Don’t get mad, get even
Updated: June 29, 2012 12:03PM
DEAR READERS:Here at Fixer HQ, we’ve been enjoying your tales of horrible customer service all spring. The one about the car dealer who called the cops on a customer for taking too long on a test drive was one of our favorites (especially since they phoned her a week later, hoping to sell her a car).
Now it’s time to turn the tables.
Here’s a chance for all the front-line employees, waiters and waitresses, service people, small business owners and others who deal with the public to hold a mirror up to us consumers. We’re looking for stories of memorably obnoxious customers, in the noble hope that we can all eventually make the marketplace more pleasant.
So who is it? The cellphone yakkers? The parents with out-of-control kids? That guy who sneezes into the broccoli at the supermarket?
We’ll start things off with Melissa of Skokie, a front-line retail employee who doesn’t want her last name revealed. (She may have some rough customers, but she doesn’t want to lose her job.) Here’s what Melissa had to say:
“As someone who has held part-time retail jobs over the years and is married to someone who has been a server (waiter) for 20-plus years, I can tell you a thing or two about ‘offended’ customers.
“These are the people who want merchandise as cheap as possible and can’t understand why the stores are not staffed with enough people to wait on them hand and foot to meet their every need. When they see a store clerk helping someone, they come over and interrupt even if the people are in mid-conversation.
“They refuse to pay full price, and if you, the store employee, don’t immediately hand over a coupon when they don’t have one, watch out because they will call over the manager and tell them how rude you are.
“In large chain stores, the sales people are hourly employees. Most make about $8.50 to $9 per hour regardless of how long they’ve been there.
“Have I mentioned the people who want our help but are too busy to put down their cellphone? I have no desire to be part of someone else’s conversation. This is becoming worse as people are becoming addicted to their phones.
“In restaurants, these are the people who have children running around disturbing everyone because their conversation is more important than teaching their children how to behave respectfully in public. When they leave, the parents don’t attempt to clean up their kids’ mess, and in most cases don’t tip well.
“The server still has to share a portion of what the tip would have been with the bartender, hostess, and busser because the computer system used by the restaurant calculates these amounts regardless of the amount of tip.
“In Illinois, wait staff minimum wage is $4.95 per hour. How many people can you feed, dress and house on that?
“Everyone should have to work as a waiter and retail store employee at some point in their life. It would be a real eye-opener. I had a friend who used to treat waitstaff badly until she became one.
“I’m tired of hearing people complain about the service they receive in public. Their desire for cheap consumer goods is what has contributed to the problem of bad service. Stores have no incentive to hire people who give quality service, nor do they have any incentive to train them in it.”
Thanks, Melissa, for presenting the other side. In a past life, The Fixer worked as a fast-food cook and cashier, drugstore clerk, supermarket checker, waitress, telemarketer, light industrial worker and tour guide, so we know well what you speak of.
Readers, do you have a story of especially obnoxious customer behavior? We’d like to hear it for our special feature to run later this summer. Please email it to email@example.com and we’ll publish the best ones.
Dear Fixer: In December, we had the required five-year inspection by Nicor of our gas meter and pipes.
For some reason, in January, we got a notice telling us to make an appointment for this same inspection. I called and explained that we had it done already.
We got more letters in February and March, and each time I called to straighten it out. When I got another letter in April, I ignored it.
Then they sent a notice threatening to shut off our gas in eight days.
Nicor says they will correct their mistake, but they don’t. Who can we call to put a stop to this? What if we are on vacation and get an eight-day notice and come home to find our gas shut off?
This has nothing to do with our bill, which is current and up-to-date.
Dear Judith: Good news — we have solved The Mystery of the Annoying Nicor Notices! We asked Nicor PR pro Annette Martinez to do some digging, and she quickly discovered that due to an error, there were two inspection orders for your address.
So even after you completed the required inspection and that order was completed, the other order kept automatically generating those letters. When you called, it was noted in their system, but the inspection folks weren’t getting that info.
Martinez told us your gas would not have been shut off. The gas company “triple-checks” accounts before taking the drastic step to disconnect, she said.
At any rate, Nicor has now fixed the problem, so you needn’t worry about any more letters. She also apologized for the hassle.