Here’s a good example.
One recent morning, before we were actually open, before my steaming hot tall mocha with whipped cream was settled on the counter to cool while I counted out the bank, the phone rang.
I answered, realizing the mistake even before the handset reached my ear, knowing the risk of answering an open line without savoring the first cup of the day. The woman on the other end wanted to know if she could return a set of luggage she had bought “a couple of years ago.”
I could tell by her tone that I didn’t even want to know exactly how many years we were talking about. I had a Kreskin moment, a vision of dusty and cobwebbed deluxe rolling carriers in a half-lit spot within a sea of closet darkness, and asked her if she had purchased an extended service plan with her luggage. Without the ESP there is a one year warranty. She indicated that she had not, so I asked what the problem seemed to be with the bags. Maybe there was another way we could help her.
“Well, I’ve had these bags for, like, two years now, and I really don’t use them. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
The voice didn’t seem that old, didn’t sound particularly….. well, particular. I had no idea how this person could have found themselves with a complete set of luggage and nowhere to go. “Well…”
“Look, I want my money back. I don’t need these suitcases and I want a refund, okay?”
I was tempted to make a clever remark that would contrast the logic she was using and a Salvador Dali painting.
I couldn’t think of one.
I gave her the phone number for our corporate headquarters and continued with the opening of the store.
A few hours later the tall mocha was reduced to a tall empty coffee cup with a thin residue of dried melted whipped cream around the rim.
I was contemplating the possibility of another mocha when another woman with a suitcase issue walked in.
She was about five-one, brown hair pulled back in a pony tail, 100 pounds, mid thirties or so. She was dressed buisness casual, black skirt, white blouse, Serengetti sunglasses, diamond studs in her earlobes.
The bag she brought in was a model number KT303 twenty-two inch standard rolling carrier that looked like it had been hit with a truck immediately before it was dropped from a great height.
Now granted, they call the line Ballistic Luggage, but really, there are limits. I couldn’t help but wonder how this petit woman had managed to so violently murder ber baggage. The collapsing handle was torqued out of shape, and the hard plastic cap that the handle recesses into had a large chunk sheared off of it. This is the same ABS plastic that is used in stuff like bullet proof vests. A vest uses thicker plates of it, but you get the idea. This is as tough a suitcase as you’ll ever need, and part of it had been ripped clean off. The corners were scuffed down to the reinforcement material. This bag had given its all.
She claimed it was defective.
I said. “Ma’am, which part of this bag exactly is defective?”
“WELL, LOOK at it. It’s totally worn out.”
“Yes, I’d say it is, but warranties don’t cover abuse.”
“What makes you think it’s been abused?”
Crazy people tend to gravitate to me.
I dated a psych major once, she told me that people under stress often are helped by having a fantasy world they can escape to. When things are too rough, they daydream about their “happy place.” Prisoners of war often spoke of this type of technique in dealing with torture. She said her happy place was a quiet house with a deck, high on a bluff overlooking the ocean. She told me about it over a tall latte.
There was no way I was going to replace that KT303. My guess was either the baggage handlers had done an impromptu stress test (as they are sometimes wont to do) or she had some kind of bizzare accident. If she broke it, too bad, if the airline broke it, it was up to her to file a claim with them. From her reaction when I politely explained these facts to her I started to wonder if maybe she hadn’t been bored one day and sat around gnawing on it for a few hours. She wanted satisfaction, but all I would give her was the phone number of our district manager. Based on the beating that bag had taken, even Mick Jagger wasn’t goin’ to get no satisfaction. When she finally left it was definitely time to jet down to grab a cup of french roast.
Standing in line, I decided that if my happy place had a cliff in it, I should probably jump, or at least throw someone over. I think that’s how you really know you’ve lost it, when your happy place has a dead body at the base of it.
If I had to pick a happy place, it would probably be a coffee shop. Most people I know in customer service and/or retail sales drink a lot of coffee. We eat junk food, drink coffee, take a lot of vitamins, more coffee. We bitch about the customer, the corporate reps, and especially the payscale, usually over a cup of coffee.
Sometimes I think it’s all an evil plot thought up by Juan Valdez. Sure, he seems like some harmless old guy leading his burro up the mountain to hand pick each bean when it’s at the peak of flavor, but what if he really works for human resources?