The Customer... Should Take What They Can Get?

6/7/06 11:43 AM 0 Comments

I've noticed an alarming trend in retail-type operations lately. I try to purchase something, and the person helping me won't give me what I want. I'm not talking about haggling over prices or impossible demands, I'm talking about simple things like food and tobacco products. Here are some "for instances":

Fast Food

The past few times I've tried to order fast food at a drive-thru, my order hasn't been what I wanted. I know, this is not surprising since fast food drive-thrus spawn the most creative and frustrating of screw-ups. First you give them an order, then you slowly repeat the order item-by-item, then you correct the order. Considering I speak fast-food-ese (meaning I know how to refer to a hamburger at different establishments: Quarter pounders, double cheeseburgers at McDonald's; singles, doubles and triples at Wendy's) and understand the structure of every combo presented on the menu, I shouldn't have to go through this thrice-ordering process and then still receive something I didn't ask for or something I asked for wrong. Some examples of my experience are combos ordered up-sized, and received regular-sized, completely wrong orders, and incomplete orders.

My favorite example of a fast food screw-up occurred at McDonald's a few years back. I ordered a Crispy Chicken combo. When I got home and opened my Crispy Chicken, it was a Quarter Pounder patty on a Crispy Chicken bun with lettuce and mayo. I immediately called the McDonald's and explained what happened. The manager was appologetic, and I told him just to make sure his people were paying attention to what they were shoving through the window. I know many of the people working at these establishments are young or not mentally gifted, but they have picture assembly instructions. How could you look at a picture of a chicken patty and then grab a burger?


Recently my preferred local establishment for purchasing cigarettes at discounted prices changed hands. Since then it's been a constant struggle to get the smokes I want when I go in. For those who are not tobacco savy, here is some useful info:

Cigarette sizes (smallest to largest): unfiltered King's (regular sized cigs), King's (regular, sometimes called 85's), 100's (historically preferred by women), 110's and 120's. Sizes are like brands, when you become accustomed to smoking one size, that becomes the size you prefer.

Cigarette wrappers: Soft packs and Hard packs (also called boxes). This also is a type of preference. Most smokers prefer boxes so their expensive cigs don't get crushed.

I've noticed that the tax increases have made a lot of people switch to 100's so they are getting more cig for their money. When I was younger, I always thought of these as "women's" cigarettes, since that was who I usually saw smoking them.

Anyway, now that you're educated, here is the story: I go into my usual place (after the switch to new ownership or management) and try to buy my cigs -100's boxes. The place used to let you get the cartons yourself (cartons are cheaper per pack). Now they are behind a counter and you have to ask. One time I do this and am informed they are out of 100's boxes, would I like the soft packs? Now I really don't want the soft packs, but they are at least the same cigarette, just different packaging, so I give in and take them. The next time they have what I want. The next time, they are out again and don't even have the soft packs, would I like the Kings? I ask when they will get more 100's in. Then the guy spends ten minutes trying to convince me they are the same (he's obviously not a serious smoker) and that I am being stupid for not taking a product I don't want. I keep trying to explain to him that I understand they are the same, but I don't want them. He finally gives in and tells me when the kind I want will be in.

The Conclusion

So anyway, here are some rambling examples of this new trend. I understand having impossible customers (I used to work in retail and will probably be returning to it shortly). I understand being out of a product. But if someone a) wants something specific, b) doesn't want to pay a lot of money for something they don't want, c) shows customer loyalty by saying they will come back when you have the product they want in, and d) the seller is not making a commission for each sale, why is the customer being hassled?

The answer is because people don't understand that the customer may not always be right, but they should be able to spend their money as they see fit. I wonder how they would react if someone tried to do this to them?


“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents