Monday, August 18, 2008

You Break it - You Buy it!

I wrote this up over a month ago, and I honestly decided not to post it. I think a blog is a good place to vent, get supportive feedback, and move on with my life. In a way, I suppose it is like gossiping, but without telling it to someone who cares. Does that make it okay?

Either way, after another LOVELY experience with a customer today, I decided it was time to finally post this, and add to it another story at the end.

Here goes:

I can't even begin to list how many things this year have been broken by, and abandoned by customers. It seems that each and every day we find another product that someone has broken (by force, or neglect). I would say all breakage is by accident, but there have been products broken in such a way that a customer would have had to use strong physical force. We have puzzle boxes with moving parts, and often people drop a portion of the box, damage it, and then hide it back among the other boxes on the shelves.'s todays' story that I need to vent about (notice how my blog is a venting-spot for me this summer?):

This family comes in to our store this morning, and the older teenage son was playing with a fancy kaleidoscope we have. It is a kaleidoscope that you can look through, and turn end glass pieces that have all sorts of objects in it. Anyhow, this teenage kid was spinning the end of it wildly, and it crossed my mind, " can't even see anything in it when you're spinning it that fast." I looked back down to do some work, and next thing I know, the end glass pieces had flown off the kaleidoscope. He had spun it to the point of it twisting the glass pieces entirely off, breaking off objects that were on the glass pieces, as well as losing the top cap.

Anyhow, the details aren't that important. What I'm trying to say is that he broke this $87 kaleidoscope. His Dad ignores the whole situation, and his Mom sort of stares blankly at her son. The son says "It just fell off." I said, "Actually, you were spinning it really hard, I saw it." The Mom looks at her son, and says "You were?" Jared went over there to pick up all of the pieces strewn all over the floor, and so the Mom and son began to help a bit. We put all the pieces up to the counter (this actually happened immediately in front of our counter), and determine that we are missing the end cap, that the objects are broken off, and it is irreparable, and can't be sold again. So, I look at this lady, and say kindly say "I would like you to pay for this." She looks at me in SHOCK and says "Why should I have to pay for this? I shouldn't have to." "Well, your son broke it." "Other stores don't do that!" (I'm thinking..."Do you make a habit of breaking things in stores?) "I'm sorry, but I had to buy that. I can't sell it."

So do you rationalize that?..."I broke it, but I shouldn't have to pay for it"???? Maybe in the Big-Walmart-World that is okay...but we're talking about small businesses, where each and every penny counts.

Anyways...yes, she paid for it, and NO, I didn't give her a price break. If she had shown a LITTLE bit of remorse, or just said "SORRY" even ONCE (or even if her SON might have said "sorry"), I might have considered selling it to her for 1/2 price (my cost). However, she was a total jerk about the whole thing. She paid full price, and she wasn't happy about it.

I felt bad that she was setting such a terrible example for her son. So, I ended the conversation with, "My Mom taught me 'You Break it-You Buy it'" Thanks, Mom!
End of last story

BUT, this morning I had a couple looking at leather coin purses about 7 feet away from my desk. The lady somehow managed to hit a Jim Shore Bambi figurine to the floor, and with those tiny little legs, it broke the piece in two pieces. Jared and I both saw it, and my adrenaline started pumping. I get so nervous, knowing there will likely be a confrontation of some sort. I told Jared, "I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt," meaning: I'll wait for them to bring it to the desk instead of confronting them. Her and her husband examined the piece, knew it was broken, set it on the shelf, and selected their coin purse.

They walked to the desk with the coin purse alone, and I said something casually that I can't even remember now. The lady responded, "Oh, no, we were just testing out the zipper to make sure it was a good one." "Oh, well what about the piece you broke? Are you going to buy it?" The lady and her husband acted surprised, "What? Well, I guess so. I mean, it's not like I did it on purpose." "I understand. I'll give you 50% off, at my cost. But, you break it, you buy it. Sorry, we're not Walmart, and I already had to buy this."

The wife got very very huffy, and then instructed her husband to not buy the coin purse. She became very snappy, and I rang her up for a whopping $8 something. I was overly nice to give it to her at cost, in my opinion. I then told her and her husband "I am offended that you weren't going to tell me that you broke it." And seriously, I am.

Why do people think that you can break something and leave it on the shelf without paying for it? Don't they realize that is the EXACT SAME as walking out with the item, and not paying for it (aka STEALING)? It seriously must be the Walmart mentality: Everything is someone's else's fault...or "no questions asked." This couple also did not say sorry, or apologize, or anything. They were just FURIOUS I was making them pay for the item.

Moral of the story: If you or your kid breaks something in a store, it is YOUR responsibility to pay for it. And if you are kind and show remorse, the owners will be much kinder to you! Just be sorry...okay? Realize it is not the owner's fault if YOU destroy THEIR product that THEY had to pay for.

I would add to this post a photo of all of the items people have broken this year. But why? Just know it is a sizable amount that could fill a good-sized shopping bag.

And really...I'm sorry to vent on my blog. I'll be fine. I love what I do for a living...and I love NICE people. But it is frustrating when the most memorable events of the day are rotten ones!

And you? Well, I hope you have a better day!


nessa said...

wow, you are my new role model. And that is exactly why i could never own a business. i would see people break something, and i would never be able to bring myself to say something to them. and if i did, i'm sure i would end the conversation by apologizing and offering to pay them or something ridiculous like that. Good for you!! It is not your fault that they broke your merchandise and they for sure should pay for it, or at least offer!! sorry you have do deal with such lame people sometimes!

Angie said...

Oh my Stars! I can't believe people do that. I was taught the same as you were as a kid. Now it is engrained in me I guess. I try not to take my kids into stores that they might break something expensive that I can't afford to buy. Such a sad world we live in now days!
Think of it this way, you are teaching the world moral values one customer at a time! Thanks for making the effort! You must be very brave!

Ben, Jenny, Tyler said...

Alisa, I can totally feel your anger through this blog- wow- words are powerful. I'm sorry you get crappy customers. I definitely couldn't put up with that everyday- I would have steam blowing out of my ears and eyes! It wouldn't be a pretty sight! Hang in there- the seasons almost over right? Hope it gets better for you guys!

leadatortilla said...

I don't blame you one bit for charging those customers. If Hunter or Cole did something like that - I'd be mortified and be taking up the desk with absolutely horror in my eyes... at least this is what I've decided in my head! I appreciated the post - go alisa! PS - I need to figure out how to do that "post" thing to know when someone has a new post... that rocks.