There’s a store in the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, that rhymes with Schmictoria’s Frecret? It may have the worst. Employees. Ever.
I walked into the store hoping to buy at least one new bra. Because a girl like me finds one bra that she falls in love with and doesn’t deviate from that until the bra decides it’s had enough of her and begins to go limp in protest of being worn day in, day out. And it was time for a new one. So I strode in, a very specific idea of what I needed in my mind. My friend had told me about this certain bra that was supposedly wonderful under T-Shirts and pushed up and did everything a bra was supposed to do while being comfortable. I needed it.
So I headed toward the correct section, scanning the wall-mounted hangers for the one I wanted. In my travels to what appeared to be the correct section, I witnessed an employee getting bitched out by a customer. In her hand, the customer held the all-too-familiar “FREE PANTY!” flyer that every American gets roughly 1,845 times a year. She was clearly complaining that the one style of panty that could actually be free was no longer available in the store. “What do you mean, you don’t have any more?” she argued. The sales girl continued her task of folding panties, all but ignoring the customer, and replied, “I mean, we don’t have anymore. Sorry.” I could understand the sales girl’s apathy. So you can’t get your free panty. Big deal lady, get over it. I shook my head at how uptight, how demanding customers could be and arrived at my section.
The racks - which are normally so neat and tidy in every other Schmictoria’s Frecret I’ve been in, and even this one on prior visits - were all in disarray. The push-up bras were mixed in with the regular ones, as were the strapless and convertible versions. There was no rhyme or reason to the size, either, and so I went for the ol’ fail-safe of going into the drawers below the displays to find my size. It’s been my experience that whatever I couldn’t find up top would be down there, an organized oasis of bras, broken down into size, style and levels of padding.
But the drawers were just as bad as the racks above them. After searching for well over twenty minutes, and not once being approached by the normally helpful staff, I had to go and seek out some help of my own.
I pride myself on not being a bothersome customer. I’m the kind of person who buys something I may not like all that much if the sales person is really nice, if they’ve helped me and didn’t make me feel like a bother and made an effort to do their jobs well. On the other hand, I will not buy something, even if I LOVE it, if the sales people ignore me, or if I have to interrupt their personal conversation to get a fitting room or pay for my item. I’ve been in customer service for years, and, well, I’ve been a customer for years, and I know how it’s supposed to go: You, the employee, are nice to the customer. You treat them like you’re glad to see them, you accommodate them, you make the sale. You treat them with respect, you are kind, and you are helpful. Because you are being paid to be there. And you know what? That customer that you hate so much for just walking into the store? She’s paying you to be there. So you act like it. And, in turn, as the customer, you’re nice and courteous. You’re not mean for no reason, you aren’t an asshole; you’re nice and accommodating, too. It’s a very symbiotic relationship when both parties are decent. So I try not to demand too much. If I can find my own size, I will. If I can let myself into a room, I will. But the employees, they’re there to help me.
Which is why I was so surprised to have to track down one of the two girls working the sales floor. One in particular had passed by me no less than four times. And the fact that she would not make eye contact with me made me believe that she was actually ignoring me on purpose. This was not the same girl who was just being bitched at for not having free panties available, this girl was carrying around bras and, I guess, hanging them up in their appropriate spots. Though the racks certainly didn’t support my assumption, so I’m sure she was just carrying them around to look busy.
I tried to catch her eye twice, but failed. So, on what must have been her fifth trip past me, I had to actually say, “Excuse me.” She looked up at me with a mix of apathy, disdain and irritation.
She was dressed in the customary all-black suit that most employees wear, only she had decided to dress it up with a Louis Vuitton scarf, that was bundled loosely around her neck and made her head appear to be floating on a cloud of fake silk. (I say fake because, really, if she’s working at Schmictoria’s Frecret, can she really afford a $400 scarf? Because, hey, we all know that the Prada bag I have in my closet was purchased from a street-side vendor. I mean, c’mon, I’m a secretary.) Her reddish-brown hair was piled high above her overly made-up face, and everything about her screamed “I don’t want to be here, and I’m above you anyway.” The way she looked at me suggested I’d just crawled into the store directly from the nearest garbage can, and that I was clearly not good enough to be in the store, let alone in her presence.
Quite the contrary, I was all done up and was carrying my fancy-pants real purse. I was dressed well, and I was ready to spend money. Which, really, should make no difference. I’ve learned that you can never treat anyone like they’re broke. It's the old Don't judge a book by its cover addage. Her clear superiority complex drove me mad. What happened to treating the customer well?
I hated this woman’s attitude, but I needed something and was willing to overlook it. “Can you tell me where I can find this certain bra in my size?” I asked nicely.
She extended a bony finger and pointed past me. She was pointing at a wall maybe ten paces way and gave a fake smile. “Over there.”
I followed her finger, then turned my head back to her. “Yes, I know. I was just over there. But I can’t find my size. Can you help me?”
Her smile flickered off, then back on. Her voice went from bothered to condescending. “They’re…Right…Over…There,” she said, slowly so that I could understand her.
I’ve never been refused, when asking out-right, for help. Never in my life. “Seriously?” I said, bewildered. “Wow.” I was seriously shocked. “Well then. THANK YOU SOO-OOO MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR HELP.” My reply's pace mirrored the sloth of her words. My eyes rolled as I spoke more loudly than necessary, hoping that she’d pick up on my sarcasm.
She didn’t. She just nodded like she’d done something helpful and walked away, bras dangling from her little demon arms.
Because I was desperate, I walked back over to that section. Only this time, I was furious. My blood was boiling. My blood pressure was high. I was incensed. I just couldn’t believe it. She’s supposed to help me. And if she’s new, or doesn’t know, she’s supposed to send someone to me who CAN help. But she didn’t.
What I wanted to do was run through the store, my arm extended, wiping panty after panty from their folded positions on the tables and onto the floor. I wanted to yank the racks from the wall. I wanted to throw bras in the air and let them fall wherever they may. I wanted to knock over mannequins and punch through the signs. I wanted to wreck the store and then walk up to her, panting, out of breath and sweaty, push my hair back from my face, take a satisfied deep breath, stand up a little straighter, adjust my purse on my shoulder and smile. “I think you have a few more bras to put back,” I’d say, flicking one of the bras in her hand as I said bras, to make sure she understood what I was talking about. Then I’d smile and point back to the disaster I’d caused and say, “Right…Over…There.” And then I’d walk out, smiling serenely and standing tall, rounding the corner to get lost in the mall crowd.
But I didn’t. I’m not aggressive. I’m passive-aggressive. Instead, I went ahead and looked at every bra, sure to take it down from its rack to check the size, then leave each one on the waist-high counter instead of putting it back. I opened the drawers and checked each one of those, too. And, naturally, I pulled each one from its drawer and left all of those wrong sizes on the counter too. When I was finished, I had found one bra: Right size, wrong color and style. So I went back over to the sales “ladies,” Little Miss Louis Vuitton and the one who was previously defending the store’s lack of panties. They were facing away from me, chatting, as I walked up behind them. As luck would have it, they were chatting about ME!
“So she says, ‘Can you help me,’ and I’m like, ‘Uh, hello. They’re right over there.’ And then she, like, rolled her –”
“Excuse me,” I said sweetly. They both startled and turned around. A guilty look flashed across their faces. “I hate to interrupt your little discussion here, but I can’t find the size in the selection right over there, so I’m going to need,” and I pointed at the saleslady I hadn’t yet spoken to, “you to help me.”
Louis Vuitton walked away, and the other one was clearly miffed that now she was stuck with me, the customer bold enough to actually ask one of them to do something.
“What did you need?” she said, looking over my shoulder. Her voice was detached and obviously uninterested in bothering with me.
“Well, your coworker told me that I could find whatever I needed over there,” I pointed behind me, then looked at her again, a smile on my face, my voice syrupy-sweet. “But I can’t seem to find it there. So I need to know if you can find it for me.”
“If it’s not over there, we don’t have it,” she said, as though she was stating the obvious. As though she couldn’t believe I was dumb enough to not understand that. It was at that point that she turned to walk away.
I don't know why I persisted, but I did. I guess it was sort of my way of not giving in to their obvious desire to just get rid of me.
“You don’t have any in the back?” I said.
She stopped, sighed, and turned to face me. “Yeah, we do.”
Maybe I'm crazy, but I just don't think I should have to ask a direct question like to make her offer to check the back for me. I thought that was part of her job. “Well, do you think you’ll have any other sizes back there?”
“Mmm-hmmm.” She confirmed, but making no effort or offer to move or check.
I took a deep breath. “Well, since you’re the one paid to be here, and I’m the one looking to pay for a bra, you think you could, oh, I don’t know, go back there and check?”
“Sure,” she said. There's just no other way to describe her tone: It was mean.
She asked for my size and said she’d be back. “Oh, first,” I said, talking to her back once again, “I need a fitting room. Would it be too much trouble to let me into one?”
“Follow me,” she said, not even turning around.
So I followed her into the fitting rooms, where she begrudgingly let me into one of the mirrored rooms. And I stepped in, closed the door behind me and tossed the bra on the little seat inside. And I let out a disgusted sigh as I prepared to try on the thing…But then I stopped. Wait a second, I thought. Do I really want either of these women to earn a commission – even a SMALL one – considering how RUDE they were? And the answer was an explicit NO.
So I opened the door and walked out, hoping she was in the back room, rifling through bins of bras and that she’d come out to find me gone. But I know better. She was probably just hiding out around the corner so she could say she checked in the back, but there weren't any for me.
It may sound a little old-fogie of me but if I had to be nice to every person whose path I crossed for the last ten years of my life in the interest of keeping my job, how do these people get away with it? And how do they not think it's wrong? And, damnit, what the hell has happened to customer service?
I may have to write a letter.