23. Three Strikes
Some years ago, I worked an extra part-time job in the evenings at a small national retail chain in the U.S. that specializes in woodworking tools, supplies and machinery. The vast majority of our customers were great, but every so often we would get one that was a real peach. On the night in question, it was 15 or 20 minutes before closing. I was at the front counter where the registers are, doing busy work to fill the time before I locked the doors. The sales floor was completely empty, except for me. I heard the doors open and looked up to see a customer walking in. “Hi! Welcome to our store!” I said to him in a genuinely friendly tone. Fish-eyed, he turned his head to glance at me. He made momentary eye contact before walking past without saying a word. Strike one. A few minutes later, I saw him walking up to the counter, so I asked, “Hey there! Did you find what you were looking for?” Again, without a saying a word, he tossed a few packs of euro hinges on the counter. Strike two. Then, I asked, “OK! Have you shopped with us before?” I needed to know as it was part of my job to enter our customers’ information in our computer system if they’ll let us, and if they’re in our system, then we ring them up under their account. Rather than answer me, he tossed a postcard-sized piece of paper onto the counter. Strike three. Ding! Ding! Ding! Now, if someone’s in our system, and they give us the month of their birthday, we send them a birthday coupon every year, good for 10% off of everything in a single purchase. There are a few exclusions and conditions clearly printed on the coupon. I picked up the piece of paper he’d thrown in front of me, and it was indeed his birthday coupon.
I used the information on it to pull up his account, noted a key piece of information on the account, and gleefully told him, “OK, sir. I see your birthday isn’t until next month, and unfortunately, the birthday coupon is only good for a single purchase during the month of your birth.”
As I said this, I was holding the coupon up and pointing to the text I was referring to. I am 90% certain I had my best customer service smile on my face at that point. After standing there and staring at me for a few seconds, he let out a snort of what I presume was disgust, then he turned on his heel, and started heading for the door. “Wait!” I called after him. “You forgot your birthday coupon!” Without stopping or turning, he made a dismissive wave of his hand, went through the door, and disappeared into the night.
Adios and good riddance. At this store, our manager was a super-cool guy who encouraged us to bend over backward to help customers, which I gladly did. Customers came in all the time trying to use their birthday coupons early, and it was never a problem.
We’d happily give them the discount anyway, with a friendly reminder that it was supposed to be used during their birth month. But hey, Ihe wanted to act like that. He couldn’t be bothered to show me even common courtesy, nor would he speak even one word to me. That was his choice.