Monday, June 8, 2009

Take Your Store and Shove It

Still groggy from a nap, I walked into my preferred hardware store and requested to exchange the pop rivets I'd bought there for another size.

"No, you can't return that anymore."

I was confused. I'd swapped something similar a month or so ago. I wasn't asking for a refund, the item I wanted was even the same price. Just swap the packages and I'm outta there.

"Nope. No exchanges after the first twenty-four hours."

I'd bought them on Friday. Today is Monday. He's closed Sunday, and most of Saturday.

"But I didn't even open the package."


"Okay..." I said, and left. I have given this guy lots of business over the last five years. I considered telling him he was losing a freguese (regular) due to his rude treatment of me, as well as his stupid non-return policy, but I didn't. But I don't plan to shop there again.

I'm not going to say that I'll never shop there again. If I'm desperate for something, I might look for it there as a last resort, but his shop is only one of about six crappy little hardware stores within easy walking distance of my house, the only distinction being it is the closest one. And until now, the owner had always been friendly with me. Well, for the most part at least.

I'm not going to go on a tirade about Brazilian (Bahian specifically) business practices. Let it suffice to say that I don't believe the motto 'The Customer is Always Right' has much relevance for them here. I have been repeatedly bludgeoned by short-sighted policies and lousy treatment.

Not that this is limited to Brazil. Or that the customer should always be right. I've seen customers do appalling things to clerks in the US, because they are 'always right.' I used to work in this store where a certain customer would come in and stand at the counter for an hour reading newspapers- not buying them, just reading them. He'd stay after closing if he felt like it. One time, when we were all ready to go home and he was still reading away, I told him it was time to go. He got all indignant: who was I to deny him his free newspapers? It was like I was whisking away his desert before he finished and insisting he pay for it. But the store was not a restaurant, nor a library, and although I was dying to tell him so I didn't.

I do believe that customers should be cultivated. Treat your customers right, and hopefully they'll keep coming back. I'm that kind of customer. I'll pay more for something if the service is good. And believe me, when I get annoyed, I will boycott a business. I can hold a grudge for a long time. Of course, this has its practical limits: when I was living in the small town of Putney, Vermont I finally had to give in because I'd gotten ticked off at every single restaurant in town for one reason or another, and I wanted to be able to eat somewhere.

So far, my list of no-shop stores here in Salvador is pretty short. There's this one fruit/vegetable store I won't go into anymore, because everyone who works there seems hell-bent on being as unpleasant as possible, and there was a stationary store I avoided as much as possible for the same reason, but they closed just this week. And now this hardware store.

There is one other that I can safely say I will never shop in again, and that's a computer supply store in one of the nearby malls. I was so excited when I found it, because it is much larger than the other options nearby, but I had such a terrible customer service snafu there that I left literally quaking with anger. That time, I did tell a salesperson that they were going to lose a customer over a stupid return policy. I have no idea if he cared.

I won't get into all the details about what happened, but it was similar to what happened at the hardware store: I tried to exchange a recently purchased item, in perfect condition, in the original packaging, with a receipt, for store credit to get something else. I was told no- unless the item was defective, I was stuck with it. End of story. Why don't you just put the stupid thing back on the shelf, and sell it to someone else, was my less than persuasive argument, let me buy something more expensive and then I'll come back and buy more stuff in the future, rather than leaving, furious, with something I don't want? Makes sense to me, how about you?

I don't know if this is true, but someone who stayed here at our house a while ago told me that if you walk into a Home Depot with a product that they stock, that can be put back on the shelf and re-sold, they will exchange it even if you don't have a receipt. I returned something at a Target one time and I was left open-mouthed at how quick and painless it was- they credited my credit card and I didn't even have to pull it out of my wallet. Granted I've had horrible retail experiences in the States too- I had a similar quaking with rage incident at a Circuit City about fifteen years ago, but we all know what happened to them heh heh. It's Retail Darwinism, dude!!

Anyhow, in a few weeks I will be back in Shopper's Paradise: the good ol' U S of A. But I've learned something from past trips back home, where I spent way too much time trying to buy things I can't get here: I do almost all my shopping online, weeks or months in advance, and have it all shipped to my mom's house. I'm almost done for this trip. Except for the iPod I'm buying myself for my fortieth birthday. And a couple other things. That gives me more time to enjoy my family, friends, and the great outdoors. And gourmet ice cream. And bagels. And Indian food. And any of a wide range of beers. And... you get the idea.

So what did I do after the shop owner was such a snot to me? Well, after an inordinately long period of being bummed and annoyed, I decided to get myself some ice cream. Chocolate. In the store, I watched the owner give an annoyed customer a full refund over a mixup at the register. The guy was happy and relieved, and I could relate. Then I got home, and I was happy and relieved too, because the ice cream neatly filled it's tub, rather than being sunken down two inches due to a previous thaw.

Then I filled a teacup with ice cream, and I ate it.

And then I had another one.

And another one.


markuza said...

Just a postscript here: I kept thinking of this blog that I used to subscribe to as I was writing this post:

It's often very funny, but eventually I found it too depressing and had to stop reading it.

michelle said...

Jesse and I were just watching season one of the Dave Chapelle show...have you ever seen the fake customer service training video that he did? I'll have to try and dig it up for you on the internets- it's very relevant...
I think you need to come by for India House take out and not-previously-melted-and-refrozen ice cream once you're here!

Mei said...

Is your whole family coming to the States for a vaca? I hope so, but I know it can be hard with tickets, work, and school.

The first week I lived in Brazil, I tried to return a textbook to the bookstore across the street from my college. It was a nightmare experience that took 7 days and a letter from my prof! Arg.

markuza said...

Michelle- I have never watched Dave Chapelle do anything, and apparently I'm missing out- I've heard good things about him.

Mei- unfortunately, it's just going to be me and Lucas coming to the States- to bring all four of us would cost a fortune. Ruan, my stepson, is extremely bummed about that. Here's hoping I can make it happen some day!

Mei said...

Poor Ruan! Bring him back something cool-- I believe he likes gadgets from your earlier posts? I like to stock up at TJ Maxx for the extended family in Campinas.