Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can you guess what we are yet?

My fellow retailer blogger over at Retail Record (see Blogroll, right) recently vented after an encounter with a windbag customer who monopolised his attention one busy Saturday (see Life Story). That post provoked a response from someone called George and Retail Record has now responded at length.

The whole saga and things that happen all the time have got me thinking about how people perceive the store. Clearly some customers regards us as their corner store ... never mind the queue building up behind me, I want chapter and verse on the progress of my favourite check-out operator's latest grand-child.

George is quite right in saying that "The poor woman probably has nobody to talk to." and Retail Record has responded.

For my part I know I'm not employed as a social worker, counsellor or Care in the Community Officer, but at least once a week I give an hour of my time to help a regular customer with cerebral palsy negotiate our aisles and complete his big weekly shop.

I keep the way clear while Mad Basket Kicker is in the store, put up with her rants and comfort anyone she upsets. I neither say nor do anything when Stinky Lady comes in, even though she drives other customers away, makes me want to heave and reduces which ever unfortunate operator has to serve her to something close to tears. I help the illiterate and the dyslexic negotiate their way through the blur of messages with which we bombard visitors

I carry round in my head the full medical history of every member of staff so that I don't ask anyone to do anything they 'can't do' and the full emotional history of every member of staff so I don't unless absolutely necessary ask anyone to do anything they don't want to do.

I remember customers, their foibles and do my best to meet their quirky demands.

I take crap from the Uber-peasant and his ilk in Grocery Towers, operate the shop on decrepit hardware driven by obsolete software.

We, the staff clean up the urine, faeces and vomit regularly deposited about the store by the incontinent, mop up the breakages left like a trail of wreckage by the uncoordinated. We deal with thieves, drunks, bullies and con-artists.

Thanks to the perverse approach to alcohol (and certain other age-restricted products) prevailing in the UK we act as the nation's police force in respect of the sale of these items. And when we don't do that job properly we lose our day job.

Last night a dear old lady suffering either from early senile dementia or some other deterioration of her faculties was in at about 17:30 and left her debit card behind in the card reader. There was some confusion involving the purchases being made by the next customer and by the time that was sorted out he'd forgotten he intended to pay by cash. So the operator said something about the card and he responded in a way that effectively confirmed he'd be paying by card and she proceeded on that basis.

He entered a PIN number and for some reason rather than responding with Card Declined (which is what should happen when the incorrect number is entered) it [the software] responded with Pin Pad Failure and generated a docket for signature. The customer even signed the slip before either he or the operator realised the mistake. She then endeavoured to cancel the transaction (rather than simply respond NO on the keyboard to the Confirm Signature question) and our software blithely processed the transaction.

I have mentioned that we labour with crappy software, haven't I?

Red faces all round (the second customer is also a familiar regular) and a largely wasted evening. She has a common surname and the operator gave me misleading information about which road she lives in. Then she suggested another member of staff might know her well. But that staffer didn't recognise the name. Eventually we established that the little old lady's name isn't X, it's Y and she lives next door to so-and-so. I found so-and-so's number and called her. She went round to her neighbour who will come in and collect her card, to which we'll refund the amount of the transaction.

We did our best and finally achieved a happy ending all round.


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