Seriously, guys, this is a first.

Yesterday, I was training someone on register at Old Navy.

A customer brought in a child's active jacket to exchange and she didn't have her receipt. Normally, we don't allow no-receipt exchanges, (you get a store credit by mail instead) but during January, we make an exception because of the whole Christmas gift issue. So she was going to be able to exchange it; no big deal.

We didn't have the exact item in the size she needed, so she picked out a different child's active jacket. Unfortunately, the one she was bringing back had gone on clearance for $6.49 sometime between when she bought it and when she brought it back, but the one she wanted was $10, which is what she said she paid for the one she was bringing back.

Obviously, if she had her receipt, this wouldn't be an issue because we would know how much she paid for the item. But since she didn't, I could only offer her the current price. (Obviously.)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, she was less than pleased. "This is ridiculous. I paid $10 for this. You can't make me pay the difference." Blah, blah, blah, who cares?

I politely informed her that we had no way to know how much she paid and the jacket was on clearance now, etc., etc. and she huffed and puffed and kept her stupid jacket. "I'll be back with the receipt tomorrow." Okay, lady, no problem.

And of course, she had to let everyone else know exactly how mad she was, so she went to collect her several children from various register lanes, complaining loudly the entire way.

This brings us to today.

I was on register this morning. The same woman walked up to my register, and would you believe it? She apologized.

She said, "I want to apologize for how I acted yesterday. It wasn't your fault that I didn't have the receipt and, especially since you were training someone, I should have been more understanding. It's no excuse, but I have five kids and dragging them all to the mall is a pretty big deal, so I was just hoping to not have to do that again."

At that moment, someone quite possibly could have knocked me over with a feather. In my almost five years at Old Navy, I don't think a bad customer has ever apologized to me. Not once. Seriously, wow.

But the story's not over.

I assured her it wasn't a problem, everyone has bad days, blah blah, whatever. So today, she has the same child's active jacket AND the matching pants, and she would like to exchange both of them for the child's active outfit she has picked out, and if there's a difference in price, it's not a big deal, she'll pay it. (Why she couldn't have paid the three dollar and fifty cent difference yesterday and saved herself another trip to the mall, I don't know.)

So I scanned the jacket, no problem. But then I got to the pants. Not only were they missing the tag, they were also missing what we call the joker tag, which is the little tag inside almost every piece of Old Navy clothing. We use this tag to identify items whose outside tags have been removed. Nobody ever removes the joker tag before wearing the item, because nobody would ever think to remove the joker tag before wearing the item. The only reason people remove the joker tag is because it can sometimes be itchy.

So this tipped me off that the item had been worn. Our return policy begins with the words "Unwashed, unworn merchandise." You may only return items that are UNWASHED and UNWORN. So I started inspecting them a little bit, and good gracious, there was junk and goop and various other child-related nouns all over these pants! These were not only worn, they were stained and caked with disgustingness! There was no way I was accepting these pants!

I said, "Um, these have been worn, haven't they?"

The woman narrowed her eyes and said, "Yes, they have, that's not a problem, is it?"

I answered, "Well ... yeah. I mean, there's stuff all over them and the inside tag's been cut out. I can't accept these, unfortunately."

When I mentioned the inside tag, she glared at her daughter. "Excuse me? When did you cut that out?"

Her daughter sheepishly answered, "At Grandma's. It was really itchy."

I was not having this daughter-blaming thing, so I said, "I wouldn't have returned them even if the tag was left in. They've just obviously been worn."

"But they don't fit her and she only wanted these as an outfit."

"I'm really sorry, but it's pretty clear in our return policy that we can't accept worn items."

And I really meant that. I was sorry. After that lovely apology, I wanted to like this woman. I wanted this to be a story of true redemption. But jeez, lady, you can't return stuff to the store after it's been heavily worn! What do you think this is?

She sighed heavily. She prepared to argue the point. I could see the wheels in her head turning. But you know what? She stopped herself. She had already apologized for the exact thing she was about to do. There was no turning back now.

She returned the jacket and kept the pants. It was a small victory for retail workers everywhere.

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