This particular circumstance I can accurately pinpoint as the exact moment I stopped trying to politely correct / inform customers of their innocent misunderstandings, and instead adopt the old faithful retail smile & nod.
So I was working as the store manager of a children's shoe shop, my location was the flagship store in our city. At the risk of sounding conceited, I was damn good at my job and was also moonlighting as the staff trainer for our region.
On this particular day in early December 2010, I was at another location, helping the relatively new store manager to induct and train her gaggle of seasonal staff. It was around lunchtime on a Saturday, and the shop floor was absolutely slammed with screaming kids and their equally poorly behaved parents. I was shadowing one of the new hires while she attended to this woman (W) when I jumped in to answer a question she didn't know.
W: (Holding up a little girls shoe in black patent leather) Yes I'm looking for a shoe for my daughter to wear to Christmas lunch with the family, I saw this one in cherry red at your [my home store] location a few months ago, before they shut down. That was such a shame, they were much closer to my house.
Now here's the important part to this story. We did close down, for one day. In mid September, my store underwent a refurbishment and moved to a larger tenancy within the same shopping centre.
We had only been closed for one day though, on a Thursday, as we moved all the stock to the new shop and reopened on Friday. We had signs up in the old location and were verbally informing all customers about this for the 4 weeks prior to the move.
The new store was only 5 or 6 shopfronts away from the old one, you could see one from the other easily.
Me: Oh well I've got good news for you then! [my home store] still exists! They only closed for one day when they moved a few stores down. They're still there in a beautiful new fitout!
This threw me. It should have been where I adopted the aforementioned retail trademark and steered the conversation back to the shoe in question, alas I could not.
Me: Oh they are, I'm actually the store manager of that location. intense polite retail smile
W: I shop there all the time and they're definitely gone.
Me: I can assure you, they only moved. And I'm looking forward to having you see our new store!
W: Look I don't know why you're trying to argue with me. I was only at [my home shopping centre] last week and [company] is definitely not there. Are you new?
Me: No I've actually worked for [company] for 3 years, at [my home store]. I'm just here today to do some training.
W: So you are new, you're training?
This is where I wise up and try to regain control of this runaway train and get the customer what she wants while I still have my sanity. Unfortunately, that can only be done with the help of the store that apparently doesn't exist.
Me: Oh no I meant I'm training other people. Anyway, [my home store] does in fact have this shoe in the cherry red that you are looking for. As it is the biggest store in [city] it carries colours that other stores don't, so that's the only place you can get it. I can put it on hold at [my home store] for you if you like?
Woweeeee she didn't like that. She rolled her eyes and scowled at me with utter contempt, as if I was purposely sending her on a wild goose chase to a land of makebelieve and cherry red patent fucking Mary-Janes.
W: Are you fucking kidding me?!
And with that she dropped the shoe onto the floor, grabbed her daughter by the wrist and stormed out.
I tried to reassure the new hire that this was a rare occurrence, but my poker face isn't too strong and I saw her die a little on the inside.
Sure enough, Monday morning an email popped up in the regional managers inbox, telling grand tales of horrible service and the feelings of "belittlement from being blatantly lied to for some sick game".
In a glorious twist of fate though, my regional manager was off work for that week after minor surgery, so guess who was filling that role, including use of company phone and laptop?
Right click, delete. In the bin with you.