I was second in line at the customer service desk where the elderly woman in front of me was trying to return a t-shirt. I was paying no attention until I realized the customer was saying the same thing over and over again: “But, if I didn’t buy it here, where did I buy it?”
She was trying to return something without a receipt. The clerk was trying to look the item up in a book of some sort, then she checked the tag in the shirt–presumably looking for something like a style number or hidden bar code. She told the woman it did not appear to be from her store, a Walmart, or from any Walmart. It was just not something they had carried. “But, if I didn’t buy it here, where did I buy it? I don’t shop anywhere else,” she was saying.
The clerk was very apologetic. “I just don’t think it was here or any Walmart. It’s not in any of our records. We would happily exchange it or give you a refund if I could find it, but I can’t.”
The older woman was more sad than annoyed. “I just don’t understand,” she said. “If I didn’t buy it here, where did I buy it?”
Clearly the clerk had been taught patience in her customer service training, or came by it naturally in her upbringing. Despite two or three more people now behind me, she calmly explained again, and again, the shirt was probably not from Walmart. At last the older woman took the t-shirt back and stuffed it into her bag, walking away without thanking the clerk.
When it was my turn, I remarked to the clerk about her patience with the woman. “Oh, it happens so often here, I’m quite used it,” she said with a little laugh. She knew it cost her nothing to be patient and kind with an older person. Getting frustrated wasn’t going to advance her career or help her work day go any faster, so…she was just human in that interaction. That’s probably a pretty good way to approach customer service. Be human.