The first part of today's weirdness was due to something that happened yesterday. Some young woman came in to return a phone. Okay, easy enough. But I accidentally screwed up the return, and re-sold her the phone she was trying to return. So then I had to go back and give her two refunds. Which I did, no problem.
However, she came back later that day complaining that the refund hadn't showed up on her card, and she was going to be over her credit card limit. (A $9.99 phone and you're going to be over your credit limit?) So we called the credit card company on her cell phone, and the operator explained to her that while debits from a card post immediately, it may sometimes take as long as 3 days for credits to post. She couldn't seem to understand this. I mean, like ZERO comprehension:
Her: "So I don't get a refund?"
Credit card company rep on phone: "You will get a refund, but it may be a as much as three days."
Her: "But my balance will be over the limit."
CCCR: "Ma'am, don't worry about it, you have a 30 day grace period."
Her: "But I'll be OVER the LIMIT. Are you telling me I don't get a refund?? Because it doesn't sound like I get a refund..."
CCCR: "No, you'll get a refund, but it might be three business days."
(This continues for about ten minutes.)
Anyway, she called again today complaining about the same thing, and wanting ANOTHER refund. My manager had overheard the story the first time, but kept her on the phone and went back and reviewed the receipts from all three of the transactions I did. After seeing that everything was in perfect order, she told the girl straight up that we're sorry, but you've got both your refunds just fine, and it's your credit card company's fault if they won't process them for a couple of days. Radio Shack can't force them to process any transaction, and can't control the speed at which transactions get processed in their computers.
But she still wasn't happy. Still asked to talk to me again. And I felt just a little bit responsible because I did screw up her return the first time. So basically, long story short, I took off my name tag, walked outside and down to the Safeway with her, and gave her $11 out of my own pocket. I figured this should square us, as the refund on the phone was $10.74 ($9.99 plus tax). I made it clear that this was me personally doing this, not Radio Shack, as Radio Shack's official position per my manager was that they had done nothing wrong and did not owe her anything. And my manager had told me directly that I wasn't allowed to give her a third refund. She just kinda stared at me blankly. So I asked her if she was satisfied that she had gotten her money back. She said she was. And then she started rambling about how her car needed new brakes, and her ex-boyfriend was a mechanic who used to do this kind of thing for her, but lately he had been stalking her and keying her car.(???!)
I had no freaking clue what to say at this point, so I shrugged and told her that I take my Civic to Hoshi, and I recommended them highly, and maybe she could take it to them for an estimate. Another blank stare. So I shrugged, said goodbye and glad things are cool now, walked back to the store, put my nametag back on, and got back to helping people.
I'm not sure whether this girl was trying to scam us (and doing a really, really, ungodly bad job of it), or if she was just dumb as a rock, or if she was mentally ill or something. I'll probably never know.
The rest of the day after that was fairly busy. We did probably almost a grand worth of sales cumulative, which is about 5 times what the store used to do with the old incompetent manager. I made the cash drop again, there was $450 in the deposit bag this time. I tried to do it at 6pm while it was still light out, but we always seem to get this rush of customers between 6:15 and 7. (I need to do it at like, 5:30 when everyone is commuting in rush hour. We get about 2 customers between 5-6...) So I didn't get out of the store with the cash bag until almost 7:30. I guess that's better than doing it at nearly 9. :P My cow-orker who covered the store while I was gone was like, "What's the big deal? We used to deposit like $1500 in cash at the Pueblo store where I used to work..." He also expressed surprise that I would fold up the clear plastic deposit bag with the 1 1/2" thick wad of $100, $50 and $20 bills in it, and put it in my pocket out of sight, instead of just waving it around loosely in my hand as I stepped outside...
After I got back from making the deposit, my cow-orker left early to go on a semi-date. Which was more than cool by me, as it gets pretty damn dead after about 7:30 and there was no point in having two people in the store anyway.
So it was just about 8, and the store was dead, and I was thinking, "Man, I may get out of here by 8:30 for once!" But, predictably, two minutes before closing, in walks a customer...
She's about 5'3", maybe 120 lbs, dressed in a hat and scarf, long sleeve jacket, black pants. About mid 50's I'd say. Some wrinkles, but only a teeny sign of grey hair. I approach her and ask her if there's anything I can help her find - my usual greeting to someone who's just walked in. She's having trouble finding two of the 8-conductor female/female couplers for her phone lines, as there's only one of them on the shelf. I tell her that unless she's using some pretty expensive custom PBX setup, she probably wants the normal, everyday, every house in America, 4-conductor couplers - which we have about 7 of on the peg. She doesn't seem to get this immediately. "What do you mean, four wire coupler?" she says. I explain that each phone line uses two wires, and that you can thus only put two lines on a normal, everyday 4 conductor phone wire. She stares at me blankly. I pick a random phone cord off the peg-wall and show her the four gold connections on the bottom, and how they correspond to the yellow, black, green and red wires within. She pounces on another random cord from the wall, and looks at it intently. After a minute, she takes the two four-wire couplers I'm offering her, and we turn towards the register. Cool. Looks like I may get out of here by 8:30 after all...
Then she stops and says rather abruptly, "Where are the answering machines, do you not have any?" I point out the three (one sold completely out) way up high above the phones. I apologize for there being so little stock. I explain that the previous manager of the store mismanged it so badly that the district manager started refusing to send him inventory, as a punishment. Then told her she might want to to check out the 28th street store, as they almost always have more inventory than we do.
"But they'll be closed, won't they?"
"Yes, it's 8pm, and they close at the same time we do."
"But I need an answering machine tonite! One of my two machines failed, because I just moved, and it took me four hours to disconnect and reconnect it all!"
"Uh... okay. Well, we have two good ones still on the shelf here - both are digital recorders so there's no tape, and one is high capacity so you can record a ton of-"
"BUT I NEEDED THE ONE WITH A TAPE IN IT!!"
"Okay... Sure, I understand. The guy who took the last one off the shelf here wanted the same thing. Didn't like the digital, wanted tape. Really though, I think you're better off going to the 28th street store, they have a lot more inventory than we do. We won't get in another one of those for at least two weeks, that's when the district mandated "force-feed" inventory shipment comes in."
"But I need one tonite! Can I go to Target and get one?"
"Uh... not sure if Target has answering machines. I guess they might..."
"But do they have the ones with the tape??"
"Umm... I don't know. I can give you their phone number."
"Oh. Well, this one you don't have, does it have rewind and fast-forward and all that?"
"Uh... I would assume so. Since we don't have one I can't really check. It's a tape based recorder, I can't see how they could build one without rewind and fast-forward. Let me go look up the manual on-line here at our web terminal with Radioshack.com and we'll see..." So I pull up the manual and look at the table of contents. There are actually page headings in the table of contents that tell you what page of the manual tells you how to operate the rewind and fast-forward buttons. (Gotta love completly drool-proof documentation...)
After this she seems momentarily at a loss for what to do, and it's 8:06, so I suggest that if the couplers are all she needs, I can check her out at the left register. She says okay, and we head for the register.
While I'm checking her couplers out, she's starts rambling about how she has two answering machines, two caller-id boxes, two phones, and how this is terrible because now she's going to miss all her important calls. I say since she has two machines, maybe she can bring the dead one in and I can try it out in the store. (I like fooling around with stuff other people can't make work. I find about half the time they've got the batteries in wrong, didn't turn it on, don't understand how it works, etc.) Says she can't do that, because all the phone lines "go through her answering machines and into the caller-id and stuff." But the machine isn't working, right? So it doesn't matter, does it? Because you're not going to be getting messages anyway? "No, if I disconnect the answering machine, the caller id won't show." Uh, right, okay, sure. Whatever. "After tax, the couplers come to $6.21."
So she pays, but lingers at the counter for some reason. She brings up computers, I think because she was impressed with how I could read the manual for the answering machine we didn't have. She says, "I'm pretty dumb about computers, but I know I'd be real sharp if I learned about it. There's nobody like me - people who can't turn on a computer, don't know how to type on the keyboard, don't know the first thing about it. But if I took some classes, I could be really smart. I know about the web. It's about bits, and hits, and making people see your page."
I'm just kinda puzzled here. She obviously has heard jargon, but doesn't have the first clue what she's talking about. So I make some offhand remark about how, yeah, the web is kinda cool if you know how to make pages.
"Do you know anyone who makes web pages?" she asks me. Yes, I say, my friend Mike Rothermel does it pretty well. He's done work for Mapquest and some other sites. "I had someone make my website for me once, but he stole my... (she puts her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart and kinda moves it through the air like she's showing a line of text)... my... (gesture again)... my... name? He paid for it on his credit card and then stole it from me. His name was Tom... uh... Tom. Tom."
At this point I'm barely avoiding laughing at her. Ye gods, I think to myself, this woman is none other than Rothermel's paranoid-schitzophernic neighbor. How the hell did she get into Boulder??
So she starts rambling again about how she needs to buy a computer, but she tried to take computer education classes through Gateway, because she hates Dell, because they were really mean to her on the phone the one time she called them. And how she tried to take CU Continuing Ed classes for computers, but she couldn't because the City Attourney of Boulder, Joe Des Raimses (who, incidentally, is a friend of my father's) was sitting beside her in the class! But she says, she's also going to be a lawyer, and go to CU law school, because just like computers, she would be really smart about law if she took some classes. "I'm going to take some pre-law at Front Range (community college)," she tells me." But anyway, since she doesn't know about computers, she needs someone to order her computer for her, because she can't understand what they're talking about when she calls them. She looks pleadingly at me...
I suggest she might want to look at getting a cheap used computer from EBay. She asks me what EBay is, and I have to slap my forehead. Of course she has no chance of getting a computer off EBay, without a computer of her own or net connection... I then say she might want to go to PC Express, a little used computer shop down near McGuckins. And then I spend about ten minutes trying to explain to her where "across from McGuckins" is. She seems to know where the restaurant Turley's is, which is only about half a block away, but she doesn't seem to understand "across Folsom from McGuckins"...
At this point I'm so tired and weary and confused I just start to babble and free associate. I tell her about the Village Coffee Shop, a little cafe right next to PC Express. I tell her how it's one of the few places in Boulder where you won't ever find anyone wearing a tie. I talk about how Ricky Weiser (the woman mostly responsible for the fact that Boulder has tons of open space) used to eat there. That Ricky was an avid SCAdian, and how her son Scott, who I've vaguely talked to on Usenet a couple of times, burned her body on a funeral pyre when she died recently - as she had wanted. Not only does this random outburst not phase the woman, she actually starts grinning! She talks about computers and the web some more, incoherently as before.
A glance at my watch reveals it's 8:28 at this point, and I'm wondering how the hell I'm going to politely tell her I have to close up the store. Two somewhat rough-looking guys walk in, start pawing the merchandise. I figure they're probably late-night shoplifters. Great...
The woman's eyes get real big. She scoots in closer to the counter and looks at the guys fearfully. She asks me for a piece of paper and a pen. I mentally say "what the hell" and I give her a pen and the pad of post-it notes from behind the counter. In broken handwriting she writes, "These men have been standing outside, watching us for a long time." I nod and smile at her and say, "Hm, that's very interesting." She scratches out another note in ever worse handwriting. I can barely make out,"I think they were watching us..." I shrug and say, "Well, I'm open pretty late, so maybe they just were curious." She looks at me strangely and says, "You're not worried about it?" I shrug and say, "Not really." I mean, the guys look like they need to shave and wash their jackets, but they don't look like they're about to cut my throat or anything...
She gets even more nervous, and gives me the post-it notes to throw away (so the guys can't see them?). I toss them in the trash behind the counter. This seems to satisfy her, but she runs out the door anyway. Finally.
I approach the guys and ask them if there's anything I can help them find. They say not really, just looking. I nod, and say that technically the store closed at 8. So feel free to look around, but I'm going to get vacuum out and start cleaning up. At this they say "Oh" and head for the door. Not such bad guys after all it seems...
I swear to god, this place is a freak show two days a week. Today wasn't typical, but we still get a lot of weirdos through here. My other favorite memory is the retarded kids that came to look at phones. Apparently there's some home for developmentally disabled young adults somewhere near the store.
I feel bad for these folks because I think pretty much any store they walk into, the salesmen are going to either ignore them or try and fuck them. So I tend to overcompensate and treat them absolutely no different than any other customer. Never to talk down to them, never make any assumption that they're any less intelligent than anyone else, just help them find what they want and answer their questions. I think some people (including some of my co-workers) are insecure around the developmentally disabled, but they don't bug me. I've generally found them to be honest and kind - two traits that I often see lacking in people of higher intelligence.
My first week there, I helped a retarded guy and his girlfriend get a cordless phone. I found a great phone for them. It was on clearance for $20 - normally $60. The guy didn't talk much, but his girlfriend (also dev disabled) said that his counselor "would be very proud of him for getting such a good deal." She also had to fill out the check for him. And I had to write out the textual form of the dollar amount so she could copy it - she couldn't spell "twenty-three and 68/100's" by herself.
But apparently the guy told his friends how nice we had been to him, because the next week this other guy and his girlfriend (Him - deep south, white trash accent and a lazy eye. Her - 5'4, 230 lbs, major BO, and a nearly unintelligible speech impediment) came in. I spent almost an hour showing them different phones. "How much is this one?" (I walk over, read the tag right there.) "$70." "How about this one?" (Walk over, reads tag) "$200." "How about this one?" "$120" (Repeat for 45 minutes...)
They left without buying anything, but the guy said he'd be back in a couple days because "he gets his check." After they left, my co-worker Jenny had to open both doors to the store and blow the BO out onto the street for about half an hour. She can't even deal with these two herself because of the smell. Either I'm more tolerant or my sense of smell has just atrophied to the point where it doesn't bug me siginificantly any more.
They came back two days later. The guy had a crumpled ten in his hand. We don't have anything like what they wanted (cordless, with a speaker phone and built in answering machine) for $10. I had read them all the prices a couple days before, but they obviously didn't remember. I read them the prices again when they asked. Guy kept listening to me and then looking at the ten in his hand... I felt bad when they walked out empty handed. I imagine they were confused, and probably a bit hurt.
"That's so cute." Jenny said when I told her the story of them coming in with a $10. "Yeah, it is." I said. Sad, but cute...
Ah retail hell. How I love thee.