Oh autumn! My favorite time of the year! The calm before the holiday storm. Having worked in restaurants and retail since high school, the months of November and December have always been the busiest time of year for me. It is also the scariest. There is so much pressure on people these days to make the holidays perfect, to find the best gift, all that jazz. Individuals get so caught up in the holiday craziness that they take our their stress on people around them, often on the very people who are trying to assist them.
When I decided to start this blog I had decided that I would not write about my customers, not only for their privacy but also because I would like to keep my job. But I do see and experience things from the other side of the retail counter that are similar to scenes that I see often in my work.
Common sense says if you pay monthly for some type of service, such as cable or internet, you would expect that you need to pay the bill monthly, right? I have had to explain to many a customer that if you fall behind three months on your account, that service will be suspended until the bill is paid. We are one of the few companies that give you that much time before turning off services, and we try to work with you because we know that sometimes things happen. Medical emergencies or a change of address are just. A few examples.
But sometimes people just lack common sense.
Let’s do some retail math: John signs up for a service that cost him $50 per month. However, John decided that he doesn’t want to pay that much so the first and second month he only pays $25, and on the third month he doesn’t pay at all. How long does it take for John to blame the local sales rep for his services being turned off?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been blamed for someone’s inability or rather, refusal, to pay their bill. I will gladly and happily go over options or help you, or try to find a way to make your bill more manageable, but I do not have the magic power to cut your bill in half while giving you twice the stuff. If I could, I’m fairly certain that I would be a billionaire by now.
And this is what I witnessed when stopping in to pay my bill at my local internet company.
I had run out of stamps and decided that since I would be in that neck of the woods that I would pay my bill at the local office. The moment I stepped over the threshold and took my place, the flannel covered curmudgeon in overalls who was waiting in front of me was mumbling under his breath. When he was called up, he slammed what looked to be his bill on the counter in front of the young lady. She looked to be barely out of high school.
This young thing, who I’ll call Amy, greeted him in a high chipper voice “Good morning! What can I do for you today sir?”
“Who do you think you are messing with my stuff!” was the delightful reply that she received. Clearly it flustered her a bit.
“W-what do mean sir?” Amy was trying her best to stay professional, despite the fact that this man kept trying to lean further over the counter, pushing past that invisible line that encompasses a personal bubble.
“You turned off my internet! That’s what I mean.” Curmudgeon had a powerfully loud voice. He should have been in theater.
I really felt badly for Amy, I’ve been through similar situations and it can be hard not to get defensive when a 6-foot plus man is trying to bully you into something.
Amy calmly asked if she could see his statement so that she could take a look at the account and see if she could figure out what’s going on. This reasonable request was answered with “You can read cantcha?” as he threw his statement at her, the papers fluttering in the air. I have to hand it to her, she handled Mr. Curmudgeon with patience and firmness.
She calmly picked up the papers and pulled up the account on her computer all while being blasted with profanities about how it was her fault that his service was interrupted. She calmly told him that she could only help him if he refrained from using that language and calmed down. Now this was answered with a loud “I AM!”
After a few moments she calmly turned to him. “Well, Mr. Curmudgeon, (okay, that’s not really his name, but I bet it made you smile a little) it looks as though your service was turned off because your bill is two months past due.”
“So? Since when does that give you the right to turn off my internet?”
Oh, Amy. Beautiful, brilliant Amy…..
“Since you signed a contract stating that would would received services as long as payments for said services are being made in a timely fashion. As the payments have not been made, the company considers the contract terminated and no longer provides said services.” Amy stood there a moment to let this information sink in for a moment. When she didn’t receive a response she gently offered that if he paid the bill in full she could resume service.
“You expect me to pay you money when you won’t give me internet?” Amy smiled at him and firmly replied that she expected that if he paid his bill she could turn it back on.
Have I mentioned that I like Amy? The man eventually paid a portion of his bill, telling Amy that he would have to come in later with more and she told him that as a courtesy she could tun it back on, and that it would remain on if he paid by the end of the week.
I go through interactions similar to this with my customers from time to time, I try to be a respectful as possible, and offer options whenever possible, but why do people think that by yelling and screaming at me that I can change something. Believe me, if you are yelling at me because you are unhappy, I would much rather press a magic button and turn on your service so that you will leave. And screaming at at messenger just makes you look foolish.
So this holiday season, as you get pushed around and stressed out by the season, remember this: Amy is my hero. She is the patron saint of retail workers.