Sunday, July 30, 2006

School supplies vs. Office supplies

Today was the final day of tax-free week in Florida. Every year the Legislature decrees "tax free week" - eight days of no tax on clothes and school supplies to encourage people to spend money.

Mostly it is hell on retailers because we never have enough help anyway.

But the point is that the Florida Legislature decrees what EXACT items are and are not tax exempt. Wal-Mart has absolutely nothing to do with it. We send a list of what we have, the bureaucrats in Tallahassee say "xxx items are tax free and zzzz items are not tax free" and that's the end of it. The registers are controlled by a master computer which switches over at midnight on July 22 and over again at 12:01 a.m. on July 31.

The only time we ever have to do anything is on a return, because the customer does or does not get the tax back depending on when the item was purchased.

I spend all last weekend and all this weekend repeating the exact same things to angry mothers and "women of a certain age" who are certain that every single thing their "precious angel" uses in pursuit of knowledge is classified as a "school supply" by the state of Florida.

Yeah. That's right. Keep dreaming.

  • File folders are not school supplies.
  • Clipboards are not school supplies.
  • Storage boxes are not school supplies just because Little Marvin is going to keep pencils in them.
  • If it is more of an "office supply" as opposed to something children will use, odds are you're paying tax on it.

    Most people accepted this with fairly good grace, realizing that we could do nothing about it. One woman even brought up four different kinds of file folders and things for me to try. None were tax-free. She was very polite and thanked me for my help.

    Then late Sunday evening there was the evil cow from hell.

    She spent more than $200 and was upset that she had been charged $5.32 in tax. She wanted, no DEMANDED an explanation.

    I explained. That wasn't good enough. "They're all school supplies."

    "Ma'am, the store has absolutely nothing to do with deciding which items are tax-free. That decision is made by the Legislature."

    "All these items are school supplies and I was charged tax on half my order. I want to know what wasn't tax-free."

    I glance down and realize that she's got at least $30 in clipboards and another $20 in folders. I tell her that and start to add the numbers. She cuts in "Just stop adding. I want to know EXACTLY the items that I was charged tax on."

    I have to admit, I did sigh at this point, because this woman was being a real witch. She spent more than $200, including four $6 clipboards, and she was arguing with me over about $5? What did she need with a $6 clipboard?

    She snapped at me "And don't you sigh at me." I barely held back an eye roll at this point. I was really too tired to fight with her. I wanted to though!

    I went to talk to my supervisor, who told her the exact same thing I told her. Then, she decided that she could magically "read" the receipt codes and started in "I'll tell you what this means. This X means this and this N means this. And I don't like how you're trying to cheat me." Out of a whole $5.

    My supervisor goes "Well actually ma'am, it doesn't mean that. And we really don't have any control over what you are charged tax for. That is a decision made by the Legislature."

    She goes "So you're telling me that I'm wrong?"

    He goes "Yes ma'am."

    So she stomps off.

    I never.

    We figure she'll call and complain on both of us. What's she going to complain about though? No one cursed at her. We both told EXACTLY the truth and were never rude to her. She was certainly rude to us.

    Tim said...

    Hey.. new to reading your blog.. Very funny stuff. I like how you controlled this situation. I recently read a webpage about how sometimes it's better to tell a customer who just won't give up that the customer isn't always right, because you end up losing trust in your employee who is doing everything right and then just telling them they're wrong by telling the customer they're right. Anyway, yeah... stupid cow.

    Anonymous said...

    We get the same thing at Publix. Women comes up with three lunch boxes and then demands that the tax be taken off, because her children will use them at school.

    Anonymous said...

    When I was a CSM I hated tax free. There was always someone like this woman. I always loved exsplaining the same thing you exsplained to people who don't speak or understand english. Oh I hated it.

    Winston said...

    I can't imagine working retail over a tax-free weekend. I think that's coming up this weekend in TX, and I don't even want to be out shopping - let alone dealing with all the crazies like you had to. Keep up the great blog!

    Alissa said...

    Yes, I see it now... you're in cahoots with the state legislatures in trying to cheat this woman out of her $5. Because lord knows Walmart doesn't get to keep this money. Unbelievable.