Do you suffer fools quietly, or do you speak up when something is wrong? Some might say that I take offense too easily, but my tolerance level for nonsense is very low, and when I am the customer, it’s even lower. I work very hard for my money, and when I spend it, I want my shopping experience to be pleasant, and I expect to be treated like a valued customer. If I’m not, I go elsewhere.

Case in point: One of our weaknesses in life is books. We read a lot. I read some books on my iPad, but not every book is available in digital format, especially the reference books I use in researching the articles I write. We travel all over the country and shop at both Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide on a regular basis. It is seldom that we don’t spend at least $75 to $100 on a visit to a bookstore.

Yesterday evening, we drove 17 miles to a Barnes & Noble store in Winter Garden, Florida. After picking up two books in the travel section, I tried to look for a book in the business section. There were three girls about age 14 lying in the aisle, reading some sort of joke books from the opposite side of the same aisle, laughing and tickling each other. Just being typical kids, which is fine in a park or a playground, but not in a business where they are disturbing other customers.

What wasn’t fine was that they were completely blocking the aisle, when I said excuse me and tried to get into the aisle, they sprawled out even more so I could not get to the display I wanted. I walked away, looked at another section, and came back 15 minutes later. They were in the same position, and when I said I really needed to get in that aisle, they stood up and leaned against the row of books I wanted to look at, giggling and being obnoxious.

I found a lady clerk near the service desk, told her my problem, and explained that as a 58 year old man, I did not feel comfortable trying to nudge teenage girls out of the way. Her response was “We don’t make it a practice of telling our customers they can’t browse our inventory.”

I pointed out that I was a customer too, and that I wanted to make a purchase, not play in the aisle. She then went with me to the aisle, asked the girls to give me room to get to the display, and told them that there were chairs nearby if they wanted to use them. Her attitude was that I was an impatient old fart causing the problem. The girls just giggled and moved aside, the clerk walked away, and the girls immediately leaned back against the display I was trying to browse and made rude comments.

I gave up, found my wife, who was browsing in another section of the store, and we left. There are other bookstores where I can shop, comfortably, that will be happy to accept my business.

I suppose I could have asked for a manager, but then again, any manager who was in the store and out on the sales floor for the previous half hour or so and couldn’t hear the noise the girls were making probably couldn’t have heard my complaint anyway.

No problem, I still have my money, and there are other stores that stock the same titles. I imagine that one of them will accommodate me. Will my not buying at that Barnes & Noble have any impact on their bottom line? Of course not. But maybe if enough customers voted with their wallets, retailers might get the message that if a customer is going to go to all of the trouble of leaving home and driving to their store to make a purchase, they deserve more than nonsense and lack of attention from lazy store personnel. Convenience is a big factor in the rise of online retailers. Being inconvenienced and not having their needs met by store employees will send more and more shoppers to the digital marketplace.

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17 Comments on Voting With My Wallet

  1. Gina Ellis says:

    Nick, you’re nicer than I would have been. Not only would I have complained to the manager of the store about the girls, but about the sales clerk failing to make sure that a paying customer was taken care of. I would also probably hang around to see who picked the girls up. If it looked like a parent, I would probably have been happy to report to them their child’s disrespectful behavior. What you described is the beginning of gang behavior and can easily evolve from simply being brats to being abusive to older people who are unable to defend themselves. Yep, you’re nicer than I am.

  2. Jan and Brad says:

    We had a similar case of apathy at Cracker Barrel, Port Huron. It was 1pm and we were in a section with only 2 other people. The one lady at the next table jumped up and said “my friend is choking and I don’t know what to do” Brad went over and proceeded to use the proper choking procedure on here while her friend went for help. He was successful and I stayed with the woman until her friend came back. Brad and I were both in our seats when the manager strolled over. Brad said that she had stopped and talked to staff for 10-15 seconds before she came out. In choking, seconds count.
    She then asked if she was alright and left. The staff cleaned up the mess.
    A friend working at Tim Hortons a manager said she would have ran to help me while her baker called 911. She would have also had to complete an incident report with names of all concerned.

    I sent an email to Cracker Barrel re this and have not had a reply. What once was one of my favorite restaurants is not way down on the list.

  3. Barbara says:

    What happened to training your employees. When I worked in retail I was trained and if I wasn’t respectful to the customer I was fired. One thing that bugs me is when you are checking out with a purchase and the clerk picks up the phone and proceeds to give the person all the information they want. I am the one with the cash the person on the phone will probably never buy. Next time I will leave with out it.

  4. Linda says:

    When we were in Texas last year, we went to quite a few “What a Burgers” and always had great service. The employees seem to care. I figured they must of had better training than other fast food places. It seem to me employees just don’t care whether they have your business or not. I once boycotted Krogers for 10 years because of a bad expierence. I talked to a manager and he didn’t seem to care, so I never went back. I doubt if they really cared but if more people would do that maybe it would make a differance.

  5. Bill B says:

    Nick – power of the web – e-mail to the home office and the store. I’m not sure the markup on books (30%), but that $30 would cover some lights, air, etc.

    If the incident with the clerk does not go to the manager, and the home office, how will they know, react, and train?? That clerk treated you that way because noone (or very few) else, prior to you, had taken it to the next level and she could get away with it. By not reporting up the chain, you are enabling the lack of respect. Of course, I also hold true that if you want to complain, then you should also do the converse and compliment, again up the chain.

  6. Gary says:

    The best solution I have for a rude employee who would rather talk on the phone than wait on a paying customer is what I have done on two occasions. That is to reach over and hang up the phone for them. It really gets their attention. One was dumfounded and did not know what to say. The other one actually apologized for being so rude. On the other hand, you could just leave all your purchases right there on the counter and walk away.

  7. Bill T says:

    It seems that today people in the work place are just not all that into service, just into their pay check. When it comes to money i vote with my money, and i tell then so.
    I am with you Nick on this one.
    Bill

  8. Dave B. says:

    It’s a “Me” attitude that our society has. I once waited behind a camper at a park dump station for 30 minutes. There was no one in the camper, but he was parked at the dump site. I beeped my horn continuously but the guy never showed up. Finally I went to the office and they called on the radio to the maintenance man. Turns out the guy was about 100 yds. away talking to the maintenance guy. How could they not here all the car honking? When the guy showed up he was apologetic but I asked if he thought he was the only one in the world who needed to dump. He didn’t know what to say so I told him to his face that it is a “Me” world. He got mad and red in the face but I think he got the point.

  9. Howdy ‘Bad’ Nick,
    I think I am living in the wrong universe!!! My old German
    daddy would not stand for us being callous or crude or impertinent
    to anyone… EVERYBODY GOT RESPECT!!!! That’s one reason I live
    on a ranch in the middle of NOWHERE, HARDLY EVER GO SHOPPING OR
    EVEN TO TOWN!!! You can’t even be ‘nice’ to people anymore..I held the door for a ‘lady’ and she reached out her hand and pushed on it… THE JAPANESE OWN THE LAND, THE GERMANS AND ARABS OWN THE
    BUILDINGS AND THE CHINESE OWN THE GOVERNMENT!!!! WHY BE NICE???
    ALL WE OWN ARE OUR SKIVVIES !!!!!!!!!!

  10. Mark Thiebold says:

    Dont blame you a bit for walking out of that store Nick. Number one, there are other places that want your business. Number two and more importnat, those girls could accuse you of all sort of things if you even bumped into one of them trying to get to the merchandise you wanted. And in today’s world, who would get believed? Who needs that hassle?

  11. Nick Russell says:

    Today I called and spoke to the store manager, who apologized and assured me that she knew who the clerk was (from my description) and that the matter would be dealt with.

  12. Linda says:

    Makes you happy that your grandchildren are being raised to behave better than those young “ladies”!! Pursueing it with the store manager on site may have resulted in them being banned from the store. I know we are seeing that happen in at malls etc around the country. Glad that you did get some response from them today.

  13. Mary Hayes says:

    I’m ashamed to say that I’m one who suffers in silence and I hate myself for it. If my food is served cold or burned, I never send it back, and when a waitress asks how my meal is, I always say fine. Then they walk away and I kick myself. If I get rude service in a store I just accept it and hope for better next time. I’m not sure why I am this way, I am just always afraid of making a scene.

  14. T & R Martin says:

    Bad Nick, you are going to have to change your name—YOU are a very kind & PATIENT man. Visualizing the scenario you described made me furious. What happened to “the customer is always right”? It also does not help that everything we see on TV today shows adults being rude, especially judges on talent shows, cooking shows, news, etc. Today I find that many girls are worse than boys. Glad you called the manager & received an apology. Now, don’t you feel better? I do.

  15. Ian Jones says:

    I don’t usually comment on things like this, but I can’t resist. As said in the first comment, you’re a great deal nicer than I am.

    Assuming something like that occurred in my home town, I’d call one of my father’s friends. He’s a retired police officer, and I’ll leave how that would end to the imagination.

    Away from home base I’d probably make a lot of noise and make sure everyone in the whole store knew what was going on and saw me as the victim.

  16. You are more tolarent than me I would ask them to move and when they didn’t I would of said really loud move bitches when dealing with idoits treat them like idoits the squeakly wheel gets the grease I have tried this several times and it shakes the managers of the store up

  17. Bill Grimwood says:

    I bought a new Ford at Woody Anderson Ford in Huntsville, AL in 1971. After a lot of problems the dealer was susposed to replace 3 tires and 2 wheels. I left it and returned that afternoon. They told me thay had replaced everything. I had marked everything and found they had done nothing. I asked to speak to the owner but only his son was in. The son snickered at my rant. I told him to laugh all he wanted to but he would never get a cent of my money again. I have bought many Fords since then. I go to Woody Anderson, look at all the models, drive them and deceide what I want and then go somewhere else and buy a new Ford.

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