Customer Service…or Not

One of the often repeated mantras in the customer service business is that “the customer is always right”.  I don’t know who came up with that, but whoever it was, was full of shit.  If you’re actually IN the customer service business, that saying is modified: “The customer is always right…until they aren’t”.

One of the things you need to train yourself to be in the course of making it through life is being a good customer.  In the South, we have a saying for that too:  “You can attract more flies with honey”.  If you’re a customer with a problem, you get a lot better results by being respectful and asking for help than you do by screaming and threatening.  I don’t care how mad and frustrated you are. 

I’m very lucky.  I’m in the customer service business, but 99.9% of our customers are reasonable people.  It’s actually a pleasure to deal with them. And then there is that 0.1%. 

So consider the following scenario, which happened on Friday (yesterday):   a young man comes into the exit lane (with a young woman in the passenger seat) and says that he just came in, but his ticket has fallen into his dashboard, and he tells the cashier she needs to let him out.  She says she can’t, because without a ticket, she’ll have to charge him for a lost ticket, which is $6.00.

He says, I’m not doing that.  He briefly pleads.  Can’t you just give me a break?  At this point I get involved…she’s struggling.  I said, really, she can’t.  We can’t.  We aren’t permitted to let you out without a ticket unless you pay the lost ticket fee. 

From that point, the whole situation devolves.  The guy says to the cashier, I want to speak to your supervisor.  Cashier says, that’s her.  He says, then I want to speak to your supervisor.  Sorry, I said.  I’m it.  He said, well, who owns this garage?  I said, the City, and you can talk to them on Monday, but right now it’s too late.  It’s 5:00 P.M. and there’s no one there. 

Here’s the best part:  the guy says you “can’t” let me out?  So are you telling me that if an ambulance came through here on an emergency, you could not let them out?  I said, Sir, you aren’t an ambulance.  So he says, in other words, you COULD let them out but in my case you’re refusing?  I was done talking.  I said, Well, technically, yes.  We are refusing.

Then he backed up and parked. I was feeling a little bad about it, because I thought I maybe had escalated the issue.  Except for the fact that prior to reparking his car, he drove around and around in front of the office, which is half-glass all the way around screaming “Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck you!”  Giving us the finger through the driver’s side window.  Blowing the horn repeatedly. 

Looking back, I ask myself if I could have done something to defuse the situation, and the answer is…yes.  But I didn’t want to.  This was a limit I wasn’t willing to breach.  Otherwise, both I and my employees would be subjected to management by loudmouths.  Sooo..

It was time for me to leave.  I talked to the security guard and said, Stay here.  If this guy comes back to the window and causes even the slightest disturbance, don’t even engage.  Call the police.  Mostly I like the police 🙂  In cases like this, they’re like, Let me get this straight:  YOU lost the ticket?  Our point exactly!  Pay or go to jail.  Because really, even trying to talk your way out of it is a form of theft.

10 responses to “Customer Service…or Not

  1. And there I was wondering why you hadn’t already called the police! There are reasons I don’t consider jobs like yours.

  2. And while I’m thinking of it, I doubt that many ambulances enter the garage, sirens blasting, on their way to the ER.

  3. > a young man

    That explains everything….

  4. Here’s what I didn’t get: Why, I said to the cashier, didn’t the woman passenger say something to him? And she said, as nuts as he is, she is probably afraid he would hurt her later. Very sobering observation.
    As for calling the police, that’s a fine line. Too soon and they are like, What is your point? Too late and someone is hurt or dead. I do my best to tell the difference.

  5. Hmmmm, my human said try this one next time. Tell the person to park at a very specific remote location. Tell him he can appeal to the LTF supervisor when he comes to that spot, but that it could be a very very long time. Also say that you’re sorry but the only other way you can let him out is if he pays. After a couple of hours the money will magically appear. Never tell him that LTF means “Lost Ticket Fairy.”

  6. Very funny, Sandy 🙂 Our guess was that he went to one of the bars upstairs from our underground garage. At least that way, when he had to pay $6.00 to get out, he would feel like he got his money’s worth. The LTF (I love this) is very active when you have to pay the max to get out. Tickets magically appear.

  7. Another funny thing. He said, Do I look like the kind of person who would try to rip you off for like…now he looks at the rate sign…$6.00? He says, you need to trust me. I said, I believe you! I do trust you! It’s still $6.00 🙂
    Once he reparked, the cashier and I said to one another, it appears to us that that’s exactly what you’re trying to do: rip us off for $6.00. We’re like the police. Which one of us lost the ticket?

  8. It’s quite amazing. He claimed the ticket fell behind his dashboard, which was not his fault. Really? Whose fault was it?

  9. This reminds me of another story. My former assistant manager, Eric, got a call from a customer who complained that there was a mockingbird living in a tree in the lot next door to one of our locations, who was dive-bombing people coming out of the elevator. Eric, who was not known for his sense of humor, said to me, “Why is this MY bird?
    I almost choked I was laughing so hard. Had it been me, I would have said, “Wear a hat”. Eric, being determined to do whatever it took to make the customer happy (and therefore to prove his superiority to me) said he would see what he could do. So he asked the City landscaping people what he could do. They said, post a sign saying “Beware of Bird”. As long as I live, I will never forget that.
    As funny as it is, it’s a sad commentary. If I have a frustrating moment, it can’t be my fault.

  10. We don’t really care what happened to your ticket. We don’t care if it fell into your dashboard, got blown out the window, or you left it on the bar. We don’t want to hold you hostage either. All you have to do is just pay the Lost Ticket fee and be on your way. This is certain: we didn’t lose it for you.
    If it were me, I would just smack myself in the head and say next time I will be more careful.

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