Here's a shop that will make you cringe...

I had a shop yesterday that went so sideways - for the associate - that it makes me cringe to think about the talking to she is going to get when that report trickles down from corporate.

The scenario was make a purchase from an upscale store. Staff has a script on brand education they are supposed present to the customer, as well as product suggestions and sales techniques. I could either keep or return my purchase. Returns have to be made after a set amount of time.

I was the only customer in the store. She came from the back and greeted me then asked what I was shopping for. I told her a housewarming gift. She pointed put a couple of sale displays, then went to the back and returned with a laptop and a soda. She spent the rest of my visit behind the counter reading on the computer and drinking a soda. I walked around commenting on different products, picking things up and putting them down etc., and got zero engagement from her. I finally chose a few items and she rang me up. She asked if i wanted a gift receipt, then backtracked and said sale items couldn't be returned. She said it half under her breath, and I was a little confused because I bought more than sale items. Also, I've done this shop before and know that isn't true.

Two hours later I went back to do my return. This time the store was full of customers. She was standing behind the counter. As I approached her I apologized and told her I needed to return my purchases. She said, in an inappropriately loud and nasty tone, "You can't. I told you sales items can't be returned." She said it so loudly and so rudely that the whole store went dead silent and turned to look at us. I was shocked at her tone; she practically yelled, and her tone was downright snotty. I apologized, told her I forgot, and left. I have seen some poor retail behavior, but this was the worst.

I was very careful to keep my report accurate but neutral (though in my final narrative I purposely used the words nasty and demeaning). I turned it in at 10:30 last night. Got it back at 8:30 this morning with a 10/10. Fastest I've ever had a report finalized. I'd hate to be that woman when she finds out I was her mystery shopper.

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What's to cringe about? You observed and reported bad customer service. Its not as if the store was littered with zombies whom you had to fight off, encountered unmasked individuals, nor observed a restroom with excessive amounts of various bodily fluids present.
Sounds like she deserves to get whatever she'll get. She needs further training, or she needs to be looking for another job!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
Good point...I worked in retail and it makes me cringe thinking about how I would feel in her situation.
@Ideagirl wrote:

Good point...I worked in retail and it makes me cringe thinking about how I would feel in her situation.
I've worked in retail over the years, and I wouldn't even think of having my nose in my laptop while on duty or treating a customer like you were treated. She needs a good butt-kicking! I know retail isn't the greatest job in the world, but if someone acts like that, she probably shouldn't be working in it!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/2021 11:07PM by BirdyC.
I agree to a wee extent that the employee might have handled things differently at several points in the transactions. If their voice was not sweet, perhaps they were hoarse or tired. [I live with this now. The doc has no solution. If you shopped me you might fail me on a physical condition that is beyond medical control. Ouch.] Would anyone but a dishonest customer try to fool this employee into returning their money wrongfully? Perhaps this employee got burned by a previous dishonest customer who had a sob story and had learned that lesson so well that not even you could get away with that egregious effort to trap an employee into making a mistake on the job. OTOH, they were set up by the scenario and we do not know the particulars of the employee's situation. There are a few unknowns: Was that their personal laptop or something they used for work, such as inventory, reporting on observed conditions, sketching potential display designs, etc. that probably would not be entered into a cash register? Were you the umpteenth "customer" that week who tried to get away with returning sales items even though you had been informed that those items were not eligible to be returned? Umm... why would you do that? Eh? Had the location posted signage anywhere in-store, online, or in adverts that actual customers might be expected to see, that some sales were final? Was this information printed on the paper and/or electronic receipt? If the location was not even trying to help customers understand about returns, which would be supportive of their employees who interact with customers, they should not even talk to this employee about any behavior. Rather, tptb there should flog themselves or something. These unknowns make me wonder; I withhold any cringing because there is insufficient information with which to make an informed response decision.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~ Unknown
_____
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
_____
@Shop-et-al wrote:

These unknowns make me wonder; I withhold any cringing because there is insufficient information with which to make an informed response decision.

It doesn't matter. Being loud (not hoarse), rude, and snotty to a customer is never acceptable. Regardless of circumstances. If she wanted to go in the back room and swear and yell to herself after the shopper left, fine. Everybody who's ever worked in retail has probably done that; I know I have! But never to a customer's face. And the shopper stated that she has done this specific shop before, and it's not true that sale items can't be returned. Maybe the store policy has changed, but, even so, it's not a reason for the salesperson to yell at the customer so loudly that the entire store can hear. There are ways for salespeople to handle these situations that don't involve being rude. Even if this salesperson hasn't been properly trained, if one works in customer service, one surely knows that you don't treat customers like this.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/13/2021 01:06AM by BirdyC.
Good, that's what she deserves! She's the one who gave horrendous customer service. I'm not cringing.
"Was that their personal laptop or something they used for work, such as inventory,"

I, too, have worked retail. Customers and assisting them are top priority. Drinking a soda behind the cash wrap? Perhaps in a location with indoor mask mandates?
I hope you can return the items.
So. Was the employee telling you information that was told to them in error or correctly? Was the employee making up information, relaying some previous week's policy, or something else? Who is more right and more wrong here?

@Ideagirl wrote:

There was no signage regarding returning sale items that I saw.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~ Unknown
_____
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
_____


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/13/2021 02:31AM by Shop-et-al.
From my experience, items that may not be returned are clearly depicted on the sales receipt in print and/or stamped on it and in most instances verbally relayed to you. I would have challenged her and asked why can't I. I would never patronize a retail store after an experience like this again. Horrors.
Edited to add, if they verbally tell you items cannot be returned and it's not stated in writing you can return it.
I completely understand the OP's point. I *hate* when I have to report negatives on a report. It is so much nicer to be able to give glowing praise.

Ideagirl, I think you handled it exactly right. :-)
P.S. On Friday I shopped a steakhouse, the one that has a bunch of catch phrases they're supposed to use. Reporting whether they did or didn't use those phrases is no big deal, because it's a simple statement of fact. But I hesitated whether or not to mention that the two female bartenders were standing right in front of me multiple times before finally noticing me. They chatted with (in addition to taking and delivering orders) every male guest, whether alone or in a pair, but they didn't chat with me (single female). And a female manager went out of her way to ask a single male guest sitting on the bar stool next to me if everything was okay, but passed me right by. Am I being too senstitive? Maybe, but on the other hand, it's not uncommon for the single middle-aged female guest to be the most invisible guest somehow.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/13/2021 03:48AM by amyann2.
None of that matters one whit.

There is no more right and more wrong. We report what happened, factually and honestly. It's none of our business WHY it happened; we just report WHAT happened.

I've been accused of over-thinking the assignments. But even I couldn't have come up with all the questions you pose.

@Shop-et-al wrote:

So. Was the employee telling you information that was told to them in error or correctly? Was the employee making up information, relaying some previous week's policy, or something else? Who is more right and more wrong here?

@Ideagirl wrote:

There was no signage regarding returning sale items that I saw.
@Ideagirl wrote:

I had a shop yesterday that went so sideways - for the associate - that it makes me cringe to think about the talking to she is going to get when that report trickles down from corporate.
[...]
I was very careful to keep my report accurate but neutral (though in my final narrative I purposely used the words nasty and demeaning). I turned it in at 10:30 last night. Got it back at 8:30 this morning with a 10/10. Fastest I've ever had a report finalized. I'd hate to be that woman when she finds out I was her mystery shopper.

Back when I was doing a lot more MSing, I would tell myself when I had negative items to put in a report like this, that this is the main reason why I MS. I will never forget the diner shop where I overheard my waiter say, when he thought he was out of earshot, "where's the m-f-ing ice?"
@ceasesmith wrote:

None of that matters one whit.

There is no more right and more wrong. We report what happened, factually and honestly. It's none of our business WHY it happened; we just report WHAT happened.

True. And although I think there's little in life that's black and white, this, to me, is. There's no excuse for the associate's behavior. None. She ignored the customer, then treated her horribly. She's in the wrong profession. Or if she was having a bad day, tough. You don't take it out on a customer.

Her behavior was appalling. There's no possible defense. IMO.

I'll never forget what my first supervisor in retail said to me: "The customer is always right. Even when she's wrong, she's right," There are exceptions, of course (especially these days, with customers verbally and physically assaulting employees), but this doesn't seem to be one of them.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
It does matter. Even if the OP reported their experience exactly, we do not know what was happening behind the scenes. Having been in retail, I have a number of best-forgotten stories from the employee trenches. I will share one absurd tale of why it matters. 'Report anything suspicious to Security, asap.' M'kay. So it would seem to be good to tell Security that the person with the bundle seemingly secreted in their clothing who might be hunched over so as to disguise their true height as they exit might be suspicious such as a shoplifter, bomb-carrier, pet-napper, baby-napper, or other nefarious sort.

NOT!!!!!

The person was well-known to the location and well-liked. They had covered their just-in-case portable oxygen because... I dunno why. Nonetheless, I was expected to know without prior knowledge or coaching that this situation was different, somehow, than all other potential theft or safety issues. Mind you, I had been in town for less than three months, knew no one, and apparently was not sufficiently mystical, magical, or otherwise able to distinguish between a well-liked person who looked suspicious and anyone else who, under the same circumstances, would be a bum. In my book, even potentially surly or less-than-tactful employees are innocent until proved guilty or at less shown to be not more guilty than their workplace.

Hmmph.


Still not cringing. Still wondering if the employee was to any extent right or at least misinformed about the return policy for some or all sale items-- and if the employee pay or commission would be negatively impacted by returns made under their employee ID #.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~ Unknown
_____
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
_____


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2021 04:02AM by Shop-et-al.
I find mystery shopping in the current state of the economy a little unethical. Managers, corporate offices, staff all know we are short staffed and can't keep up. While rudeness is not acceptable, I have staff working 60 hours a week (voluntarily) to keep us up and running. They're exhausted. Guests are rude. I also have staff I would love to fire for incompetence, improper behavior, etc; Due to the staffing shortage we are barely discipling staff at all because we can't afford to lose a single staff member. Behavior that wouldn't have been tolerated a few months ago is now swept under the rug. I keep my corporate offices up to date on ALL situations, but also am basically told to just deal to keep the doors open. I even said today that I should just say whatever I want to guests at this point, because my job is SO secure due to how short staffed everyone is.
At the end of the day, I don't secret shop to "rat someone out." I'm literally just giving facts. We have no idea if her boss cares. There's a good chance the boss does not. I've of course had the cringey reports (drinking on the job), but overall I think companies just want to know. Their policy isn't necessarily what you think it is behind the scenes.
Nope. Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if clerk/server/team member is having a rotten day, their mom just died, they are actually too sick to work -- they are to pretend in front of customers that everything is fine and DO THEIR JOB.

I've worked retail, too -- and I found being "up" and positive and cheerful for 8 hours to be emotionally draining and physically exhausting. Still, it is what one must do. One pretends, or whatever is necessary.

One of the things I like about being self-employed -- when I'm having a rotten day, I stay home!

smiling smiley

Furthermore, it's not our job to discern what has/is going on behind the scene -- our job is to report WHAT we see, hear, and experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

@Shop-et-al wrote:

It does matter. Even if the OP reported their experience exactly, we do not know what was happening behind the scenes. Having been in retail, I have a number of best-forgotten stories from the employee trenches. I will share one absurd tale of why it matters. 'Report anything suspicious to Security, asap.' M'kay. So it would seem to be good to tell Security that the person with the bundle seemingly secreted in their clothing who might be hunched over so as to disguise their true height as they exit might be suspicious such as a shoplifter, bomb-carrier, pet-napper, baby-napper, or other nefarious sort.

NOT!!!!!

The person was well-known to the location and well-liked. They had covered their just-in-case portable oxygen because... I dunno why. Nonetheless, I was expected to know without prior knowledge or coaching that this situation was different, somehow, than all other potential theft or safety issues. Mind you, I had been in town for less than three months, knew no one, and apparently was not sufficiently mystical, magical, or otherwise able to distinguish between a well-liked person who looked suspicious and anyone else who, under the same circumstances, would be a bum. In my book, even potentially surly or less-than-tactful employees are innocent until proved guilty or at less shown to be not more guilty than their workplace.

Hmmph.


Still not cringing. Still wondering if the employee was to any extent right or at least misinformed about the return policy for some or all sale items-- and if the employee pay or commission would be negatively impacted by returns made under their employee ID #.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2021 05:44AM by ceasesmith.
It matters in the employee's world. That has been my world, too, and it always has mattered to me. It is why I always wonder if we ever, even unknowingly, cause harm. As IC's we are given only so much information and lose control of our portion of it after we submit our sincerely produced reports to third parties. If an editorial shading or nuance changes the expression of our experience, who knows what the result will be for better or worse? This is something i dislike about the IC world that we work in and talk about here. As a new employee and new arrival in town, I was set up to cause someone some embarrassment and shame and get a smear on my employee record in the process of doing so. I would never do that if I knew how to prevent it. I would never want that done to me, either. There has to be a better way of doing things.

Meanwhile, was this employee targeted? Are any other employees subjected to this shop scenario? Are all employees who are subjected to this so-called integrity test, or whatever the shop is, given the same outcomes for the same performance ratings? Where are the lines drawn between unreasonable and reasonable tests, overwhelming rations of unprintable that employees might be subjected to from all sides on and off the job (because the hatred in the world seems to be on the rise with no cap in sight), hazing, and stumbling blocks? Inquiring minds want to know what is happening in business world today. Tender hearts want to cause no harm.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~ Unknown
_____
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
_____


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2021 10:52AM by Shop-et-al.
The problem is the way the salesperson treated the customer. Doesn't matter if the customer was wrong about the return policy, the store had changed the policy, the salesperson wasn't trained well enough, or whatever. The point is simply this: The salesperson was nasty to the customer and loud enough for the entire store to hear what she said to her. That must have been embarrassing for all of them, too.

Cease is right. It's not a shopper's job to figure out why the salesperson acted the way she did--just to report what she did and said. And we only give the benefit of a doubt to a person being shopped when we don't have an opportunity to make a particular observation (guidelines usually, if there's not an n/a choice, say to mark that the employee did the required thing).

Sometimes we're all overworked, grumpy, have ourselves been treated like crap by a customer and are tempted to treat a customer poorly in return, are dealing with personal crises, and so on. But none of that excuses the salesperson's behavior. Of course, there's the possibility that you think the shopper isn't being truthful.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
Some of you have never worked front lines from your words…patience folks…even in this economy.
One aspect of the work I enjoy is the opportunity to describe behavior that I find distaste to me as an older person and I obtain a great deal of satisfaction being paid to do so. It seems to me that the attitude of young people, especially, to expect the customer to say thank you, when as a representative of the the employer, the clerk/cashier need be thanking me is but one of observations I like to point out and I have absolutely no problem with describing offensive behavior. I do not apologize for it. However, I make certain to phrase my comments in such a way that I Am not talking about the person-that I am talking about what I notice about the behavior for, as a MS, I am the observer/perceiver-the target merely the object. One does not want to get to the point where ones comments brings the target to the employer's attention (as in PR).
No. One aspect of the work I enjoy is the opportunity to describe behavior that I find distaste to me as an older person and I obtain a great deal of satisfaction being paid to do so. It seems to me that the attitude of young people, especially, to expect the customer to say thank you, when as a representative of the the employer, the clerk/cashier need be thanking me is but one of observations I like to point out and I have absolutely no problem with describing offensive behavior. I do not apologize for it. However, I make certain to phrase my comments in such a way that I Am not talking about the person-that I am talking about what I notice about the behavior for, as a MS, I am the observer/perceiver-the target merely the object. One does not want to get to the point where ones comments brings the target to the employer's attention (as in PR).

As for the ethicality of MS, running a business by one's self in one location is a challenge. Running a business with multiple locations with many employees is likely worse. The question becomes How does the owner learn what is actually happening at the locations, about the performance of its employees? Enter MS.

If owners knew how leasing office "professionals" are hard to reach and being slick, leave early and do not manage the properties as desired, then many would fire the LPs. Property owners rely on LP to be available to rent the units and the rest of their tasks. Imagine owning several properties (almost had the same problem in the family) oneself and paying a management company, Including LP, to do what needs to be done and they are not reachable and leave early when no one is watching. The problem is now a problem for you, the owner. I have zero problem with MS.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2021 02:40PM by ibtworgmail.com.
@nolimitem wrote:

I find mystery shopping in the current state of the economy a little unethical. Managers, corporate offices, staff all know we are short staffed and can't keep up. While rudeness is not acceptable, I have staff working 60 hours a week (voluntarily) to keep us up and running. They're exhausted. Guests are rude. I also have staff I would love to fire for incompetence, improper behavior, etc; Due to the staffing shortage we are barely discipling staff at all because we can't afford to lose a single staff member. Behavior that wouldn't have been tolerated a few months ago is now swept under the rug.

Agree 100% with you regarding mystery shopping in a global pandemic while short-staffed.

There are some folks here on this forum who clearly are into power-tripping and having some (imaginary) elevated position over the employees that they are supposed to objectively observe. It shows in their posts, and (from discussions I’ve had with MSP owners) it shows in their reports as well.

Remember: if they’re in here racking up a dozen or more posts a day, and have a post count in the thousands, they are not out there really working.
If a shopper is objective and reports the facts as they occurred, I don't see what the problem is. Sometimes we might feel sorry for a harried employee, and in the narrative there might be a chance to report the situation. I always try to when there's an opportunity, which is probably why I like doing narratives; we can often add detail you can't in the yes/no/na questions.

I don't see it as unethical to fulfill a task per guidelines and report the results objectively--as long as that's what they are.

My son works retail, and he "entertains" us all the time with stories from work. I worked retail for probably five years altogether. It's not easy, it's frustrating, and customers can be real PITAs. But in the absence of abuse by a customer, even if verbal and not physical, you just can't treat customers as the OP was treated. I'm not sure why this seems to be controversial.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2021 04:04PM by BirdyC.
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