You Is Smart. You Is Kind. You Is Important. But You Isn’t That Important.

2 Aug

There’s an old adage that says, “The Customer Is Always Right.” I could not disagree more.

Being back in New York after six months on the road has reminded me that people are dumb here, too. I don’t know exactly how I never noticed it, but people say and do the most ridiculous things, and often because they feel entitled to something. The example that immediately comes to mind transpired in Houston, Texas, just a few weeks ago. Here’s how it went down:

PATRON (buying a sweatshirt): Do you have posters?
ME (indicating the poster under her hand): Yep…that’s the poster there.
PATRON: Is it free with my purchase?
ME: Um, no. The poster is $15.
PATRON: Oh! Well. Can we make an exception for me?
ME: Are you accustomed to getting a free poster with your merchandise purchases?
PATRON: Sometimes.
ME: But not all of the time.
PATRON: Sometimes.
ME: Well, unfortunately this will not be one of those times.

What, exactly, made this woman think that simply by asking, I would make an exception for her and give her a poster for free? Everyone else had to pay $15 for a poster if they wanted one, but for some reason she thought that didn’t apply to her. Would she walk into a western wear store and ask to get a free pair of spurs with her purchase of boots? My guess is that yes, she probably would. But why?! I’m all for self esteem and whatnot, but really – who did she think she was? The Queen of Houston? The Czarina of Texas?

Tonight a scenario played out that I surprisingly experienced last year at Evita. It went a little something like this:

PATRON (on her way out the theatre with her 12-year old daughter in tow): Hi. My daughter bought this mug and then when we were waiting in line for the bathroom, someone bumped into us and it shattered. I was wondering if you could just give me a new one that’s not broken…?
ME: Was the mug broken when you purchased it?
PATRON: No, it wasn’t. It got broken after we bought it.
ME: No…I’m sorry. If the mug had been damaged when we sold it to you, I could, but it was in good shape when you purchased it. (Inner monologue: It’s not our fault you can’t take care of things for more than 10 minutes.)
PATRON (Offended, as if I’d just told her that no, she could not take her top off in the lobby): Oh! Fine! I was just asking, but that’s fine!

Can someone please explain her reasoning to me? From a salesperson’s perspective, here’s how I see it: The merchandise was in sellable condition when she purchased it. Had the mug been cracked or broken when it was handed to her, I would happily have replaced it. However, when she paid for said mug, she became the owner of that mug. I simply do not believe that someone bumping into you would shatter a ceramic mug. My guess is she or her daughter dropped it or hit it against something much more rigid than another human being, so why should I – or, more specifically, my boss – have to give her a second mug for free to replace the one that she was so careless with in the first place?

Now, I know some of you may think that’s harsh or rude or unprofessional, but let me put it to you another way. Scenario: You walk into Macy’s and buy a bottle of perfume. Ten minutes later, you go to the bathroom and set the bag in which your perfume is stuffed on the counter as you wash your hands. As you turn to grab a paper towel, you accidentally knock the bag to the ground and your bottle of Exclamation! or Electric Youth shatters all over the tile floor. Would you return to the perfume counter and honestly expect Macy’s to provide you with a brand new bottle of perfume free of charge because you “just bought it a few minutes ago?” I think most people with any common sense would say “No!,” but sadly I’m learning that we are in a severe common sense drought in America. To me, expecting to get a free replacement for something you bought and destroyed in less than 10 minutes is as asinine as being shocked by a “You Break It, You Bought It” policy.

To continue this line of entitlement, yesterday during the matinee intermission I had a very large group of people rush to my booth, including several theatre camp kids who all wanted to buy keychains and magnets – basically anything under $20. Including those kids, I probably had about 60 people waiting for me to help them, and I was trying to handle three people at a time. After all, I only had 15 minutes to help them all. (Selling on the road has prepared me well for getting through large groups of people quickly.) To my right, I could see a woman was standing there sort of staring at me. While I was counting someone’s money, this happened:

WOMAN: How much are the t-shirts?
ME (shocked that she clearly didn’t notice or care that I was in the middle of three separate transactions): Ma’am, the line starts back there.
WOMAN: I was just asking how much the t-shirts are!
ME: They’re $30 or $35. Now, please…the line starts back there. All of these people are waiting patiently for me to help them.
WOMAN: I was just asking how much they were! You don’t have to get pissy!

Again I wonder, “What made that person think that she didn’t have to wait in line while everyone else did?” She “just” had a question about prices, but I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone in the line wanted to know, too. She just didn’t want to wait, so she skipped the line. It would have been unfair for me to take care of her needs while I had three people waiting for their change or shirts and fifty some-odd people waiting behind them, but she felt that I was rude to her by suggesting that she had to wait just like everyone else. So she complained about me. And, unfortunately, that’s how this job goes sometimes. I had already explained the situation to my manager by the time the complaint was made and he was able to blow it off, but still – I don’t like getting complaints. Especially when I don’t feel that I was in the wrong.

So, please. Someone please explain to me this idea of entitlement…this mentality of “the rules apply to everyone but me,” because I was certainly not raised that way. You is smart. You is kind. You is important. But you isn’t that important.

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