A little while ago I went into a locally owned pet shop, prompted by a stab of guilt at the state of the High Street and that nearly every shop is now closed up.
To be brutally honest, the inside was just a mess, but I did see my dogs favourite chews were stocked and asked the woman behind the counter how much they were. (No price label) She said four quid. I said blimey, they’re only £2 at Tesco. At which point she just glared with such absolute hatred that I backed up, replaced the chews and made a swift exit, never to return.
A short while after that, the stereo in my van went pop. I figured I’d buy one from Amazon and get someone to fit it. Then I remembered Halfords do a fitting service. The one closest to me is only about 9 miles away, but because of the issues with roads it normally takes over an hour to get there.
I went through and parked up on the little retail estate at the edge of town and noticed that Halfords was one of the only few units left open.
I perused the stereos, chose the one I wanted and went on a ten-day expedition to find a member of staff and was duly approached by someone in a uniform.
‘Hello sir, can I help you sir,’ he said in a very bizarre way of trying to sound polite but while staring at me as though my mere existence was ruining his life.
‘Hi, yeah, er…I wanted to buy a stereo and get it fitted if I can.’
‘Of course, sir. A stereo sir. Yes sir. Which one do you want sir…’
‘Um, that one please…’ I pointed at the one I wanted.
‘Yes sir, of course sir, you want that one sir…’
His speech was goading and provoking, his eye-contact was being held too long and he wasn’t blinking so much. His tone was a bit too hard. His body a bit too leaning forward. I’ve been a copper for a very long time and if I was on the street I’d be sliding my right foot back thinking this is going get fruity in a minute.
He then walked off without saying anything. I stood about for a minute and saw him at a desk at the back and went over and stood next to a guy hopping up and down with anger while being served by a young lady.
‘I just told you sir, we can’t do that sir, it’s not how we do it sir,’ the woman behind the counter said to the angry man. It was something to do with a number plate, but her tone was the same as the guy that spoke to me. Rude, surly, aggressive and just messed up. Then the guy that served me finally looked up from the computer he was tapping at.
‘We can do fitting for your stereo in one hundred and fifty nine weeks sir,’ he said with utter disgust that I was still breathing.
‘Wow, that’s a long time,’ I remarked.
‘Yes sir, it is sir, we are busy sir, the other person that does fitting is off sir, I am busy sir, it can’t be done today sir…’
Now, you can be the most patient person in the world but it’s not possible to remain entirely chilled out when someone is doing that to you.
‘Why are you speaking to me like that?’ I asked.
‘How am I speaking to you sir? How would you want me to speak sir? I am being very polite sir…’
Ah I was done. This was going to end in a fight. The customer next to me was by now chewing the desk for having the same experience and we both just turned and walked out, both of us clearly feeling that nasty aftertaste of someone speaking to you in that way.
I got home, mulled it over and went online to make a complaint. A few days later the store manager phoned me to discuss it. (I didn’t ask for anyone to call me.)
‘Hi, I’m the store manager, I’m really sorry you had a bad experience.’
‘Ah okay. Yeah it was just bizarre really.’
‘I’ve read your complaint and obviously I wasn’t there, but it seems very odd.’
‘Yeah it was very odd.’
‘Hmmm, again I wasn’t there but our customer service is fantastic, so, you know…’
‘What?’ I asked.
‘I wasn’t there, so of course I can’t judge but we don’t talk to people that way.’
‘But you did. I was there. I saw it.’
‘No sir, we don’t sir, we have old school customer service sir, we’re very good at it sir, I wasn’t there sir, but I can assure you it couldn’t have happened that way sir.’
‘Right. I see. May I say that you are doing it now, your tone is angry and goading and just saying the word sir doesn’t make it okay to speak like that…’
‘I’ll stop you there sir. I’m being very polite sir. I wasn’t there sir. I can’t judge sir. But clearly there has been a breakdown in communication sir…’
I gave in, hung up and bought the stereo from Amazon.
Most recently, I’ve had issues with Currys. I bought a coffee machine a while ago. It was super nice and made gorgeous coffee, but then it broke. It was very sad. I called Currys who said the store have discretion over whether it is repaired, replaced or refunded.
Righto. Off I went into that same town an hour or so away and parked up at another edge of town retail section. Now this section used to have a PC WORLD, Pets at Home and then Currys. But seeing as they’re all doing a bit shit, PC WORLD is now closed and boarded up and everything has been squeezed into Currys.
I went in and was directed to the Know How desk and explained to the man my coffee machine was broke. He didn’t really speak to me but just tapped at the computer, printed something off and gave it to me, in between stopping to talk to a colleague for ten minutes.
I asked him what was happening which must have come out like I want to poo in your bed because he gave me the Halfords look and explained it was being sent for repair. How long does that take? I asked. FUCK OFF AND DIE he said, or something else like that.
I panicked. As you do. A few days without a coffee machine?? Oh no. Oh god. Right, this needed a plan and a drastic one.
I went upstairs to the home appliance area and selected a cheaper coffee machine and figured I would buy it, use it and then sell it on when mine was fixed. Not the best plan I grant you, but I was panicking.
I took the new coffee machine home, plugged it in and nothing. It didn’t work. I sagged, cried a bit, wept, crawled about on my hands and knees and the next day I boxed it back up and went for the hour long plus drive back to Currys.
I got a refund and asked if they knew when my other machine would be fixed. FUCK OFF AND DIE they said. I asked to speak to the manager. One of them pointed to a man in a blue shirt.
‘Hi, are you the manager?’ I asked.
The man in the blue shirt nodded then lifted his head as though suggesting I was allowed to speak.
‘Er, sorry about this, I bought a coffee machine but it broke. I brought it in and they said it’s for repair so I got another one and now that’s broke…’
He looked at me.
‘So, er…you know.’
‘Um, so I was hoping you could use discretion and replace my machine so I have a coffee machine…to um…to make coffee with…’
He shrugged. ‘Nothing we can do.’
‘Right. So, I mean, I called Currys and they said you have discretion to replace it and I’ve bought two now and both broke…and I bought my Mac computer from here, and my computers before that even though they were cheaper online because I’m trying to support local business who employ local people and I really don’t have time to keep driving back here…I’ve got so much editing and work to do right now and I know it’s all first world problems and you are looking at me like I am a filthy piece of shit but it’s not the best service in the world.’
FUCK OFF AND DIE, he said, with his eyes, in the manner of staring at me before looking away with a sigh.
That was it. The conversation was over. No apology. No smile. No conversation. No anything.
Now I read the news quite a bit, and sometimes, every now and then, I watch the business reports on Sky News.
‘HELLO, I AM IAN KING AND I CAN ONLY SPEAK IN THIS ONE VOLUME AND AT THIS PACE AND I NEVER EVER EVER BLINK EVER HAHAHHAHAHHA I DON’T LIKE LAUGHING…’ (Seriously, go watch Ian King, the man is a legend.)
Now, Ian King, and other such business folk, often touch on the declining state of the High Street. They blame Brexit and customer wariness over spending. They blame global slow down, recession, the lack of growth in the employment sector, stagnating wages against the rising cost of living. They discuss many things that all paint a picture as to why it’s all a bit shit.
But the one thing they never seem to mention in these reports is the utterly shit, borderline psychotic customer service in the UK. It’s shocking. It’s like trying to buy something in a 1970’s communist country that reports everything to the secret police.
If I want to buy something, I have to drive for ages, pay £1.50 to park, face abuse and aggression and pay more money with the full knowledge that if it breaks I will be treated with utter contempt.
Or, I can make a cup of tea, log on, buy it cheaper from Amazon / Wayfair / other online places and have it delivered. Then if it breaks, I can print a thingy off, stick on the box and pop it into the post office, or another drop-off point without being abused. Hmmmm, which is best? Ooh let me think and ask Ian King….
‘HELLO I AM IAN KING AND I AM TURNING MY HEAD LEFT AND RIGHT AS I READ THE AUTOCUE MACHINE HAHAHAHAHA…BREXIT SUCKED ON THE FTSE AND MADE A BABY AND THEY CALLED IT THE DOW JONES…’
Yeah, of course stuff still goes wrong when you buy online, but the very few times I have had to call customer service I have had polite, friendly conversations with people who seem invested in resolving the issue.
I’ve even looked online at the Currys Group and saw they have issued profits warnings, have lost share prices and are closing stores. They ain’t doing so good.
Halfords issued a profits warning thingy in May apparently too with flat growth. So they ain’t doing so well either.
That’s why it’s fucking up.
Not because of Brexit or Ian King’s lack of blinking ability. Because people are so entitled and so full of a weird mix of superiority mixed with downright apathy brought on by a nanny state that gives you free money for doing fuck all, that they fail to see every other shop about them is closed up.
Just smile. Say hi. Explain the processes involved. Appear to be invested, even if you don’t give a shit. Nodody really gives a shit. Even the dudes on the phone at Amazon don’t really give a shit, but they fake it and so it works.
You are failing badly and biting your own noses off for no other reason than you can’t be arsed to be polite. Fuck you. Amazon and other online retailers are pissing all over you because you are rude. Because you treat people with disgust and contempt. That’s why.
I’m a grumpy writer man and sure, brush this off and box my demographic up with a neat title and blame it all on politics and referendums, but 99% of people I know feel the same way.
This isn’t about niche stores (other than the terrible pet shop). Niche stores are generally pretty good because the owners are invested in their business.
This is about the big retailers that once dominated our towns, and more so, it’s about the owners and store managers and the absolute lack of care they give towards customers.
I don’t want to buy anything from Currys or Halfords again. Why would I? I work hard for my money and so I will choose to give it to someone who at least pretends they give a shit.
‘I AM IAN KING AND I LIKE STARING BECAUSE YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS CRAP… I DON’T HAVE EYELIDS HAHAHAHA POOR ECONOMY BREXIT TRUMP SUCK MY EYEBALLS I AM IAN KING…’
Aah, that feels better. Good old rant eh?
Right. Gonna go on Amazon and buy stuff.