A Former Retail Slave:
As many have said before - long time lurker, first time submitter.
I've worked my fair share of retail, but this story doesn't actually take place in a (technically) retail setting. After quitting my last retail job not quite a year and a half ago, I was unemployed by choice for a few months and then took a job working as a buyers' assistant at the corporate offices of a major retail chain. We have stores all over the US, Canada, and Europe under six or seven names, and our stores sell mainly clothing and/or home products. My buyers all buy for the stores that only carry home products.
Now, I normally have no contact with customers. I don't work in the retail division of the chain, I'm not in customer service or support, and customers generally shouldn't know about me at all. And yet, this happened:
One of my buyers forwarded me an email from one of the vendors she buys furniture from. The vendor had forwarded an email from a customer, complaining about a set of the vendor's chairs that she had bought from one of the other stores in our chain.
My buyer just wanted me to find our branch's customer service phone number and send it to the vendor, asking her to instruct the customer to contact them. Which I did, and expected it to be the end of it.
I found out a few days later that after not being satisfactorily helped by our customer service (maybe because she didn't buy the product at our store, and it wasn't one of our purchase orders, it was another division's?), the vendor gave the customer MY contact information.
The customer emails me and wants me to refund her money. I inform her I can only direct her to customer service or the store's manager where she bought the items, as I am NOT the customer service department, have nothing to do with money or store operations, and frankly, have no real authority within the company.
To which she replies that if she could just get the chairs that are damaged replaced, she'll be on her merry way.
So I should look up what other stores are carrying these chairs, and if that doesn't work I should get the vendor to send her some. First of all, I am actually unable to check this in our system, for two reasons - the items weren't bought in my division, and there is no way for me to access the purchase orders from other divisions in the company, and even if it was my purchase order, looking up the stores items were sent to is not part of my job, so that part of the computer program isn't available to me anyway.
I let her know that I am unable to do this and again, refer her to customer service or the store manager.
She leaves a very angry voicemail informing me that I need to fix this, and why isn't there a warranty. I call her back and (thankfully) reach her voicemail. So I leave a responding message, letting her know that we cannot offer warranties because we do not make the furniture, and we often buy closeouts, meaning we buy a very limited stock from our vendors. And because it's closeout, not only is it limited stock, but often, the vendor won't be making more. Again, I refer her to customer service and/or the store manager, explaining that because I am not in the customer service division myself, I am unable to assist in any other way with this matter. Per my supervisor's advice, I suggest she try to get her money back, as we do have a generous return policy at our stores, especially for defective merchandise, or possibly contact the vendor again, requesting replacement parts. She didn't call me back (again, thankfully).
I was nothing but polite during these exchanges, but there was really nothing I could do about it. I'm not supposed to have contact with customers at all, and again, these chairs didn't even come from the store division I am employed in. Frankly, I was still pissed that the vendor gave the customer my contact information.
What do I receive a few days later?
An email forwarded from the vendor, from the customer. It read that we had all been very rude to her and that there was no reason we shouldn't have been able to help her. We gave her terrible customer service, the chairs were shoddy, and - ready for this? - she is going to sue both the vendor and my company.
I guess we'll see what happens with that.
--A Former Retail Slave