Eez not mai yob, man!
Those over a certain age will instantly recognize this line from the 1970s sitcom “Chico and the Man”. I remember laughing hysterically as a kid whenever Freddie Prinze uttered that line to Jack Albertson.
It’s one thing when that line is spoken in an over-the-top accent as a way to thumb one’s nose at racial and otherwise derogatory attitudes. And it’s another thing entirely when that line becomes a mantra for doing the least amount of work humanly possible combined with the worst attitude one can muster.
Guess which one of those I ran into at Wal-Mart?
I ran out to the store to purchase some blank discs. It was the only thing I purchased and I did not have any kids with me. I went to one of the self-serve checkouts, hoping to get out as quickly as possible.
The scanned price rang up $3.00 higher than the price marked on the shelf. Normally, I would not have noticed this. I would have had too many items or the kids would have distracted me. But I noticed it. Part of me said that it was only a couple of dollars and that it wasn’t worth the hassle.
However, I decided that mindset was way too cavalier.
I walked back to the section where I picked up the discs to make sure the price was what I remembered. After I confirmed my price was correct, I went to see about getting a refund. The section was right next to the one-hour photo checkout. I figured that since the woman working in the photo section could easily see that the scanned price did not match the listed price, it would be very easy for me to get my refund.
There was an older couple having some trouble getting their digital photos together at the little kiosk. The Wal-Mart worker gave an eye roll that ranked at least a 9.0 for having to walk out from behind her little area to help customers who clearly needed assistance. She helped them and walked back to her fortress and asked brusquely if she could help me.
I explained what happened and a smile cracked her face. But her glee came not from being able to handle a customer problem quickly. No, it came from being able to pass the buck. She immediately told me, in perfect English, that it was not her job and that I would have to see someone in electronics.
The electronics department was right there, so this was no big deal. The person could easily walk over and see the incorrect scanned price and give me my refund.
Of course, no one was at the register at the electronics department. I finally track down someone who seemed like a Wal-Mart worker. See, I could tell because he wasn’t actually working. He was in the middle of an animated conversation with a security worker about things that some women like to do. But when I told him my issue, he seemed genuinely interested in helping me.
We walked back together to the shelf to examine the price. He gave it a thorough going over and concluded that I was, indeed, correct. But he politely told me, in perfect English, that it was not his job and that I would have to go to customer service. Of course, that was nowhere near the shelf in question and any hopes of getting out quickly went down in flames.
As I trudged from the back of the super Wal-Mart to the front, I wondered about the motivation of the electronics worker. He seemed eager to help me but then dumped me as quick as he could once he found that I had a legitimate grievance. Was he interested in pointing out to me that I was a stupid customer and merely looked at the wrong price? Was his enthusiasm limited to the possibility of the “gotcha” moment?
I had plenty more time to ponder this as I waited in line at customer service, also known as the return desk. My buddy Zac has been writing articles about Christmas, so I guess it’s the middle of the Christmas shopping season, which means that the return desk is an even cheerier place than normal to be.
The woman working the desk had the blankest look on her face you could possibly imagine. And I don’t blame her a bit. I’m not sure what percentage of returns is legitimate but if you told me that 50% of them were bogus, it wouldn’t surprise me. This woman obviously was beaten down by all the lies she had been told and her only coping mechanism was to detach herself completely from her current situation
Eventually I made it to the front of the line and explained my situation. She got on the intercom and asked for someone from electronics to call her back. After several phone calls back and forth and an eternity of waiting on my part, the woman told me that no, the scanned price was correct.
I offered to take a picture with my phone to show her the correct price and much to my surprise, she agreed. I know people must have thought I was crazy when I did that but that was the least of my concerns.
I showed her my picture and her whole demeanor changed. The person who spends all day getting lied to had someone tell her the truth. I wonder if she goes home and tells people this story, prefacing it with – you’ll never believe this, a customer didn’t fib to me!
She gave me my refund and apologized for the whole process. She promised to take it up with the people in electronics, too. My theory is that you don’t want to piss off someone who spends their day with a blank look on their face. If you do something to get a negative reaction from an emotional cripple, my guess is that there’s hell to pay.
So, I’m left wondering if $3.20 was worth waiting an extra 35 minutes in Wal-Mart. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that question. But it does make me wonder about something else.
Does Wal-Mart intentionally enter higher prices into its register data base to make up for the lies told at the return desk?
Whatever the case may be, I’ll be watching the scan prices closer from now on. Especially at Wal-Mart.