June 16, 2011

Don't get too cocky. Customers will break you.

This morning while I unloaded boxes of Miracle-Gro and Bug-Be-Gone onto the orange shelves of Home Depot, I thought: You know, maybe this isn't so bad. Besides building better biceps than I've ever had, I have learned a thing or two from The Home Depot.  I'm pretty good at this job now.

The most useful of the skills I have acquired is quick thinking under pressure. I can deal with an unsatisfied customer, answer a phone call, and orchestrate the bringing down of a grill all at once. I can calm myself enough to read signs and directions during the wrath of an angry customer. I can call upon a growing amount of stored information about garden stuff, or I can remember the phone numbers of other people around the store who might know an answer.

Life is good. I'm good. Too bad it's my last day on Sunday.

I had just finished that thought when all hell broke loose. Suddenly I was the only person in the department and I was in charge of two phones. Immediately, customers rushed over to ask me questions about spruce trees and warming racks for Charbroil Grills. I tried to explain that we were out of spruce trees and that I didn't expect any more in--but then my phone rang. And rang. And rang. As soon as I would answer a question about Mosquito Magnets, I'd have another about retaining wall block, then a cashier would call with a question about a SKU. I was still trying to explain about the spruce trees, but neither the customer nor the bees would leave me in peace with my ringing phone. By the time I was looking for the elusive warming rack, I began to melt down.

Me, after thoroughly checking each shelf: "We don't have it here on the shelf, so we must not carry it. Here is the number of Charbroil customer service. They can help you figure out the model number of your grill and the right warming rack replacement."

Customer, while on cell phone with husband: "But isn't there someone more knowledgeable who could help me find this rack?"

Me, subduing involuntary eye roll: "No, unfortunately I am the only person in the department right now. I would be happy to check online if we carry the part."

Fifteen minutes of computer search later, one of my [male] co-workers, someone who does not work in the Garden Department, suggested that she call Charbroil customer service. She accepted his advice without question and thanked him as she left the store.

I had to refrain from screaming because my phone was ringing again. Could I set up the transfer of a clearance shed? Why not? I've never done that before. I tried my best to sound capable, but somehow the voice on the other end sensed the "I'm in Training" button I am supposed to wear. What's your name? Who is your manager? I heard this as: Okay, who is the dufus I can blame when the shed never arrives?

So I didn't actually melt down, but I doubt that shed will make it to its destination on time. Today I was frustrated that I couldn't manage everything that I was in charge of. My feelings get hurt when customers refuse my suggestions just because they came from me. Maybe I don't have this job as figured out as I thought. Humility sucks. Well, the virtue doesn't, but getting humbled does.

When you think you have it all figured out, get ready for the next lesson. Thanks, Home Depot.