Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bombs Away!

Every time I see someone roll up to Customer Service with something like a microwave, a TV, a stereo or a blender just sitting in the cart without a box or any packaging, I just cringe inside, because I KNOW the ensuing dialogue is going to be a difficult one. And then I think "Do people really just throw boxes, packaging and receipts away the second they get home?"

It went down like this. This rather elderly woman rolled in. She had a beat-up microwave in the cart. She was one of those women of a certain age and of a regal bearing. You could tell that she was extremely pissed off at having to waste her Saturday returning a microwave to Wal-Mart.

ME: "Can I help you ma'am?"
HER: "This thing sounds like a bomb!"

ME: "Um, do you have your receipt for the microwave?"
HER: "I had my last microwave for 20 years."
ME: "Ma'am, do you have your receipt or the box and packaging for THIS microwave?"

HER: "It keeps making a noise like a bomb!" She wasn't old enough to have been in London's Blitz, so I have no clue how she knows what a "bomb" sounds like. I'd have liked to have called in a precision air strike right about then though and let her find out!
ME: "So you don't have your receipt?"

HER: "I had the last microwave for 20 years. I thought this one would last too!" Um, look lady, you're buying cheap Korean household product. You're lucky it heats up water!
ME: "Can I see the microwave ma'am?"
HER: "I'm not picking this thing up."
ME: "Do you need me to come around and get it on the counter for you?" But didn't you get it out of the kitchen, into the car, out of the car into a buggy and then in to Wal-Mart. And now you can't lift it the last two feet?

Once I get the microwave on the counter, I proceed to examine it. Customers tend to "overlook" certain things about stuff they buy, like the tiny info panel inside the microwave which told me the serial number, the model number and the information - MANUFACTURE DATE - MAY 2005. Yeah. Eighteen months is probably pretty good for a Wal-Mart microwave.

ME: "Ma'am, you're not going to be able to return this item. It is eighteen months old. You can only return items in stores for 90 days."
HER: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN'T RETURN IT! I called GE and they told me to bring it back to the store." Yes, but did you tell General Electric that you bought the microwave EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO? No. Of course not. Because you're a lying cow.

ME: "Ma'am. This product is from 2005. You don't have a receipt. We can't take it back."
HER: "My last microwave lasted for 20 years. I expected the new one to last. But it makes a noise like a bomb. I WANT A MANAGER HERE RIGHT NOW AND I'M NOT LEAVING UNTIL I GET SOME SATISFACTION!"

So some idiot comes up, approves the return, although she has to get a store credit. And when she leaves, she smirks at me. "I told you they said I could return it."

Did I miss the full moon or something?


Drew said...

Her last microwave, assuming she really did buy it 20 years ago, probably cost twenty times as many dollars (1985 dollars which were worth a lot more than 2005 dollars were) as the cheap-o one from your store.

Red Stapler said...

Dude, why don't you just get a manager or AM to sign off on these issues as a matter of course? Why torture yourself all the time when the customer insists on returning the item? As long as some chimp signs off on the return slip, you're off the hook.

Anonymous said...

The sick part is that she's kind of right... because even THOUGH we all know it's just a peice of Walmart junk, it's not like there's a sign somewhere saying: "Caution: they don't make them like they used to! This thing WILL BREAK much sooner than an equivalent product from 20 years ago!"

I'm not saying you did anything wrong, I mean you HAVE to go with the Warranty. On the flip side though, as a consumer, I'm ticked that technology hasn't improved enough in 20 years to make things last longer.

Anonymous said...

Hi!! You asked the question "Do people throwaway boxes and receipts as soon as the get home and unpack?" My husband does and makes me want to scream. Even though we know a helluva lot sooner than 18 months if the things works or not. A

Anonymous said...

But the warranty is 90 days after purchase,right?, not 90 days after manufacture. It could take months for the Korean children to row their ship over to the mainland.

Anonymous said...

Some people are hard on their things. Even a cheap microwave, assuming it works to begin with, will last more than a year and a half if you exercise due care using the doggone thing. Treat it like it's disposable and it will be.

That lady is probably always thinking "Why is everything I buy such crap?" when she should be thinking "Why does everything I get my hands on break?"

J Richard said...

Well, technology has improved over the last 20yrs. The thing is, companies know that they make more money off of a product that doesnt last decades so they purposely make low-grade quality products.

Anonymous said...

I presume Walmart enters the serial numbers into a database and that is how you can tell when it was purchased...not when it was manufactured.

FARfetched said...

I guess the best response to her smirk would be a shrug and "I do my job, the manager does his." I'm sure you can come up with something snappier.

Robert D Feinman said...

Competition means that almost all products in a certain class are made equally well (or poorly).

Where would you go for a "quality" microwave. In my experience all the major chains carry pretty much the same sorts of items: .6-2.0 cubic feet with power ranges of 600-1600 watts, with a price from $60-$200. The only real differences are how many buttons and the outside skin material.

All electronics is made in highly automated factories, many using subcontractors.

Would any but a few pay for a better made item if it cost $1000?

Jane said...

Jesus christ... how did you keep your cool? If she had said that to me I think I would have had to tell her to f off or something... what a witch!

Ol' Lady said...

Monday the 20th is a new moon...around here 3 days before and 3 days after either a new or full moon...all the crazies come out of the woodwork!

roadgeek said...

I have sold major appliances for 26 years. Yes, moronic customers really do lose their receipts almost immediately. "But surely you have it in The Computer" is what I hear most often. "I have my credit card number" is a close second.
I own a 12-year old m/w that has never given a days trouble. The company that built it is out of business. It is heavy and durable, just like the old ones of yesteryear. When it comes time to replace it, I am going to bite the bullet and go to a restaurant supply house and get one like you see at 7-11. They cost more but they'll take a beating....