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I Am A Retail Warrior: I Am Not Your Friend

Several weeks ago, I received a call from a woman in another state. After my (required) lengthy and extraordinarily perky greeting, she said, "Hi, Jane! This is 'Anita Perkins!'"

Who? I have a lot of regular customers and I deal with a lot of distributors and owners of other businesses, but I definitely don't know an 'Anita Perkins' (not her real name).

But, being the retail pro I've become, I responded with a cheery, "Hi Anita! How are you? What can I help you with?"

It turns out Anita was in "my" store just after Christmas of 2014 (our absolute busiest time of the year) and purchased numerous expensive leather and Swarovski dog collars for her many expensive pure-bred dogs (all of whom happen to be a breed of which I'm not particularly fond). I have no memory of Anita, the sale we made to her, which was, I'm sure, sizable, or much of anything from around, say, October through March, when we tend to rake in the money that's used to allow us to get by in the lean months. But, since we're in the midst of those lean months now, a decent sale would be a great thing.

Anita and her husband recently decided to foster yet another dog of the same breed. I may not be crazy about the breed (whose name may or may not rhyme with "Mocker Manual"), but fostering is admirable, so I'm a little happier about helping Anita upon hearing this. And not only are they fostering a dog, they're fostering a senior dog and have agreed to be a sanctuary home for it, which means they'll care for it until it dies - something not a lot of people are willing to take on. Anita is improving in my eyes at this point - but it won't last.

"So Francie-poo, our foster, needs her own fancy collar. Since I can't come in, is there a way you could show me what the options are?"

We do this for customers from time to time. If they're looking for a specific product, we take photos of things we think may suit their needs and text them copies in the hope they'll then make a purchase over the phone.

"I'll be happy to take some pictures on my cell phone and text you," I tell her. This was a terrible mistake on my part - I should have had one of my bosses use one of their phones.

"Great!" she chirps, and gives me her cell number.

I choose five collars that I think will look nice, based on the coloring of the dog as described by her (yellow, more or less), and send her a message that she should call me AT THE STORE (number provided) if she's interested in any of them or would like to see other options.

Two minutes later, I get a text.

"Is the one on the far left blue?"

I should never have texted back, but I did.

"Yes. That one is blue, the one next to it is seafoam green, then bright pink, then a darker green."

Minutes pass. My cell phone buzzes again.

"Janet, (Yes, I've somehow now become 'Janet' rather than 'Jane') I hate the dark green collar (which is a best-seller for us, but whatever). Let me show my husband the pictures and I'll get back to you."

"Great!" I respond. "Please call me AT THE STORE tomorrow to let me know what you decide!"

Several hours pass. My cell phone buzzes. I recognize the out-of-state number. Why is she texting me? The store is about to close.

"Hi Janet! It's Anita! Do you have a collar in gold?"

My heart sinks. Although my instinct is to call her from the store phone to confirm we have one in gold, I know she wants a picture. There's no one there but me to take it. I snap a picture of the gold collar and type "Here is the gold collar. Please give us a call AT THE STORE tomorrow if you'd like to order it. Thanks!"

At approximately 9:30 that night, my phone buzzes. I'm hoping it's a friend or even family member. It's Anita.

"Janet, we LOVE the gold collar. Is it possible to get it with more crystals?"

Does she think Creature Comforts is Wal-Mart, and open 24 hours a day? She knows I don't own the shop, so why is she texting me at this time of night? I decide to wait until morning to respond.

I respond by calling her from the store's number. I can special order the collar with the gold leather with more crystals if she would like, but I will have to check the cost with the manufacturer, and get back to her on that. I emphasize that it's JANE calling. I leave the message on her voice mail. I ask her to call me AT THE STORE regarding how she would like to proceed.

Two-and-a-half hours later, my cell phone buzzes.

"Janet, it's fine as it is, we'll take it! Also, we have large male dog who weighs over 100 lbs. We would like to get a special collar for him, too. But it needs to be boyish. Can you send pictures of any suggestions you might have? What size would he need?"

Before I can respond, it buzzes again.

"I think he'd look great in red!"

At this point, I should know that Anita doesn't understand boundaries, and I am, essentially, screwed. I take pictures of several very nice red leather collars, text them to Anita, and she's delighted with one of them. She texts me again regarding size. I consult my boss, who tells me what size we need. I text Anita regarding the right size.

"Are you sure? That sounds small," she texts, regarding a collar that is more than two feet in diameter.

"I'm sure," I text back. "We do not have it in stock, but I can special order it and we will ship it when it comes in."

"I need to double check with my husband on the size," she responds.

"Take your time. Please call us AT THE STORE when you know what size you need," I text.

"I'm going to call you to give you my credit card information for the collars," she responds.

Anita calls me at the store. I graciously take her information and explain that, since we don't yet know what size she'll be ordering, I need to charge for the larger possibility. She says this is not an issue, she's willing to pay that amount either way. I also charge twice for shipping, as she wants the gold collar right away, and we'll have to ship the red one once the manufacturer has made it to order. Again, not a problem. She will let me know what size she wants after (again) consulting with her husband. I tell her to give me a call AT THE STORE when she has made a decision. She thanks me for being helpful. I mail out her gold collar and write up the order for her red collar, making a note that she will be calling back to confirm size, as I will be off the next day and someone else will likely take the call.

Just after 10:30 p.m., my cell phone buzzes. Anita has sent me a text to let me know she needs the size I told her she needed. I respond that we will place the order and it will arrive in about six weeks. She thanks me. The next time I'm in the shop, I rewrite the order with a definitive size and breathe a sigh of relief. It's done. There is absolutely no reason for Anita to text me again.

Five days pass. At 7:30 a.m. on my day off, my cell phone buzzes.

"Hi Jane! (Apparently the note I included with the gold collar clarified this name thing for her.) Just wanted to let you know we got Francie-poo's collar last night and it's BEAUTIFUL! I love it! I put a picture of her wearing it on Facebook, and told all my friends I got it from Creature Comforts!"

Despite the fact it's (a) my day off, (b) before 8 a.m., and (c) SHE'S TEXTING MY PERSONAL PHONE AGAIN, I politely respond that I'm glad she likes it and let her know that Creature Comforts has a Facebook page to which she is welcome to post a picture of Francie-poo in her collar.

"I'll do it as soon as I'm home later today!" she responds, leading me to wonder where the heck she is at that hour of the morning.

I roll over to go back to sleep. My cell phone buzzes within five minutes.

"I can't find your Facebook page," she texts. I direct her to the page and try to go back to sleep again.

Less than five minutes pass before the phone buzzes again.

"I tried to post the picture to your page, but I can't see it," she texts. "I must have done something wrong."

At this point, I know I'm not going back to sleep. I get up, check the page for work, look at "Posts to page," and see her post at the top.

I have given up on actually speaking to her on a day when I'm at work, on the shop phone.
"It's there. It's under 'Posts to page'. It looks lovely on Francie-Poo. Smiley emoticon."

I then text my boss, asking him to move it from its current location to our main page so Anita and all her friends can see it. She's put a little caption with it, thanking me by my correct name for all the help. I can only hope she won't give my cell number to any of her friends who are looking for collars.

This whole saga has lasted nearly a week. I am no longer receiving texts from Anita. For now. Six weeks will pass far too soon, and my cell phone will begin buzzing regarding the arrival of the red collar. I have resolved to enjoy every minute of every day until then.

-

Previously in I Am A Retail Warrior:
* 15 Things We Wish Customers Knew.

-

Previously in Life At Work: Barista! Tales From The Coffee Front; At Your Service; I Am A Security Guard; I Am A Roofer; Working The Door; I Am A Wrigley Beer Vendor; I Am A Pizza Delivery Guy; and the original Life at Work.

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Jane Harper is our pseudonymous retail correspondent. She welcomes your comments.



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Posted on September 1, 2015


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BOOKS - Why Al-Qaeda Is Still Strong.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Mural Man.


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