Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekly Whine: Me

Some of you may or may not remember my story where I got into a fight at Kmart over a pair of sunglasses that took me half an hour to buy. This is part two.

About a week after the Kmart situation, Mel and I went to the Painted Penguin chain. It's one of those stores where they have pottery that you can paint. It's one of her favorite places to go and we had a little time alone together, so I took her there.

The pottery is organized on the wall by price. You can pay anything ranging from about $10-$30. Considering I knew the pottery would either end up in a drawer or broken by her baby sister, I told her to pick something from the $10 wall.

After some deliberation, Mel picked out some Pokémon pottery. We went to pay for it, and it rang up about five dollars more than I thought it would. I thought it was probably some sort of surcharge they had added, so I casually asked about it.

Cashier: "this pottery came from the $15 wall."

Me: "no it didn't. We got it from the $10 wall."

Cashier: "well, maybe somebody put it back in the wrong place. But it's a $15 pottery."

Me: "but it was on the $10 wall."

Cashier: "I don't know what to tell you."

Obviously, I don't care about an extra five dollars. I had been perfectly willing to pay it when I thought it was a surcharge. But the whole thing pissed me off because I had gotten it in the right place and it was their fault that it wasn't where it should've been. It's their responsibility to make sure pottery gets put back in the right place. What's the point of the walls if they mean nothing?

I told Mel that we were going to pick out a different piece. I mean, it's not like that stupid Pokémon pottery was so wonderful. But apparently it was, because she started to cry. So I had to suck it up and buy it.

I couldn't resist saying to the cashier, "you know, this sucks. The pottery was in the wrong place and now my kid is crying, so what am I supposed to do?"

But I was pretty much talking to hear myself speak at that point.

Anyway I got over it, and Mel painted her Pokémon. Then afterwards, we went to the supermarket. They had a little bin of beanie babies, which were marked down from $8 to $2.

Mel asked if she could get one, and I told her she could. And I figured we had to get one for her sister too, otherwise there would be major jealousy. So we took two beanie babies and went to pay for them at the self checkout.

Naturally, the second beanie baby rang up as eight dollars.

But here's the reason I'm writing about this. The second I saw the beanie baby ring up as eight dollars and commented on it, Mel said to me, "mommy, please don't get angry!"

And that made me feel really bad. I mean, I don't think I was wrong in either of those situations, but I hate to think that I'm getting worked up enough that it's upsetting my daughter.

Yet at the same time, I'm not just going to sit there with a smile when I'm getting shitty customer service.

(In case you were curious, I called customer service over and ended up getting the second beanie baby for free for some reason.)


  1. While on one hand I agree that you should speak up in these situations (they happen precisely because the stores count on people not speaking up, and it's obnoxious), you yourself commented that you had a lot of stress in your life. Maybe you can work on letting go a little bit? It might make you feel better.

  2. What if the incorrect placement of the pottery had happened 2 minutes before you arrived there? The staff would not have had the time to make a correction. Did it make you feel better to get angry with the staff.
    Perhaps you could have taken the high road and agreed that errors happen. Was this the only copy of that particular piece on that shelf? Maybe that would have been the first clue that there was an error.
    I can't help but think that some of your stories would end up on, with you as the antagonist.
    Stop and smell the roses. Somehow, drop the stress level in your life.

    1. When Fizzy wrote about her original experience at Kmart I felt that she was in the wrong. I have more sympathy for her in these cases and disagree with what you wrote here. She seemed pretty stressed with the Kmart situation, but not in these cases.

      As someone who doesn't yet have any children, t also think I'm developing a bit more understanding of what's so frustrating about these situations. If a store makes an error in pricing and the price is beyond my expectations, then my frugal wife and I have no problems putting it aside. I've done this many times and it's never a big deal - an error was made, and you just work around it. When you have a child who expects to be getting that object, you're stuck. You can no longer work around it: you're either going to disappoint your child or you're going to have to suffer someone else's error. I'm a calm person, but if I were placed into a situation like that then I could imagine feeling irritated. I'm sure that actually having a child and feeling that sense of attachment and desire not to disappoint makes the irritation 10x worse than I'm imaging.

      It's also compounded by working in medicine. People expect us (medical staff) to be perfect. While rare, even as a medical student I've been yelled at by other medical staff and family members of patients because something went wrong (even if it wasn't my fault). I don't take it personally or get upset, because if there's a situation where perfection should be striven for more than in any other field, this is it. I take errors seriously. Yet while I recognize that none of us are perfect, having such high expectations placed upon you and holding them for yourself can also make errors in other fields even more frustrating. It's like, look at all of this information we're managing, and the caring demeanor we consistently treat our patients with even when we've suffered something terrible... and you can't even put the right product on the correct wall? And whereas a slight mishap that could result in a mild delay (but nothing life-threatening) seems to give some people feelings of entitlement to yell at us and we still have to be pleasant for the doctor-patient relationship, your store's slight mishap doesn't seem to be a big deal worthy even of an apology for the mixup? None of that is to say that the situations I'm listing are comparable, but it's a clash of different standards held by different industries.

      One last thing - I follow the stories posted to notalwaysright, and while I agree that some of Fizzy's stories could end up there, I don't always agree with the author of the stories. In many of the stories I feel that we're reading about a customer with uncontrolled psychiatric disorders, or who might be overwhelmed with something else in their life. I know the intent is that we're all supposed to laugh and feel that the person is stupid, ignorant, and/or plain mean, but it's rarely that simple.

    2. the problem here is allowing the young child to control the situation. take the figurine and the child back to the wall to select a different penguin. kids can understand if dealt with reasonably and without the frightening overlay of anger.

    3. Being with the kids is the problem. My daughter is very reasonable, but if I promise to buy her something and then I don't, I think it is reasonable for her to be upset. in another situation a week ago, a bag of shrimp at the grocery store was mislabeled and was $20 more than I thought it would be. I didn't argue, just put it back. Without kids involved, it's a much easier situation.

    4. Regarding the piece of pottery, it was not particularly nice and I actually thought a lot of the other $10 items seem better and I was going to persuade my daughter to pick something else before this all happened. It probably cost more because it was Pokémon. If they have such a big problem with kids moving around the pottery, maybe they need to individually label things so this doesn't happen repeatedly.

    5. Anon at 7:40: Dealing with children reasonably only works with some kids. On certain days. In certain circumstances. Once a kid's heart is set on something, they don't always want to make a second selection. Fizzy's daughter is still at an age where something like painting a specific Pokemon pottery piece is a big deal to her. If she were 10 and got upset because she couldn't get exactly what she wanted, that would be a bit different, but kids who are 5, 6, even 7, can't be expected to act reasonably under such circumstances all the time.

    6. I like Ledgem's point. Being in the medical profession we are held to an impossible standard of perfection. Yet - it seems in all other places we allow sloth to exist to the point of frustration. And it doesn’t change.
      So I can see how stressful it can be and the unfairness of it all. Adding a child just increases that. However, I cannot justify becoming that angry over it to the point of yelling. Especially in front of my child. I know that I have a temper, so maybe I am just more aware and cautious because I do not want her to think throwing a temper is OK (which she does anyways because she’s two).

    7. The drive-through is a really enraging. If doctors acted like that, everyone would die. They got my order wrong so frequently, that I'm actually sort of surprised when it's correct. The last time I went to McDonald's, I got a regular meal for myself and two happy meals. They forgot both happy meals, and forgot the drinks from both happy meals after I pointed out the error.

  3. I love Not Always Right (etc) but frequently want to comment to the authors along the lines of "someone messed up, the other person wasn't happy, you weren't helpful and after they left, you were rude. Good for you."

    And that applies here, in my life, and in the KMart story. While I realize that the story isn't verbatim, I don't see or feel the words 'I'm sorry this has happened, would you...'

    I don't know how the law is written, but there is something that says you have to sell the item for what is marked on it, even if it is wrong. Since we have gone to UPC's and rely on signage this becomes a grey area. But, many stores seem to put the burden of knowing prices on the customer instead of improving their displays.

    I'm sure we all realized that if the ceramics place just rang the Pokémon up at a lower price, she could lose her job. So, at the least, she needed to call someone to approve it.

    If the store does this, they gain a customer. If they don't, they risk losing one.

    I was shopping this week and watched a customer bring up a pretty little lamp. I heard them talking about 'one in the back' and could tell that the customer was annoyed. It was still sitting when I got there. I commented it was pretty. They explained it was priced at $29 but the price tag on the bottom was faded and looked like $5 and "She thought she could get it at that price." DUH! Of course she did. They had to call their corp office to check the price before they wrote it in, even though there was a second one with the higher price. All I could think was it sat until the tag ON THE BOTTOM faded and they still think they can sell them at $30. $20 sounded right for what it was. The store was right, but rude and lost a sale.

    No one says 'I'm sorry' anymore. If they would look us in the eye, acknowledge it isn't the best solution and ask for understanding the transaction would go better.

    One more. Mine. I went into a Five-Below store. Just like an 'only a dollar' place but with higher, varied prices. There was a sign on comp books that read 2/$1 on a display. I picked two pretty ones from the box adjacent to the sign and marveled at the great sale I got. Most of what I picked up was impulse items because I was filling school-themed goody bags. When I got to the check out, she told me she needed a manager for those books because they were ringing at $1.50 instead of a $1. I said '50cents' and she ignored me. I repeated myself, she rang everything else. The manager came up and punch in $1 and I said it again, pointing to the box and sign you could see from the check-out and they explained that the sign that applied to that box was at the opposite end, and turned perpendicular to the display. I completed the transaction and left and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I had a $26 total and would have only saved me a $1. Then, I remembered how many times I walk out of that store with $20-$30 for an event. I went back, returned the books and all of the unnecessary items, to the tune of $12. A half-hour later, same manager and they never asked WHY. And, I haven't been back. Over a $1. Or, they could have said "Oops, I'll fix that, so sorry."

    Being the customer doesn't make you a doormat.

    "Don't get angry, Mom" broke my heart because I heard it too. Now they are young adults and understand WHY I'd get so mad.


    1. "No one says 'I'm sorry' anymore. If they would look us in the eye, acknowledge it isn't the best solution and ask for understanding the transaction would go better."

      THIS. When I worked in retail it was hammered into us that we needed to be polite. That we needed to acknowledge that customer's frustration, even if the customer was wrong. In the case where the customer was wrong or trying to pull a scam, we were told to remain pleasant and to call for a manager asap so the manager could handle it.

      Most customers are not trying to pull a fast one. Would be nice if retailers would acknowledge this and give us a little bit of respect.

    2. One issue is that the person selling you the item doesn't really care if they lose you as a customer. If the owner of the store were involved, I'm sure all of these interactions would have turned out differently. The cashier has no power and doesn't care, so they're not going to help you. They only care if you complain to their superior.

    3. I applaud you Dr. Fizzy for handling it better than the K-Mart ordeal.
      It's not easy when you feel you're being duped, unintentionally or not.
      For the future, here's a suggestion: play out these type of scenarios
      in your head before walking into the store. Get angry inside your head,
      feel the unfairness there too and be done with it. You're too smart and
      classy a gal to let these idiots get the best of you.

  4. If it makes you feel any better, last night I went to my supermarket to pick up some ice cream. In the case was a new brand of ice cream bar, 3 to a box, and the sale sticker over the regular sticker said buy two, get one free. Since there are only three bars in each box, I figured I could handle 9 ice cream bars in my freezer so I took three boxes to the register. Of course, the third one rang up full price. Since the cashier just gave me a dumb look, I finished the transaction, walked over to customer service and asked for a credit for the third box. More dumb looks. Then a slow review of every page of the weekly circular. "It's not in the circular." "Well, that's nice, but the sticker in the freezer case says the third box is free." More dumb looks. Then a different employee in customer service says "maybe I should look at the sticker in the freezer." Fast forward 5 minutes. The girl comes back with the sticker. "This sticker is confusing, because it says buy two pints, get the third free." I reached over and gently (which was hard to do at this point) took the sticker out of her hand. "Actually, it says buy two pints/novelty items, get third free. These ice bars are novelty items." Even more dumb looks. At this point, I lost it, so I raised my voice and asked if I was getting a credit, or not. At which point one of them tells me, "Lady, relax, I'm going to give you the credit." To which I responded, "When? This is ice cream. IT IS MELTING. So perhaps you can provide the credit now? Because if these melt before I get home I will be back for a refund for all of them." I finally got the credit back on my card.

    Was I pleased with my behavior? No. But sometimes, a little anger is warranted, especially since this store seems to routinely fail to program their registers to scan items at sale prices. And the complete indifference of the employees -- come on.

    Life is stressful for most of us, doctors or not. Is it right to take out our stress on others? Typically, no. But gosh darn it, it is much easier to work at the supermarket, and to program cash registers to provide accurate pricing, than it is to do a lot of other things in life. So when there seems to be so much indifference and apathy in these situations, where things should run a lot more smoothly than they typically do, and no one seems to give a crap, and I'm very tired from busting my hump at my job and all I want to do is go home, get into pajamas, and eat an ice cream bar, I reserve the right to get a little bitchy once in a while.

  5. To keep profits up or prices low, too many stores have become understaffed, do-it-yourself operations. Wander the store multiple times looking for something because there are no clerks to ask. Do-it-yourself price checks. Do-it-yourself check-out. Stock is disorganized and not clearly priced because there aren't clerks to keep on top of it. Registers aren't updated with current pricing. The end result is an annoyed customer who may have saved money but at the cost of their time and patience. The only way this will change is if we stop shopping at such places and shop at better staffed and better run places which will also charge higher prices. I get the feeling that most customers aren't willing to or can't pay more for better service but the alternative is not to gripe about bad service at cost-conscious, low-end stores. Inefficiency is one of the prices we pay for absurdly low prices.

    1. Hildy, I don't know about anyone else posting here, but I'm wasn't referring to Walmart when I told my tale of woe. EVERY store is like this save the really small mom-and-pop operations, and good luck finding too many of those around.

  6. Unlike I think most others, I just want to say I can understand your point and am sorry that about the reaction you had. Its tough with kids. Tough being a doctor too.

  7. On a different note, don't let you kids paint their face for Halloween with these
    face paints. The so called "safe ones" aren't safe either. You don't have to believe
    me. Do your own research and find out the ugly truth. I don't have children of my own,
    but their safety has to come first.

  8. I haven't had any of said issues at trader Joes... Just sayin

    1. Hmmm. Trader Joes. Buy some veggies, see them all moldy in your fridge a day or two later. Take them back to the store, wait in the customer service line. Only to be told, by some guy in a tacky Hawaiian shirt, that he can't credit your card because he doesn't have a register at customer service. Instead, he gives you a slip, and you then have to wait in line at the regular registers to get your refund. And it never fails, every register will be packed and you have to wait forever while people with 65 items in their carts are checking out.

      Great customer service.

  9. While you may be right, your expectations need to change. As you said, the cashier doesn't particularly care or have the authority to make the change. So.... prepare yourself and your daughter for the problem ahead of time. Kids need to learn that things don't always go as planned. It's a part of life. I would have said, "sorry honey, someone put this in the wrong place. Let's go find another one that you'll like." End of story. Do we wish everything could be just and fair? Sure, but it isn't and won't be. Stay calm, teach your youngsters how to handle disappointment, and all will be fine. And yes, I have two kids and have been through the tears. They survive.

  10. I'm not a religious person, but perhaps the free beanie baby was God's way of acknowledging your desire to do better. Keep working on yourself, Dr. Fizzy.
    We're all works in progress.

  11. Everyone is trying to get your and my money by any means. But they call that paranoid.
    The wrong price is a lie from the store, I get angry at the lie as well. Then you get to thinking was it intentional or not?
    Misunderstandings since the Tower of Babylon. (a story told in the Book of Genesis of the Bible which supposes to explain the origin of different languages.)

  12. I worked the service desk at a large retail store in college. One day, a very angry man came over to yell (literally) at me for being charged $.99 rather than $.79 for the quart of oil he just bought. I started to explain that it was probably in the wrong spot on the shelf, and he threw it at my head. Hard. If he'd waited another 10 seconds he would have heard me say that I'd be happy to refund his 20 cents anyway. People in general are wound WAY too tight, if you ask me...

  13. Not again, Fizzy! Please get over these store prices mistakes. The items you are describing, are all just a few dollars, and you can afford them for your kids. If you have some principals when you should not spend a few dollars more on your kids, then follow Dreaming Tree advise. Your life seems very stressful, you seem streched thin. Having to buy McDonalds dinners frequently, and yet you only work part time is a clue you do not have a lot of help. You must be pulled in many different directions any given day. Treat yourself to more rest, less duties.

  14. While I understand the frustration and that the cashier could've been nicer about it (apology?), what if the store was to honor the price mistake everytime? Everyone would just grab whatever they wanted from the store and tell the cashier it was on the discount rack, cheap shelf, etc all the time and the stores would lose money non-stop. It could be the same way with individual price-tags as well (I've seen it happen). As I said, I understand the frustration and the fact that the employee could be more polite and apologetic about it, however, they can' t have employees checking every piece of inventory all day long and even then mistakes would happen. Just be a grown up, accept that there was a mistake but that doesn't mean you are automatically entitled to a refund/discount and surely making a big fuss about it isn't a show of maturity or setting a good example for your daughter.

    1. A store like that is exactly the place that should cater to customers. That little piece of pottery probably cost them $.50 to make. If they sell that for $10 even if they priced it at 15 initially, it's still a big profit for them. If I leave and don't come back, then it's no profit.

    2. I agree, however (again), I don't believe the cashier working minimum-wage has a lot of say or influence over this no matter how you voice your discontentment. But again, that's just my opinion.
      I don't have a profile but I forgot to "sign" my last post (and I hate Anonymous posters most of the time) so you may call me Phil.

  15. I can't speak for Dr. Fizzy, but perhaps she's looking for feedback to shed some light
    on the situation. However, your comments, "surely making a big fuss about it isn't a show of maturity or setting a good example for your daughter" has a mean edge to it.
    Do you believe those comments are constructive? I don't.

  16. Hey, do you believe her behavior is constructive? If she is looking for feedback, many agree she shouold work on stress in her life and stop getting angry in public in front of her kids. We do not blame her for that, we all have challenging schedules, etc. But its time to look into her own problems.

  17. I love your blog Dr. Fizzy so don't take this the wrong way, but these confrontation posts are stressing me out. Perhaps I identify with your situation. Let's take a break from it all and catch our respective breaths.

  18. The concern-trolling, 'splaining, and pearl-clutching going down in this thread is disgusting. Oh, and shaming working mothers is super fucking classy. 'Let's all take a break bla bla bla' is condescending and obnoxious. Most of these anon replies come off as patriarchal Dudely Concern.

    Why don't you let Fizzy do her thing and talk about what's going on in her life, ffs? Have you all been such perfect paragons of adulthood that you've never had a learning experience?