Sunday, November 04, 2007

I guess the theme of the last few days around here has been Give Retail Clerks A Hard Time. It's not much of a theme, but it's all I've got tonight. I'm a little under the weather.

Now, in general, I do not wish any ill will upon retail clerks. It is often a thankless job, and usually low-paying. I spent about a year behind the counter of a 1-hour photo shop, so I'm familiar with customers who have a sense of entitlement, customers who assumed I was an idiot, and customers who were generally dickish. That being said, past experience on the clerk side of the counter does not necessarily prevent me from assuming any of those customer personas decades later.

On Thursday night Hank was asking our crappy little HP inkjet printer to print out about 1500 pages. This was a bad idea for any number of reasons, but the end result was that I drove down to Office Depot to buy every single one of their black ink cartridges that would fit our printer. Neither the expense nor running an errand while sick put me in a good mood.

I stood in the cashier line, shaking my head at my armful of ink cartridges when I noticed the signs posted at each one of the cash registers:

(The sign said: "If we do not suggest ink to go with your purchase today, you will receive a FREE ream of Office Depot Brand copy paper")

I glanced down at my ink cartridge bounty and smiled to myself. There was no way the clerk would possibly ask me to buy more ink. Free paper! That would come in handy during Hank's forest-sized printing job.

I looked up just in time to see a cashier hand a receipt to the customer she was processing. He said something in return, smiled sheepishly, and then the cashier marched over to the paper aisle to get him a ream of Office Depot Brand copy paper. She handed him the paper and then waved me over to the register.

Show time!

I eyed "Beth" while she rang me up. Her name tag identified her as a "Customer Service Specialist". Would a specialist make the same mistake twice? I bit my tongue to keep from grinning like an idiot.

Beth rang me up and handed me my receipt. I gave her the same sheepish smile as the previous customer and pointed to the free ink sign. Beth's eyes bugged out of her head.

"But you're already buying ink!" she exclaimed.

"The sign doesn't say 'except if you're buying ink'" I replied apologetically.

"But I'll look like an idiot if I ask someone to buy ink when they're already buying a bunch of it!"

"Oh no!" I said reassuringly. "It's not you who would be the idiot. It's the rule that's the idiot."

Beth rolled her eyes and marched back to the paper aisle where she found the rattiest package of paper they had. I accepted it, smiling from ear to ear, absurdly happy about the $3.00 free paper I got to go with my $100 of black ink.

It was the best part of my day.

The theme continued on Saturday night at Nordstrom, where normally the clerks are top notch. Hank and I picked out a birthday present for my sister and handed it over to the sales clerk. She rang us up and then went to retrieve a gift box for us.

For some reason Nordstrom doesn't keep gift boxes at the register. They keep them somewhere very far away, in Giftboxistan, if I'm not mistaken. The clerk was gone for a very long time. One can only assume that flights to Giftboxistan are infrequent. Hank and I began to wither.

Another clerk popped over and asked if we had been helped. Hank said "Yes" while I said, "I'm still waiting for my drink!"

Sadly, no drink appeared, so we sat there, parched, waiting for Box lady to return. Eventually she did, with gift box and tissue paper in hand. Then, she set upon the seemingly simple task of putting the gift into the box.

She stared at the tissue paper and correctly noted that it was larger than the box. She then tried several different ways of folding the paper, ignoring aesthetics, trying to fit this largish peg into the less largish hole. She basically attempted to wrap the gift the same way an alien would. "Me wrap hu-man present box!" her efforts screamed.

Hank watched her futile efforts for a minute or so and then finally said, "Can I show you how I've seen this done?"

The clerk handed over the tissue paper and Hank channeled her best Martha Stewart, explaining how to fold the tissue paper so that it would lay neatly in the box. After the demonstration, the clerk apologized repeatedly and then attempted to wrap the tissue paper around the jacket we had purchased. She displayed the same alien-level of familiarity with our earth customs. Hank once again showed her how this could be better done.

"Well, now you know what I go through every time I try to kiss Hank." I said, commiserating with the clerk.

(Obviously this was the PG version of the joke I meant to say. I keep those conversational filters set at Pretend-I-Don't-Have-A-Penis when in the mall)

When the clerk completed the interaction by failing to close the box or successfully cut the ribbon with scissors, we decided to cut our losses and just finish the wrapping at home.

Thankfully that concluded Give Retail Clerks A Hard Time week. Clerking ain't easy.


Avery Gray said...

Sorry you're not feeling well, but I've been on the other side of that checkout stand, and let me tell you, customers like you are nothing compared to those little old ladies with their coupons. Oh. My. Golly. Natural born interrogators, I swear! And all to save 10 cents on a can of Fancy Feast. Yikes!

newnorth said...

I was happy as long as people didn't yell or throw things. Seriously, some people turn into three year olds at a register.
The ink thing was great :)

Mike said...

Avery, agreed. When I peruse the various checkout lines at the supermarket, part of my algorithm is to try and guess whether any of the people ahead of me are coupon-users. They take forever!

Newnorth, yeah, it's that sense of entitlement thing. Thankfully my only sense of entitlement involves being a smartass.

Neel Mehta said...

"Oh no!" I said reassuringly. "It's not you who would be the idiot. It's the rule that's the idiot."

That bit of brilliance deserved TWO reams of paper. Anyway, well played.

Mike said...

Neel, I'm going to print out your comment, go back to Office Depot, and demand more paper. Thanks!

Neel Mehta said...

You can do that if you want, but it sounds like a waste of paper.

Mike said...

It's a vicious cycle. Probably Office Depot's plan all along. Bastards.