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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Go Figure?

In the name of fairness and to keep the peace in the family, it is important that all members of the household share a bit of the domestic workload; or at least that's what my wife tells me.

At our house, I have as one my chores the all important responsibility of returning the recyclables such as the empty pop cans and the like.

It's not a bad job really. It gets me out of the house and I can either pocket the proceeds, or use them to buy those necessities like ice cream, cookies and potato chips which are all to often 'forgotten' by she who does most of the grocery shopping.

One day, while returning a rather large quantity of empties (I save them up not out of laziness, but rather in the name of efficiency) to a big box store I not so affectionately call 'The Stupid Store', I was 'greeted' at the 'Customer Service' counter by a rather surly clerk who bluntly advised me I could only return 24 cans on any given day.

"You have got to be kidding me!" I replied "No one told me that when I bought several cases of pop a few weeks back."

"Well that's our policy." she said as if that explained everything.

Being a dedicated student of human behaviour, I quickly sensed there was no winning with this 'lady' so I resisted the urge to further protest, diligently counted out 24cans and placed them on the counter. She then selected two of those cans, handed them back and said "We don't sell this brand here, you'll have to take them back where you got them."

While tempted to ask "What difference does it make, don't they all get crushed and go to the same place in the end?" I knew the likelihood of my question yielding any reasonable explanation was just about on par with the likelihood of me getting a genuine smile out of this field hardened battle axe, so I obediently replaced the two cans in question with ones bearing their store brand.

Then something happened that totally blew me away. Before relinquishing my meager proceeds, the clerk, hereafter know as 'Attila the Hen', produced a rather unofficial looking form, filled in the date and asked me for my name, phone number and signature.

"What in the world do you need all that for?" I replied "Are you afraid I might sneak back into the store later in the day and try to return another 24 cans... or are you thinking that perhaps some of my cans could be counterfeit?

"Oh no" She said in a tone that implied I was something short of an imbecile, "We ask for this information not because we don't trust our customers, (I'm not convinced) but because we don't trust our employees. After all, they could simply take money from the till and claim it was paid out for returned recyclables."

At this point, I found myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words: which was probably just as well, but what was I to do?

I had no intention of sticking around to hear any more of this nonsense and pushing a shopping cart still half full of cans around the store in search of the previously mentioned necessities had little appeal.

Besides, I certainly didn't want to risk contact with any of the store's other apparently untrustworthy employees. So I left, without spending a dime, in search of a more accommodating grocer. After all, I still had the two cans that had been rejected, and returning home with them, not to mention without the ice cream, would surely signal that I had been negligent in my domestic duties.

To put this little story in perspective and give it meaning in context of the importance of a positive customer experience - I shudder to think how much our family spends in groceries over the course of a week, let alone a month, a year, or a lifetime... and yet, for the sake of a dime (the refund value of two cans) and some very, very stupid rules, this store intentionally choose to send me and my money, directly into the welcoming arms of one of their competitors.

Go Figure?

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