When I was much younger, naive and foolish I made the mistake of believing there were no consequences for my actions. How little did I know. When applied to my time working for a lumber yard in Virginia I made a few enemies. This memory was made all to relevant given my recent discovery of Gawker Media’s “The Consumerist”. Oh the complaints about bad customer service! I resemble or used to resemble that I’m afraid. Especially with at least two especially difficult customers that last Summer of my employment at that Lumber Yard.
I was brought in twice. Spoken to by management, asked “Why do you do things the way you do them?” Why do you walk so slow when you help out customers in the Lumber Yard? Why don’t you smile more. I never considered the ‘appearances’ to be all that important in doing the job of loading vehicles with the stuff they purchased at the counter. It shows how much I know. Anyways, I never took those meetings as a warning and that was another big mistake. I went for two months not knowing I was in trouble with the manager. And worse yet, I was going to totally upset at least two very difficult customers one of them being the busiest day of the week, Saturday. You cannot believe how many people come to the Lumber yard in Summer on a Saturday. I would just go and go trying to keep up with the long line of cars waiting to pick stuff up. Occasionally I would cave in and grab two cars and send them in opposite directions. Eventually I would catch up to the people who wanted their cars loaded. It was a no win situation when one guy did the work that in previous Summers we did with 5 guys in the warehouses.
The first Summer I worked there I was brought on before the Summer break. Just after my 16th birthday I joined up along with another High School student. Another fellow who taught High School came in at the same time too. We three were the weekend part-timers. I worked just Saturday, and occasionally once a month on Sunday. That Summer every Saturday the manager we had then put all five of us out in the Lumber Yard to handle the load better. We never got overwhelmed even on the busiest days. We all took turns everyone got an equal number of customers. But each passing Summer things got worse. Managers would front load the counter staff, and let the yardmen fend for themselves. I was brought up front once and was very stressed out and eventually went back to the Lumber Yard. I had put in 3 Summers and worked weekends all through High School. I got too big for my britches, I admit.
No matter what you never, ever take your frustrations out on the difficult customers. You have to smother them with love. I didn’t believe that then, but the older I get the more I feel it’s the only way in retail sales. And the Consumerist brought that point home stronger than ever. Treat everyone equally well the good and bad customers and you will never have to explain yourself or get the Manager to step in.