Tuesday, January 04, 2005

How to lose sales and insult customers

I've known for some time that the market on stupid comments is not solely limited to infertility, adoption or miscarriage. It's just that I tend to be more alive to the verbal barbs which are hurtful to someone in my situation, my soft emotional underbelly more easily pierced by a thoughtless remark.

However, in the Not-Infertility Related Sphere, today someone said something so gobsmackingly idiotic to me that I just had to share.

What happened is this: some years ago I was given a hardbacked copy of the novel Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Taking place in 1843, it's the story of a 16 year old Canadian servant girl imprisoned for the brutal murders of her employer and his mistress. I had started reading it, got sidetracked by something else, and had never returned to it until now. The main reason I had kept it was because I loved the cover, the UK hardback version being particularly attractive, and it looked so nice on the shelf. Yes, I am shallow like that.

Anyway, I recently began reading it again, and this time, was completely engrossed. Over Christmas, I made my way, page by page, chapter by chapter, toward the gripping denouement. Until finally, lying awake at midnight with the low bedside light burning, I was almost at the conclusion. I was about to find out, or so I thought: did she do it? Was she innocent? Or was she insane? I slowly turned the page and...

AGGGGGH! The book was misbound. A whole section of earlier text was duplicated, and when the normal pages resumed, it was impossible to work out exactly what had happened, or what was said.

So, in the morning, we headed out to do some errands, and on our travels stopped off at a local bookstore- mainly so I could find a copy and have a quick skim of the chapter with the missing pages. This was accomplished as E. happily discovered the book he had been wanting for months, on sale. We were thinking of heading to the tillpoint to purchase this when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

It was an acquaintance/friend of a friend, who I knew from a few years ago at the university. Whom now, as it happened, was the manager of the bookstore. We exchanged vague pleasantries in the way of people who don't really know each other. I made some benign comment about how town was so busy, but the bookshop seemed pretty quiet.

"Thank God for that," he said, shaking his head, "We had people phoning up first thing this morning to see if we were open. Imagine!"

"Yes, well, it is a holiday today here. Guess a lot of people are still off work," I observed.

"I just don't get it," he went on, "I really don't get how people can think it's a good idea to go shopping right after Christmas like this. Like we all need MORE stuff. I see them coming in here, and I think, "crazy". People who go shopping on public holidays are just crazy."

Ahem. Now. This is, in some senses, quite an astute remark. There is perhaps something a little unseemly in the general mad, slavering rush to buy a bunch of frivolous junk in the sales, especially given the stark contrast with those who have just lost everything in one dark hour half a world away. Having worked in retail myself in the past, I also have considerable sympathy for the post holiday weariness of the shop worker.

But not exactly the kind of thing you would really expect a store manager to say OUT LOUD to a potential customer who, up until categorised as "crazy", had been about to amble up to the cash desk to part with some hard earned cash. Money which could equal BONUS for you, pal.

There was a pause, while I attempted to realign my jaw to the lower half of my face. Then I turned to E., gently took the book out of his hand, and put it back on the pile.

"You're right," I said to my former aquaintance, "It would be crazy to buy this today. Guess we won't. Let's go, E."

And we walked right out of the shop.

For some reason, I found it kind of refreshing to encounter someone being insulting about something else for a change. To realise, again, that people just say dumb stuff all the time, in a range of situations- their mouth opens, and tactless crap falls out. I don't know why- I will never know why. People are just. plain. stupid. C'est la vie.

The missing pages were really quite good, by the way.


At 9:10 PM, Blogger amyesq said...

Good story, Mare. Did your brilliant acquaintance consider that some folks actually have JOBS during the day and are forced to use weekends and bank holidays to take care of other tasks? Probably not.

I think I am more sensitive to idiots of all kinds these days, too. Although it is nice to hear that moronic comments are not always confined to the realm of infertility.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Sandy said...

I love that you put the books down and left! I live in awe of women with guts like you ... in my head I always respond like that, but in person I never quite do. Good for you!

At 11:23 PM, Blogger lobster girl said...

You rock! You do know that don't you? You really should wear a tiara, because, baby, YOU RULE! Walking out of that bookstore, with that comment, is one of the coolest things I ever heard. (right up there with getup grrl's elevator speech.)

At 1:05 AM, Blogger Suz said...

You probably actually did that guy a favor in saying what you did and walking out of the store. Maybe he'll stop saying stupid things and loosing more business. But then, again, maybe not...

At 1:22 AM, Blogger LinF said...

You rock! Now why did I do nothing but cry in my situation?

At 3:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo! That should teach him to keep his trap shut. Now if only I could be that quick on my feet the next time someone tells me to just relax. Sigh. Natalie

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Toni said...

While I praise the act, what I really want to know is - is she innocent??? :)

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Hee. Oh, those crazy customers, always wanting to BUY things. When will they learn to just stay home?

At 9:11 PM, Blogger DeadBug said...

Had a love/hate with Alias Grace a few years ago. That doctor character annoyed me no end, but I just couldn't bring myself to put it down.

And, yes, I'm also bowing down to your bad-ass self for being articulate enough in that situation to teach the sales fellow a lesson.


At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AWESOME. Well done!

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Spit said...

Good for you for being quick witted enough to come up with a jaw dropping reply of your own!


Post a Comment

<< Home