I would love to think that everyone in Austin reads The Strangelands. I would love to think that everyone was so enamored with Hate Week that they came in to my workplace today, pissing and moaning—and sometimes yelling—out of respect for all the wonderful work we do here at The Strangelands.
But even MY world of delusion isn’t concrete enough to believe that. So, instead of ruling over the people, I will just ridicule them. I’m going to go ahead and say that this is all part of the good-natured fun of Hate Week, but let’s face it—I’m always against the customer.
So I’m dealing with the usual nonsense that the brainless consumers bring in—everything from returning an electronic product because they have the batteries in the wrong way to getting lost on the way to the bathrooms—and my day is sucking, because I’d much rather be home writing about how I hate the customers.
This lady comes in, she’s got this giant box, she’s swaying all over the place with it. She tries to cut in front of the line, but I’ll have none of it. I take the next customer in line and ignore her until she gets to the back of the line. Ignoring customers is one of my favorite activities. She carries her box a little ways, puts it down on the floor. Brings it back to the counter. “I’m going to sit this right here,” she says.
“Sure,” I say, in my work voice. My work voice is kind of this fake-jovial, practically kiss-ass kind of voice, like I’m so happy that people are lining up to bitch at me that I can barely keep from peeing my pants. My customers may not get the best customer service in the world, but they get some great acting.
“It’s heavy,” she says.
“Okay, no problem.”
“I can’t carry it all around.”
“Yeah, it’s not a problem,” I say to her. She just stands there looking at me, like I need to give her a freakin’ medal or something for doing such a good job bringing in the crap she wants to return. But I don’t pass out medals. I’m hard as rock, you know? And twice as cold. Yeah, baby, dig it.
So she goes back to her place in line, I’m dealing with like a thousand guys in a row who their mothers got them telephones for Christmas. A note to all our readers: for Hate Week, you should run right out and buy someone a telephone. Don’t give them the receipt or anything. They’ll absolutely abhor getting this gift, I bet. I don’t know why, I just know that I returned something like thirty of them today.
But moving right along.
The lady finally gets up to the counter, she tells me she wants to return this. It’s in this gigantic box, I’m thinking maybe it’s a new house for a homeless person that just didn’t work out, I don’t know. I open the box, and there’s another box inside of it, along with tons of inflatable plastic packing material.
This other box, it’s really pretty small, and when I open it up, there’s a Sony laptop in there. This thing, this box that this lady has been staggering all over the place with because it’s so damn heavy, it weighs about seven pounds. And this is not some weak old lady. This is just some whiny chick—maybe late fifties—who is about to turn into some over-the-top soap-opera reject lunatic. Of course, I didn’t know this at first, or I would have tried to add to her insanity in little ways that might push her over the top and cause her to run out onto the highway and get hit by some sort of large truck. Man, like they say about hindsight, you know?
So she starts telling me all about her life, because that’s what all annoying customers do. You want to be a customer? Be terse. Get to the point, and quit bugging me with the tragic story that you seem content to call your life.
By the time she gets to the end of her little story, I can already tell that this is going to quickly become some sort of incident. Because all through the story, she’s telling me about how she just wants her money back, she really loved the computer, but it just doesn’t work for her, and she just wants her money back, even though she really loved the computer, she’s just going to get her money back, but she really LOVED this computer, but she just can’t get it to work, so she’s just going to return it. For her money back.
The thing is, where I work, there’s a restocking fee for computers and computer related items that have been opened. 15%. And customers, they never listen to that part when they’re making the purchase. So they’re always shocked and pissed off when you tell them. And then you point out the receipt, where it clearly states the return policy, and they say something like, “Well who the hell reads receipts?” Which is actually a very good point. Except that I do. So when they ask me who the hell reads receipts, I tell them that I always read the receipt before I try to make a return, just to be sure what the policy is.
And then when they go, well everybody isn’t like you, I go, “What, are you calling me fat?” Actually I don’t. But I think I will tomorrow.
So you point out the receipt, and then you point out the gigantic yellow sign that is placed right above the merchandise pickup spot. This huge yellow sign, it also has the return policy printed all over it. But fuck it, right? I’m here to buy a five thousand dollar computer, that doesn’t mean I can read.
Where do all these idiots get their money from? I mean, for Pete’s sake! You have enough money to buy thousands of dollars worth of electronics, but you don’t have the sense to check out the return policy? (Notice my clever play on words there. Yeah, I’m slick as hell.)
I think that there’s a big building somewhere—I haven’t found it yet, but I will—and there’s a huge sign that says, “Come inside for wonderful gifts.” Or something like that. Right next to the sign, there’s a big door—like maybe a garage door, or like an airplane hangar door. And if some guy comes up, reads the sign, and then smashes face first into the three-foot section of the building that ISN’T a door, some guys run up, give him a bucket of money, and tell him, “Go get yourself a nice computer.”
I know it sounds farfetched, but some of these people, I doubt they can tie their shoes, much less earn a living. I mean, how have these morons managed to stay alive this long?
Anyways, so the lady. And her computer. And the restocking fee.
“No, no, no, dear—you’re mistaken.”
“No, ma’am,” I assure her. “This is actually my job—I do this all day, everyday. I know our return policy better than I would like.”
“Andrew told me that I had thirty days, no restocking fee.”
“We actually don’t have anyone by that name working here.” Me, I’m the image of coolness, even though I’ve spent the morning thinking about how I’m wasting my life at this dead-end job, and I should really go do something else before I get gunned down by some lunatic who bought a TV six years ago and can’t figure out why I won’t let him exchange it.
“Yes you do.” She sounds very sure of herself.
“Are you sure you called the right store?” Maybe some dude at a different store told her, sure, bring it right on in, we’ll give you your money back, and to hell with the restocking fee.
“I didn’t talk to anyone in this store. Of course I didn’t talk to anyone in this store!” Of course not. Makes perfect sense, in the mind of a lunatic, I guess. Not the fun kind of lunatic, like the folks here at The Strangelands, though.
She’s getting louder now, and the pitch of her voice is rising. That’s how you can tell that it’s about to get fun.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we have a restocking fee.”
“No! I can’t believe you would even tell me something like that! It doesn’t work! Why would I buy a computer if I didn’t want one?” She’s yelling now.
It’s against company policy to answer questions like this with any kind of honesty. It doesn’t say that anywhere, but I’m pretty sure if a customer like this lady asks, “Why would I buy a computer if I didn’t want one?” and I responded, “Because you’re an insane bitch who likes to spread as much misery as possible throughout the world,” I would get fired. Truly, there’s no justice.
I tell her that we’ll sure exchange it for her, I apologize for the inconvenience of having to come down here, but we value her as a customer, blah, blah, fucking blah.
Let me take this opportunity to apologize for my crude language. I know it offends some people. Plus, my mom reads this, and I know she doesn’t like me using that kind of language. But sometimes you just have to use the eff word. And when your job sucks as bad as mine does, you have to use that word a lot. The way I figure, it’s either use obscene language or mainline toilet cleaner—‘cause you have to have a vent, you know?
So, yeah, I’m kissing up to this lunatic woman, wondering if this is the customer who comes in body-wrapped with dynamite, hoping that if she is, she’ll take a couple of my managers out, too.
She demands to see a manager. This would almost be a bright side, except for today all of the managers are in a conference call. Because corporations are stupid as well as evil, they do things like round up all the managers, put them in a room, and talk to them on the phone. Somewhere this makes sense, I guess. “Say, Bill, why don’t we just make a day where there is no management available to manage the store?” “Sounds like a good plan, Bob. Let’s go grab a burger.” Generally, I would support this plan a hundred percent. Let’s face it—managers are clueless, stupid, and egocentric, and any business would be better without them. But people are always asking for managers—because managers are generally inbred monkey crack-babies and are very easy to take advantage of. Not my managers, of course, because I gotta pay rent. My managers are awesome and smart…and very attractive.
So she’s telling me to get a manager, and I can’t do it. Because all of my managers are talking on the phone. I don’t even try to explain this ridiculous concept to her.
She’s screaming now, about how I lied to her when I sold this thing to her, this computer, she’s screaming about how I lied to her about the return policy—I told her it was thirty days and no restocking fee.
“I didn’t sell you anything,” I tell her. Because that’s the truth.
“Oh, yes you did, and now you’re losing a customer!”
“I’m just some guy.” I point to my nametag. My stupid nametag, it reads, “RAY.” Just under that, it reads, “Customer Service.” “I didn’t sell you anything. I’ve never talked to you until a minute ago.”
“You change around all the things you say! You change your policy!”
Yeah. Me, I’m real big on policy, and changing it. That’s right, readers, I’m always going over my own personal policy, writing and rewriting, getting ready for a supreme final draft that will really envelope everything about me. And in case you didn’t catch it, this paragraph drips sarcasm like the drool off this insane woman’s chin.
Over and over again, man. I tell this lady over and over again that I am not Andrew, that she’s never talked to me, that I don’t have anything against her. That last part’s a lie, though, because at this point, I want to drown her in the nastiest toilet in the nastiest dive-bar ever invented.
None of it matters, though. She’s off, oh my goodness is she off. I give her the corporate customer support number, I tell her these are the people that can save her from people like me. I point her in the direction of the courtesy phone, and I wait.
“I’m going to call this number,” she tells me. She’s waving the Post-It note around in my face, the one I was just writing on. It’s really annoying, and I’m losing my image as the image of cool.
“Fine,” I tell her. “That would be good.”
“I’m leaving this computer here. I’ll be watching you. I’m leaving it right here. I guess maybe I can trust you not to steal it while I can still see you.”
I’ve never wanted to steal something more in my life.
She walks off, and I almost die laughing. This loony is the highlight of my day. Maybe it’s sad, but I won’t get entertainment like this again for the rest of the afternoon, man.
I help other customers, I do my job, I’m a bundle of activity as I take care of the line that has built up while I was dealing with Lunatic Lady. But really, I’m just waiting.
She’s over there, she’s slamming the phone down over and over and over again, ever couple of seconds.
And then she’s back. “That’s the wrong number, that’s the wrong phone number.”
I give this phone number out to about twenty people a day, all of the wretched masses that want to complain about whatever, they want their voices heard. I have called it myself, just to see what happens. Because I don’t want to be giving out this number, assuring my maniac customers that it will help, and really it turns out to be a message like, “Ha, ha, ha. Fuck you, dummy.”
Wait a minute. Yeah I do. I think I just discovered another Hate Week project.
Oh, yeah, but back to the subject. Lady telling me how I gave her the wrong number, but I didn’t. So I dial it. It works just fine. I hand her the phone, she’s over there muttering about how I tricked her.
And then I go to lunch.
It’s really a very anticlimactic story. I got back from lunch, she wasn’t there. I asked some coworkers, “What happened to crazy lady?”
“She left right after you did.”
Thanks, crazy lady, for giving me a work story for Hate Week and for giving me another reason to despise humanity.