You know the saying “Another day, another dollar”?
Well, when you work in retail customer service, the expression gets modified to “another day, another idiot”.
It’s hard for those who don’t work with the general public to fathom how miserable it can be to work with people. After all, popular culture tends to portray retail and fast food workers as lazy, incompetent, and rude. Any claim to the contrary will bring the holier-than-thou entrepreneur wannabes, retail success stories (said stories always straddling the fine line between fiction and non-fiction (or fiction and fantasy, perhaps)), and self-appointed consumer advocates out of the woodwork.
I mean, look at the conclusion the writer of the article about retail workers not caring anymore came to. “People seem to be willing to let retail workers get away with that apathy and laziness.”
Mmm hmmm, and I’m calling bulls*** on any claim you make about having worked retail in the past.
In the article, the writer wonders why retail workers never have smiles on their faces anymore (this is well before implying that customers should be nastier and more abusive to the lowly peasants, and yes that is the conclusion I decided to jump to because f*** you, that’s why).
The writer has clearly never dealt with the general public.
I can probably count the number of people who enjoy working with the general public on one hand, even if a psychotic madman were to chop off most of my fingers. People are stupid, nasty, and spoiled. The power trip that comes from the ability to bully a teenage girl over ketchup is many people’s only taste of authority in life and they’ll be damned if they’re going to not going to let it swell their heads almost to the size of Seto Kaiba’s ego (sorry, I’ve been watching Yugioh: The Abridged Series). And this isn’t just a problem with the lowly “retail” industry, but any customer-facing job.
But sometimes, you get to have a laugh at your stupid customer’s expense. And sometimes you get to have it while the customer is there.
That’s Not a Bank Fee, Idiot
So one of the tellers calls me over to help with a customer. This customer is waving a statement in the teller’s face, demanding to know what these bank fees are and why we’re charging them.
A quick look at this guy’s statement was enough to tell me that they weren’t bank fees, but transactions he had done.
Of course, he’s claiming that he never did them and doesn’t recognize the name on the statement. He’s demanding the teller tell him who the merchant is and what product was purchased. The teller futilely tries to explain that he doesn’t have access to that information, but if he were to come with me to my desk, I could assist him further.
In putting in a claim, that is.
His transactions were ACH transactions. If they were debit card transactions, I would be able to find vague information about where they came from (“Convenience Stores, San Francisco, CA”, for example). For ACH transactions, the name on the statement serves as the information of the merchant. Makes sense on the face of it, but sometimes you’ve got to explain it to people like they’re five years old.
Getting this guy to my desk took about four minutes because he kept interrupting the teller to point out other useless nonsense on his statement.
I’d like to point out that this was a business account. The business in question was a car service place. So put that into perspective. Me and the teller are trying to get this guy to go to a specific location and to do so in a timely manner, and yet this guy doesn’t understand what we’re talking about, wants to be combative, and keeps pointing out random nonsense instead of focusing on the task at hand.
I’d hate to be his customers. There are probably people right now still waiting for a cab to take them home from their Halloween parties two months ago.
Anyhoo, I get this guy over to my desk where he’s still demanding to know who the merchants are (look at the name on the statements, moron. That’s the merchant). I can’t answer that question for him. All I can do is put in a claim for the transactions, which he claims weren’t authorized by him. I’d bet that they were, but whatever.
Of course, he’s doing that passive-aggressive thing that entitled customers do. My fellow bankers have seen this sort of thing before. “Huh, I thought you guys were protecting my account, but you guys just let these people take money out of my account whenever they want.”
If you’re going to make thinly veiled threats at closing your account without taking the time to read why threatening to close your account doesn’t work, then at least take the time to brush up on how ACH transfers work before going on about how we just let people take money out of your account whenever they want. Alright, alright, they are a little complicated to understand (even for many bankers) and I don’t expect my customers to be experts in them (basically, the agreement with the customer and the merchant is made for the account to be debited X amount of dollars and the bank must honor said agreement (as it was not a party in the agreement and thus can’t stop the debit from occurring)). But if you’re going to be a prick, learn about what you’re talking about before being so. It will probably stop you from being a prick.
Stupidly, I tried to explain how an ACH works to the customer (ignoring the customer, or telling him to eat razor blades, is against policy), but he didn’t quite get it. He’s probably still trying to figure out how to run a car service business.
I also ask him how long these charges have been coming out of his account. He doesn’t know. Okay, well that was as helpful as a tall glass of laxatives to someone suffering from explosive diarrhea, so I check his statements.
He’s been getting these charges for six months. Six months! Which means he hasn’t looked at his bank statements in six months.
I explain to Mr. Moron that I have to do a claim on each transaction. Now here’s where things get to be a bit…..much. For ACH transactions, we have to fill in our branch’s information, the customer’s information, the amount of the transaction, the posted date of the transaction, and an explanation of why the customer is putting in a claim (fraud, customer withdrew authorization, etc.). And the customer has to sign the form.
“Well, ARB, that doesn’t sound so–”
Each transaction must have a separate form.
“………Oh. Well, how many transa–”
“Oh. Well, once you do the first one, just change the posted date and–”
The form resets when you submit it. You have to go through the whole thing all over again.
“Oh, well, sucks–”
To be me? Yeah, it does.
“You’re going to–”
Keep interrupting the living hell out of you? You bet.
What I also caught as I took another look at everything was the type of ACH transaction that were done. Something called CCD transactions.
I’ve only dealt with this one other time in all my years of banking. Simply put, CCD (Cash Concentration and Disbursement) transactions are business-to-business ACHs. They are more efficient ACH transfers geared towards businesses that have other businesses as their clients (such as, say, a car service). And they have one other little difference from normal ACHs.
You’ve only got 24 hours to make a claim.
Not that it was making a difference, since most of his transactions were outside the 60-day window you have to file normal ACH claims. I could have told him that the bank was not giving him back his money (he’d have to settle with the merchant), and perhaps I should have, but I didn’t. It was a fight I just didn’t feel like having.
Especially since the disputes weren’t the only thing he had for me to do.
At Least We Didn’t Charge You A Fee For Stupidity
First, before we segue into the next topic, let me just point out something about those “unauthorized” charges: They were authorized. How do I know? Because of course they f***ing were, that’s how.
Anyhoo, remember when I said earlier that we had trouble getting him to the desk because he kept pointing out things on his statement? Well, he kept doing that while at the desk too. Many things he pointed out were useless, or repeats of things I already knew (yes, I’m aware that you didn’t do the transaction. No, I’m not surprised that you have no idea how someone got your information). But others were things that I had to deal with now.
Such as his maintenance fees.
The guy got maintenance fees on his account every month for the last six months (I could have gone back further than six months, but patience and the fact that this was ten minutes before closing did not allow it) because he kept going below the monthly minimum balance.
Of course, somehow he has no idea about the monthly minimum and I have to explain it all to him as if he were opening the account for the first time. I’m just glad he didn’t play the “No one told me I had to keep a balance in there” card, which I know is bull. Seriously, people tell me this stuff as if I don’t work in a bank and know what’s going on. “How much do I have to keep” is one of the first things all my customers ask me, and you expect me to believe that you opened an account–a business account, which takes extra time to open–and this never cropped up in the conversation? Seriously, do I look stupid to you?
So the guy has maintenance fees on his account, but alas, one month he got charged without going under. Seems to be a bank error, right? Of course, he points it out in that smug trying-to-make-a-point sort of way (“How much did you say I have to keep in the account? So if I keep that amount, I shouldn’t get charged a fee, right?”). Mr. Smugface is doing that gloating over his victory thing as I’m refunding his fee for that month, pointing out how if that was a bank error then it is likely that there may be more errors and the bank should be more on top of what it’s doing.
It’s the sort of thing that he’d kick someone out of his car service depot for doing. So I explain the situation:
“Look, I know you think you got one on the bank, and yes I am refunding your fee right now. But let’s get something straight if you’re going to speak to me like that right now. I haven’t refunded your fee, yet. I’m at the last screen. Now, I could have gone through the posting order of your transactions for each day that month, and I can tell you with ninety percent certainty where exactly you went under and show to you that it wasn’t a bank error. I’m supposed to do that, but I’m not because I really don’t feel like doing that work right now to not refund you a fee. That’s the amount of work I put in to refund you fees, not to not refund you fees. But if you’d like and if you insist on keeping on this topic, I’ll be happy to back out of this and take the time to go through your transactions each day and see where you went under. Just so you know, if I see that it’s not a bank error–and it’s more than likely not the case–you’re not getting that money back. So let me know, would you rather me do that or just refund the fee? Just refund? Are you sure, because if you want to keep on this topic, now’s the time to let me know. Okay, refund the fee? Good choice.”
Yes, those were my exact words to him. No, I didn’t play that up for the blog post.
So as I’m taking my sweet time to do each of those ACH disputes, he asks me if I saw any other bank errors. I haven’t because I was focusing on the task at hand, the aforementioned disputes. So of course, he takes the statements I printed and starts going through them. I have to explain to him not to take the statements I’m currently using to do the disputes, as, well, I’m currently using them to do the disputes.
You’d think watching me use my finger to find something specific on the statements, then type that into the computer, then put that statement off to the side and move on to the next one would have given that guy the hint, but no. And seriously, this is a business owner? How?
This guy must be losing money everyday if he runs his business as poorly as his banking.
After a good while (I take my sweet time and make him wait), I finally finished all the disputes. Before I had him sign and date each of the twenty four dispute forms I did, I informed him, “Per your request, I checked the balances of the statements as I was doing it. I’m happy to report that the bank hasn’t made any other errors on your account. They charged you the fees because you never kept enough money in the account to avoid them.”
That felt great, and certainly embarrassed him. Like I said in the beginning, sometimes you have to have fun at your customer’s expense, and sometimes it has to happen while the customer is there.
Generally speaking, customers who talk down to employees in a customer service setting do so because the employees won’t say anything to defend themselves. That’s because retail employees are considered expendable. Places like Applebee’s will fire a good employee to please an angry customer, which is why we live in the type of retail world you see in those articles I linked to at the top where every employee is miserable and doesn’t want to deal with you. So I understand that this guy didn’t realize when being an unlikable, functionally retarded prick that I would be able to hang with him in a verbal sparring match without ever crossing the line. No one starts a fight if they think there’s a chance that they will end up the humiliated party.
But see, I’m not an expendable retail employee. Not to that degree. Not that I’m untouchable or anything like that, of course not. It’s still retail and I still need a job. But my experience, credentials, and licensing means that I’m not a dime-a-dozen fast food worker that can be recruited from a nearby high school either. I’m not afraid of you, buddy, and I will make sure you know what’s what before you walk out the door.
Also, always consider the fact that the employee in question might also be a blogger. As I spoke about when writing about that nasty customer that got to me that time, you may find yourself being laughed at by people all over the world. Not exactly what you want, right?
So I did what I had to do for the guy, got him out of the branch, and had a good laugh about it with the teller. After I sent everything down, his stuff went to the bottom of my pending folder, and I’ll probably follow up with it in four to six weeks when I get a chance to go through all my work and get that far down.
“Following up” is just going to mean “throwing out everything”. Once I send all that paperwork down, it’s all on the ACH Department as to what’s going to happen. And what’s going to happen is that the bank isn’t giving him a penny and he can settle it with the merchants. Yes, the merchant he claims are all taking money from his account without his permission. Yeah, I’m sure.
Let this be a lesson to everybody. Check your statements. You don’t have to do so everyday, but way more often than once every six months. Get into the habit of checking your statements once every one to four weeks. Because even if you aren’t a business owner dealing with CCD transactions, if you find a fraudulent transaction on your account and it’s eight months old, well then it sucks to be you. Whether it’s a debit card or an ACH transaction, fraudulent transactions on your account have a time frame in which they must be claimed in order for the bank to reimburse you the money. You might think that’s some loophole the banks made up in order to get out of reimbursing you, but it’s like that because it’s your responsibility to monitor your account and report fraudulent activity. Despite what some people have asked/demanded, it’s not the bank’s responsibility to monitor your account. It’s your’s.
Another day, another idiot. That’s the mantra of anyone working customer service. Except that here, the idiot customers are hurting themselves more than they are hurting us employees. Which is fine by me; I’d rather see some retarded moron’s stupidity cost him hundreds of dollars instead of costing me my job. But why be an idiot and why get hit with fees or be on the hook for some fraudster’s Christmas shopping?
Instead of wasting my time being a smug piece of crap, how about keeping tabs on your money? Being rude and talking down to customer service employees simply will get you nowhere in life. Especially if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.
But learning to manage your money? Knowing what’s going into your account and what’s coming out? Keeping tabs on your balances and avoiding fees and not leaving your money vulnerable to theft? That’s something that will help you out no matter who you are, what you do, or anything else.
And if you’re really skilled, perhaps you can own and manage a profitable car service business. Unlike my customer.
Readers–What do YOU think!? How do angry or passive-aggressive customers make you feel when you’re an employee, or a fellow customer? Do you think customers like that are the reason that retail employees don’t like their jobs, or is it just bad attitudes? And my fellow bankers and retail employees, what are some of the most ridiculous experiences you’ve had dealing with the general public. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!