I tend to be a pretty nice shopper, particularly to clerks who I know are just hired hands and likely aren’t even being paid very much.
That is, until somebody isn’t nice to me. Then all guns come out a-blazin’.
That’s what happened the other day at Home Depot. The problem arose when I went back to return a couple of small things that ended up not being right about two weeks after the purchase.
I had recently gone into this particular Home Depot store for the first time in many, many moons and had been quite impressed by the huge turnaround in service. Smiling employees stopped me to ask if I found what I needed, if I asked somebody about a location they’d walk me there and make sure I found it, if somebody couldn’t help me they’d find somebody who could -- obvious hard work on Home Depot’s part to keep the ship from sinking as the economy had gone downhill.
So instead of dreading a visit I happily waltzed in to take care of my return. I even waved at a clerk I had met a week earlier and with whom I had exchanged jokes. I looked up at the ceiling signs, found one that indeed said “Returns” at the same desk where the sign said “Customer Service” and walked over to the counter.
“Hi, there. I have a couple of small items to return. Is this the right place?” I asked the woman who frankly appeared to be sort of hiding behind the computer monitors.
“NO,” exploded out of her mouth, dripping with “are you stupid?” sarcasm. “It’s over there, you know, where it SAYS returns?” The innuendo of my deep ignorance was so thick I needed one of their chainsaws to cut through it.
I literally took a couple of steps back from the counter as if it were going to go up in flames in front of me.
“OK,” I said, sorta puzzled, looking up at the sign over her desk. There, indeed, was the word “Returns.”
“But it does say ‘Returns’ here, too,” I pointed out.
“WHERE?” she said, stepping back, putting her hands on her hips and staring up at the sign in disbelief, again oozing with that “oh gawd this woman is so stupid” tone of voice.
“THERE!” I said, deciding to fight fire with fire. “Right there, over your head, left column on the bottom. Can’t you SEE IT?”
“WHERE?!” she demanded again, crossing her arms across her body and glaring at me then back at the banner.
“THERE!” I said, raising a finger to point at it as I moved toward the other returns counter. “Are you blind?”
She just harrumphed and went back to her hiding position on a stool behind the monitors at the counter.
I approached the other counter marked with a sign that also said "Returns" where the young woman had heard the exchange. I smiled kindly and said, “Here you go and here is the receipt…. Now tell me, that does say ‘Returns’ on that banner over there, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said meekly.
Sure, I could have stormed over to the manager, but that woman was going to get herself fired soon enough. Of that I was sure. Meanwhile, I would be avoiding that store.