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Non-confrontational (or, how I learned to stop worrying and bitch at customer service people)

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I’m awful at confrontation– I got it from my dad, who  avoided seeing a doctor about a skin-cancerous growth for well over two years before having to have massive medical intervention. (Clearly, this story is only infuriating at this point in time, rather than infuriating and terrifying, when it was actually happening. He’s fine now, and crazy as ever.) While I am less negligent in matters of personal health, I’m pretty terrible at speaking up at times in which I know that I’m in the right, such as most customer service interactions. I am petrified of sending dishes back, will drink the wrong soda, and rarely take a principled stand over a missed discount. The exception to this rule? Cost Plus World Market.

Apparently, they’ve realized that including the phrase “Cost Plus” in a name implies that their wares actually do cost more than they would at other stores, when in reality they are considerably cheaper (why those two words were in the original store name, I cannot fathom), and have smartly taken steps to rebrand their image. I’ve liked their stuff since I was a kid, attracted to the strange international toys, and currently own a sleeper loveseat that is the perfect size for our study/guest room and was an absolute steal. They have a fun selection of cheap-but-interesting home decor, food (hello, Vegemite), and seasonal stuff, and regularly have amazing sales. My problem, though? Getting my mitts on much of this sale merchandise.

The first instance of this was an email that I got, telling me of a big wine sale that they were having (like 20-30% per-bottle discounts); not one to turn up my nose at cheap international wines, I headed on down and loaded up my cart with the required (by the sale! Not my drinking habits.) dozen bottles. At the register, I was informed that only certain bottles were on sale, and that they were somehow marked as such. To make an actually-pretty-boring-and-long story short, I will tell you that roughly 45 minutes were spent searching for acceptable bottles and that this time included multiple instances of the employee who was helping me admitting that they should have made the conditions of this MASSIVE! SALE! more clear. Sigh. But, for my trouble, I got a dozen bottles of wine for under $100.

More recently, we were in the market for a little outdoor furniture set. I got another sale email from World Market, telling me that they had a set on sale ($100 off!), so I hustled over to the nearest store…where I was informed that, since I had dared to wait four days since receipt of the email, they had sold out of the eight sets that had been in their inventory. I would assume that if a store was planning on deeply discounting an item, they might be able to foresee some amount of increased demand, but then again I’m not an economist. Disappointed, I was heartened when a manager told me that the same set would be on sale in a few weeks, but in another color. Color? Who cares? Bring on the cheapie furniture!

Lo and behold, the email came. Not wanting to get too excited in advance, I called the store, was initially told they were sold out (a-freaking-gain), but finally found that they had a set leftover from a previous sale (had been held for someone else, but a different set was given to them, blah blah confusioncakes). I told them that I would be there in about an hour, asked if they could hold it for me, was told that they could, and then (and then!) was told that they didn’t need to be told my name, “Just come in and say we have a set on hold for you.”

I should have known that this was iffy at best. Of course, when I arrived at the store, I had to retell the whole phone conversation that I had had earlier, and finally had the set in my sight…almost. Eyeing the floor model, I asked what size the boxes were (yes, assembly required– cheap stuff usually comes at that cost), and the teenage cashier said that the two boxes were “about the size of [her].” Well sure, I can fit you in my car, easy, I thought, but she seemed dubious. “Do you have a friend with a truck? It doesn’t even have to be a truck, just a large van or SUV.” Look, lady, all my friends have small Asian or European cars, and I’m not about to hire a U-Haul. Let’s make this work. “Uh, can we just see if they’ll fit? I’ve put big stuff in there before.” With a sigh, she informed the strongman in the back that I wanted the set brought out. The result?

Suck it, World Market girl. And, a couple hours later?

Ah yes, a backyard oasis. I could get used to demanding perfectly reasonable things from customer service people!

Note: I have held multiple customer service positions, and have been tortured by customers a fair amount of times. In overcoming my nonconfrontational nature, I’m aiming more for “what has been promised to me by the store” than for “some crazy thing that I believe they owe me.” Don’t want to overcorrect, do we?


About Megan

I read, I write, I drink wine while watching way too much tv. Let's be friends.

2 responses »

  1. I work in customer service currently, and I’m on your side with this. Some people are just awful at the job.

    Also I want to hump that set. It’s gorgeous.

  2. Oh, Cost Plus. I worked there for five years, so I can tell you what’s up with the name. The founder supposedly sold the merchandise “at cost, plus tax” which to me always sounded bogus. Where were the profits supposed to come from?

    The cashier probably hasn’t been working there for very long. I’ve seen a ton of large boxes somehow made to fit in teensy cars.


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