEO, or perhaps the good old-fashioned ‘Do you have any idea who I am?’ I further suggest that I could have you fired effortlessly and fully intend to do so for the insufficient quantity of butt-kissing you have exhibited toward me over the course of this transaction.”

Me: “I sadly inform you that my superior is not present on the premises and unhelpfully refer you to the company help line. Quietly I memorize the details of your face so that I can fantasize about committing acts of unspeakable and grotesque violence toward same at some later date.”

(The customer begins walking out the door.)

Customer: “Vague and impotent threat to your person and questioning of your sexual orientation!”

Me: “Sarcastic suggestion to have a nice day!”

(He walks out the door. The old lady behind him looks thoroughly perplexed by our exchange.)

Old Lady: “Who was that?”

Me: *shrugging* “My manager.”

As implausible as this representative scenario seems, it is repeated countless times in various incarnations across our nation in every conceivable retail store. I have not yet figured out what makes people act like Internet Trolls in real life to people behind counters or wearing clerks’ or servers’ uniforms; it is as though they feel empowered to treat those who serve them with all the dignity and respect that Donald Trump or Leona Helmsley would offer a trash collector.

The thing these wastes of human cytoplasm don’t realize is that their cover has been blown. They may get what they want by screaming and bullying and calling corporate (who will more than likely give them the moon to keep them as a customer), but everyone knows they’re a douchebag.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Not Always Right… Right?

Over at Not Always Right, retail workers share their best horror stories of bad, abusive, or stupid customers. (Don’t worry, there’s a companion site for lazy, stupid and ill-mannered workers as well.)

But here’s a story that had a short life on Facebook, and even though it’s now gone from the company’s website it deserves to be shared. Widely.

Liberty Bottleworks is an American company that manufactures metal bottles and tries to do so in an ethical and responsible manner. Have a look at a rant from a disgruntled customer and the response she got from the company co-founder and COO:



I would have hit “Like” a hundred times for this post if it were possible; the response from the company officer was firm, steadfast, measured, and well-deserved. I run a business or two myself, and I’ve always tried to give top-notch customer service, but this kind of douchebaggery is beyond the pale. The customer deserved to be reamed out but good.


Now, if you’re in business for yourself you probably understand why this exchange was deleted from Facebook. Right or not, deserved or not, it’s probably not the kind of thing the firm cares to dwell on or have appearing on their website on a permanent basis. But I’m sharing it here because there are far too many customers in the world who seem to think that the retail universe revolves around them, and that they have the right to be as mean, snarky, snotty, and abusive as they please without fear of retribution.

Well guess what… it just ain’t so.

Retail workers appreciate beyond measure a management that will stand up for them when customers become rude, abusive, or unreasonable. It happens, sadly, in far too few concerns. But as for me and my house, I give Liberty Bottleworks a 10/10 on the awesomeness scale, and will patronize them any time I need something they can provide, just because of this (not to mention all the other good reasons that they deserve my business.)

The Old Wolf has spoken.


No thanks, I just bought it online.

Sunday’s Retail by Norm Feuti – a strip I read with great relish – brings up an interesting point, and the commentary, written by what seems to be a preponderance of retail employees, got me thinking.

(Click the thumbnail for the full-size strip)

The question revolves around the practice of using brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom, leading to an ultimate purchase online or from a competitor.

This is an intriguing discussion and can see both sides of the equation. Reading “Not Always Right” on a regular basis, I am astonished beyond measure at the rudeness, arrogance, stupidity, and sense of entitlement people bring into a store, and always do my best to brighten the day of any retail worker I happen to encounter. And to keep the communication honest and open,  some days I do better than others. As a customer, however, my main difficulty with retail help is a sense of overinvestment – far too many retail workers (admittedly, perhaps, because they have to work with so many asshats on a daily basis and have reached the end of their rope) begin acting as though a return or a complaint were going to affect their bottom line, and they go out of their way to be like Mordac the Preventer. The knife can cut both ways.

The whole concept of using a brick-and-mortar store as a showroom is an unavoidable part of the e-commerce landscape. Customers *will* do it – I confess that I’ve done it myself. But when one is living on a fixed and limited income, pennies count. Unlike the use of smartphones in a movie theater, there has been not been time for society to develop any sort of “retail etiquette” by which it is generally accepted that this practice is “not done in polite society,” but in this economy I can forgive the practice because I know what it’s like to go without those eyeglasses or that dentist appointment in favor of food on the table.

We need things. We shop for them. The nature of retail, combined with the advertising industry, is ultimately to convince the consumer that he or she has a burning need for something which they had never thought of before. As a result, if we’re out shopping for Widget A, and we happen to see Widget B on a shelf which really calls to me, I see no reason to feel obligated to buy either one from the store I’m in if I can get it for less online (including shipping) or at another store (factoring in the cost of gas, and my time to get there).

This is not new. Watch “A Miracle on 34th Street” (the old version) and you’ll see that the concept of store loyalty is tenuous at best. As annoying as this is for store owners, and by metonymy, for store employees, it will only continue to get worse as bandwidth increases and smartphones get smarter. If brick and mortar outlets are to survive, they will need to adapt, and I’d be willing to bet that in 10 years we will have seen some very innovative solutions that have not been thought of at present.

Ultimately, it comes down to choosing our battles. I’d much rather deal head-on with the day-to-day issue of customer rudeness by creating (were I to own and operate a public business) an atmosphere where I could feel comfortable hanging this sign on my door:

This might cost me some business, but it’s the kind of business I don’t want anyway. I suspect (as long as I was running a business that was built on a sound model to begin with) that I’d attract more clientele that appreciated the opportunity to shop where they wouldn’t have to bump into the asshats themselves. I think I’d end up with more business that way, even accounting for the folks that were just window shopping or store hopping.

My two penn’orth, anyway.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

“If we had any, they’d be on aisle three.”

“The Golden Rule for Hardware Dealers: Never let an item in your stock approach the danger level.”

Ah, those were the days. Nowadays you walk into Wal-Mart, or Target, or K-Mart, or Home Depot – and it seems that empty hooks and blank spaces on shelves are the rule rather than the exception.

Challenge No. 1 is to find someone to help you. I’ve walked the length and breadth of these stores and there have been days when not a single associate was to be found. Either they have a 6th sense that lets them know when a customer is in the vicinity so they can hide, or the companies have cut their staff to bare bones – probably a combination of both.

Now that you’ve actually cut one out of the herd, you ask for what you need.

“I’m looking for a stud sensor.”

“What’s that?”

“You know, a device to help you find the studs in your wall so you know where to put nails.”

“If we had any, they’d be on Aisle 3.”

“Yeah, I was on aisle 3 and I couldn’t find what I need.”

“*sigh* – come with me.”


“Well, that’s the kind with a magnet for locating nails. I want the kind that uses proximity sensing.”

“They don’t make those.”

*I show him my old one, which has gone to its reward* “Like this. I need a new one.”


“Who does your ordering?”


“We’re in Salt Lake. How could Chicago possibly know what people in Salt Lake need?”



Now, compare that with the experience you might have had in a hardware store in the 50’s.

“I’m looking for a left-handed spud wrench.”

“Come with me. We have three kinds. This one has teeth, this one is smooth, and this one is our nicest model – it’s made of solid brass and plays the Star Spangled Banner.”

“Nice. Actually, I was hoping for one that played Liebestraum.”

“I can have one here for you tomorrow. Anything else I can help you with?”


The world has changed, and sadly not for the better. Economies of scale, big box stores that pack it deep (all from China, of course) and sell it cheap, means that the customer’s experience is the last thing that counts for anything. Moving product and reducing costs is king. Even if you’re able to get hold of a store manager and ask some probing questions – like “why are you out of all five kinds of lock washers? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to inventory levels?” you will probably get a look that will make you wonder if you put your toupee on backwards this morning. They don’t know, and they don’t care.

Of course, I’m dreaming of a world that’s gone forever. My kids probably think that the way things are today is the way they’ve always been, since they don’t have an experience of anything else. But the disconnect between what I remember (stores that actually went out of their way to get customers in and keep them happy, and took pride in their business) – and what one finds as the standard operating procedure today (“If we don’t have it, that’s tough – buy something else or get out”) is so great that it makes daily errands a real challenge.

Naturally, there are exceptions. I’ve been in some lovely boutique stores and smaller mom-n-pop outfits that still care, but Curiosity is likely to find water on Barsoom faster than you can locate one. If you do find one, spread the word – they would appreciate the recommendations.

The Old Wolf has spoken.