A little while ago, I worked in a shoe shop. It was not a good job. Well, let me qualify that statement. It was an alright studenty job but the manager was… I’m thinking of a polite way to put it. She was just a bit rubbish really.
You know when you can’t understand how someone got to the position they did. It was like that with this manager. I was constantly puzzled by her. She was confident and took charge etc. She just didn’t seem to understand things people said. Simple things. And she was quite rude, but I think we call that being ‘a bit rough around the edges’ nowadays.
Anyway, I should have sensed all would not be rosy in the world of shoes in my initial interview. You know how, usually, the interviewer will direct questions at you and it’s for you to answer, talk about yourself, your knowledge, sell yourself a bit? Well, in this interview, she talked for probably 60% of the time. Now that’s wrong isn’t it? She already doesn’t get what the interview is for.
Almost at the end of the interview came the killer question that should have told me not to accept the job when she called to offer it. She said something along the lines of “Can you tell me about an experience you have had of receiving bad customer service.”
And I replied that, since I’ve worked with the public for years, I know that often it’s nothing to do with the actual customer, it’s the one before who annoyed you, or something just happened elsewhere, you just broke a plate, or you’re tired. There are plenty of reasons why someone’s grumpy. So when I go somewhere, if I don’t get good service, I don’t take it personally really.
She looked at me, blankly. She didn’t know what I was talking about. So she said to me, in a let-me-slow-this-down-because-you’re-too-thick-to-understand voice, “No darlin, it means when you’ve got bad customer service somewhere else. Not when you’ve given bad customer service.”
I wanted to say ‘YEH I KNOW YOU STUPID WOMAN! DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME.’
Instead I said, “Yeh, I mean I don’t really remember negative customer experiences because I don’t take it personally. I’ve worked with the public for ages so I know what it’s like and sometimes you don’t give your best customer service and it’s nothing to do with the customer.”
“No, okay,” she says, taking a deep breath, “What it means is, you’ve gone somewhere else to buy something and the person doesn’t give you good customer service. Not when you’ve given someone else bad customer service. Do you see what I mean?”
It was un-be-liev-able! She was really really talking down to me. I could see her mind ticking away, thinking, ‘how am I going to make this girl understand the question? I was like, I DO! I’M ANSWERING YOUR QUESTION! It’s that YOU don’t understand ME. But, of course, I’m in the interview, I want the job, the only way to explain properly is by being rude to her, which I can’t do. I was about to start my second year of a postgraduate course that was costing me a lot of money so I thought it would help to just have a little extra coming in. It had been advertised as 8 hours a week. Easy peasy.
So instead of trying to explain again, as she apparently couldn’t hear (maybe she left her ears at home, maybe that’s the problem), I just went, “No, I don’t remember receiving bad customer service.”
I mean, what did she think I thought was happening? Did she really think that I thought she was saying to me, ‘Have you ever given bad customer service?’ and I was going ‘Yes, all the time, because sometimes you have bad days, dont you?’ As if, in an interview, you’d really be asked that! And as if I’d really answer in the positive. When I’m interviewing for a job!
She was just plain rude sometimes too. She was fitting a little girl for some school shoes and the girl had hold of the one shoe which was from the shop floor and she was saying to the manager, in her little five year old voice, “But there’s only one of these.” As five year olds do, they don’t understand the ins and outs of how buying shoes works. And the manager, super irritated, snapped at her “Yeh! I’ll get the other one from the stockroom!” At a five year old! Ridiculous.
She would also sometimes ‘teach’ me things, to train me. She would ask me how I would usually do something, register a transfer of stock to another store, perhaps. I would tell her my version, which was guesswork as no-one had taught me properly, and it obviously wasn’t right. She’d go, “No, ok, we’re going to start again. What’s the very first thing you do? You’ve got to transfer shoes to the Notting Hill branch. What’s the first thing you do?” I’d say whatever I did, which was wrong. And she’d go “No, what do you do first, before that?” And I didn’t know. So I’d say it again.
She wouldn’t stop this and go, ‘Right, well let me show you how to do it properly, then you’ll know.” She just kept saying, “But what do you do before that? First?”
Inevitably, during this nonsense version of a training session, a customer would come over needing help, she’d run off and do that and we’d never revisit the problem.
When I finally left, six weeks later, the assistant manager said I was their shortest staff member ever. I was shocked, six weeks felt like a lifetime, I didn’t know how all the others coped being there longer.
I had asked for a day off the following Monday, which was about a week and a half away. My official days were Tuesday and Wednesday so I was actually doing extra hours that day. Given that it was about nine days away, I thought it was more than enough time for a place which has about twelve members of staff, all pretty flexible. At the end of my shift I approached the manager and said the following Monday would be a problem and would I be able to get it off?
I’m sorry. I didn’t really know what to do with that answer. I just kind of stood there. There was no way I could work and even if I could get out of the other thing, I didn’t really want to go to the shoe shop. By this point, I was starting to dread it.
“It’s too late notice!” she said. “Can’t do that. No.”
The assistant manager, who was standing next to her, tried to be helpful. “Maybe Rachel could do that shift?”
“No, Drew. People should be allowed their days off. I can check the rota later,” she said, in her most doubtful voice, “but for now, it’s a no.”
I couldn’t believe it. I just kind of nodded and, as it was the end of the shift, got my bag and left. I went home, checked my contract for my notice period, and wrote my letter of resignation straight away, which said something about the ‘inflexibility of the shift patterns’ and that I ‘had not enjoyed my experience of working here as much as I had expected.’ I gave some obligatory nonsense at the end about my school year starting again and too much work but I just put that in for politeness sake.
What an awful awful woman. She used to tell me about her and her boyfriend going motorbiking at the weekends and she wore those fit-flop things which are the most hideous things ever.
She also called me Lauren the entire time I worked there.