You may remember how on Friday I wrote a letter to my store’s owners about their ridiculous and disproportionate response to a single e-mail from a single customer who stated that her average customer service experience at the store was poor. I was upset that one owner’s response was to call and loudly cuss out the former manager over the phone immediately upon receiving the e-mail before hanging up on her out of anger.
It got better.
The assistant manager, who is a master at wriggling around to avoid any blame for anything and simultaneously avoid doing any actual work, wrote a note on the printed e-mail (that we all had to read) saying that by looking at old receipts she had determined the customer had been shopping all on Friday mornings.
When the e-mail came in.
When I work.
Of course, this is also when the biggest order of the week comes in, the one that takes 3 of us 6+ hours to unload and process, and so we are more likely to miss a customer than if we were all just standing at the register.
But still, I get it, customer service is key. Fine.
Sunday I get into work (my next day) and am told by the manager she will need to talk to me.
Cue dread in pit of stomach.
I am taken upstairs to a smelly room full of cats and told to sit down at a table across from the new manager. She pulls out the e-mail and Formal Employee Warning paperwork. She tells me that the entire staff on that morning is being disciplined, since the incidents occur when we work. She tells me that I should know that the customer is always the number one priority. That I should be sure I always greet them. That we will be going over customer service 201 soon, about how to say more than “Hi, can I help you?” to customers. She basically told me my entire customer service sucks because they have gotten this e-mail. She says that they often get complaining e-mails that they ignore (about all the locations and everyone, not aimed at me) because they are about one incident, but that the reason this one is being written up is because the customer indicates a pattern of behavior over several visits. She tells me that the Friday shift I work will be broken up, and we will no longer be allowed to work together. Then she asks me if I have anything to say.
At this point I am staring at her in shock, because I can’t believe that one e-mail from one customer is causing me to get a formal warning.
After all of the hard work I have put into greeting every customer, being friendly, helping customers with in-depth problems, making casual conversation at the register, etc, etc.
After all of the business I have sent them from my training.
After all of the pimping of their cats for adoption (something most people neglect because they resent the cats so much).
After all of the extra shifts I have taken, or hours I have worked, just to help everyone out (and because the owner was too lazy and distracted to come and hire the staff we needed to keep the store running).
After working so hard for them for so long for no respect and no benefits and very low pay.
One e-mail from one customer is all that matters.
Not the observations of my coworkers.
Not the common sincere gratitude from the customers I help.
Not my day-to-day performance.
This one e-mail overrules it all.
I say I was there when we got the e-mail. I thought we had done a good job thus far that morning helping all the customers. I remember one lady who got really upset when I offered to carry her bag, saying she’d just make two trips. Other than that, I have no idea who it could have been. I say I really have nothing to say, because I feel we were doing the best we could.
She asks if there’s anything they can do to help me become more effective at customer service.
I boil inwardly. Outwardly I am composed and say that splitting the Friday shipment into two days (half the shipment will come Tuesday) is helpful. We all have to work very hard to get that order done by the time the former manager and I leave, because when we leave it is just the assistant manager and one other employee, and they have a hard time getting it all done (I didn’t even mention it was because the assistant manager is useless and doesn’t work).
She just looks at me like this is no excuse. Then she explains again that the customer is always most important.
Because after almost a year of working there and constant positive comments from customers, including many who remember me from previous trips and seek me out to thank me upon returning or chat with me, I am completely unaware that the customer is important.
And because I was making an excuse, not answer a question of what could be done to help with the only thing I could think of.
We talk a little more. I don’t remember what was said. I said nothing else of substance. I’m lost in shock at this point. I don’t even know what a Formal Employee Warning is. I’ve never gotten anything like one.
The manager pushes the paper towards me, the paper which states that an e-mail was received saying that customer service was poor, and that the Friday morning staff, who worked during the last visit of the customer, are being reported, including me. She stares at me, waiting for me to sign it.
I realize I have to check “I agree” or “I disagree.” I check “I agree” so they’ll just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to them anymore. I sign it, numb. I push it back to the manager.
She then fills out what actions will be taken (something she should have done first so I could agree to it). While she is writing I shake my trance a bit and say:
“Wait. I have one more thing I would like to say regarding this incident.
I do not care how angry the store owner was upon receiving this e-mail, I find it unprofessional and disrespectful to call your employee and scream and cuss at them over the phone while calling them names so loudly that I could hear it standing next to them. It is not acceptable, and it does not help anything.”
The manager gives me a fish-eye and says, “What doesn’t it help?”
I stare at her in shock. This needs to be explained?
“You are writing up disciplinary action. You are holding additional training. You are splitting up our shift. If you believe the problem is serious enough, these are all things that could help make it better. Screaming and swearing at someone and calling them names is not going to help in any way.”
She stares at me with the dead-fish look a few long seconds, then says:
“Well, I don’t mean to defend her actions, because I don’t think…well…anyway…maybe not the way to handle it…” She gets ahold of herself and stops fudging around insulting the owner and says assuredly, “But come on, none of you are new employees, and this is all basic stuff.”
I think my mouth may have dropped open. She was defending this behavior? Now I was getting angry, and my calm control started to crack the slightest bit as I said heatedly:
“I am not saying she didn’t have a right to be angry. If she wanted to get mad and throw things and go down the hall and cuss us out to her husband, she had every right to do that. She could be angry. But that does not mean that she could call her employees, scream, yell, personally insult them, and swear at them before hanging up on them. That is not professional, it is not respectful, and it is not appropriate. I don’t care how justifiable her anger, that behavior is never appropriate.”
She eyed me a bit more.
“Well…do you want me to do anything about it?”
“No. There is nothing you can do. I just feel that it needed to be expressed.”
And that was the end of that. She had the paper, I left, sent up the assistant manager, and the two of them talked for about half an hour, leaving me alone on the floor (but still able to watch me out the window they were sitting right by).
And then I had to work with both of them for approximately 5 more hours. With no break. No time to process.
While they were upstairs I texted the other two on my shift and warned them we were all getting formal warnings. At least they wouldn’t be so blindsided.
I was so hurt and frustrated and angry and in shock and I had to completely bottle it up for the next 5 hours until I could go home.
Oh. And those 5 hours?
I was the one who greeted every customer who came through the door and asked if they needed help. And not to prove anything. I was trying to hold back because I was so upset I didn’t really want to deal with customers. But they wouldn’t do it!
Occasionally I would be off with a customer and the manager would have to greet. She would look up from her paperwork after they’d walked in and she hit a good stopping place, give a lukewarm, “Hi,” and look right back down. I don’t think she once asked someone if she could help them when they came in. Only after they’d been in the store awhile and she would hit a good stopping place with her paperwork and happened to be walking by. And this after she told me to say more than just, “Hi, can I help you?” to every single customer who came in. She didn’t even say that.
So that was awful and ridiculous.
If it had been a trend, if they had been getting lots of reports about customer service that would be one thing. This could be the last straw for them. But as far as I know, this is really the first real thing they’ve gotten about us and it. Certainly about any of the three of us specifically. And definitely the first I’ve heard of it.
You cannot punish specific employees for a single comment by a single customer that is about their general experience at the store. At most, this e-mail should have sparked a, “OK, guys, let’s work on this, we’re going to have some extra training, and let’s review what I want you to do with customers,” kind of thing.
But wait. It gets even better.
I went in today. And looked at the receipts they were using to determine that the customer “always came in on Friday mornings.”
Since June, in her last 8 visits, she has been in on Friday ONCE.
The time that prompted the e-mail, yes. But literally half the things in the e-mail couldn’t have been about our crew, because we know for a fact they weren’t occurring when she was in Friday (things like “there are often lots of things on the counter so I have to take my order to the other side” when we had nothing on the counter at that time of day, it was all still on the floor behind the counter. Also, guess who is notorious for filling the counters? Manager and assistant manager).
And every single other day she was in?
I don’t work.
So even if her visit Friday was sub-par (in her opinion):
1) We are no longer talking about a trend in my work. It is, at most, a single occurrence. Which you said you would not write up a disciplinary action on, and only were because this was a trend.
2) Far, far more than the Friday crew is responsible for her average experience. In fact, the Friday crew had 1/8 effect on it. Every.single.employee contributed to her overall experience at some point (and almost every single one was there to contribute more often than me).
3) Even if Friday was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted the e-mail, that in no way implies that Friday was the worst experience. As we all know, the final straw is a tiny one as often as it is a large one.
4) She did not, at all, once, in her letter imply in any way anything about her visit that day. Nothing was mentioned about that day being particularly bad. It was all about her average experience.
In short. There is no way it is justified for me to be written up. Unless every single other employee is also being written up. Including the manager and the assistant manager (who, for the record, is shown to have not only been present, but been the one to check this woman out twice.)
Also, whoever wrote that the receipts showed that she always came in Friday mornings? Is either a royal idiot or lied to avoid culpability. And that angers me.
I went this morning and changed my statement on the official form from “I agree” to “I disagree.” I very professioally said that the woman’s statement was about her average experience, not any specific occurrence, and I have only been present for 1/8 of her experiences in the last 7 months so do not agree this e-mail implicates me above others. Additionally, even if it did, one customer’s opinion is not enough to make a statement about my general customer service, which I do not agree is poor.
Thank god I have very tight control over what emotions I show and am able to write very professionally when needed.
Though when not needed, I may have joked I would burn the place down if I stayed much longer. TOTALLY kidding, authorities. I am a wuss. My idea of “getting even” is to quit without notice. Ooooh! I’m tough!
But I will admit, if it did burn down? I would totally go dance in the ashes.
I am quitting ASAP.
Glad I was already fed up with them before this whole incident so I had found another job by the time it occurred.