Retail2It seems that customers are under the mistaken impression that I can alter the system – including the company website – if they complain about it long enough. They are also under the misguided belief that showing up to collect a reserve-and-collect order before they’ve had confirmation it’s arrived is going to mean the order will be available anyway.

I fear that I will be ranting at length about work as this blog evolves. It certainly isn’t my plan to do so, but work, sadly, forms a large part of all our lives, dominating our daily routine, so it’s inevitable that, as and when problems arise and stress builds up, rants will appear.

Time for a deep breath, and here’s to de-stressing a little at the weekend!

After struggling to drop off to sleep (a problem of mine lately), I finally do so, only to end up dreaming about getting a new tattoo (the Rebel symbol from Star Wars), only for the tattooist to cock it up. All of a sudden the scene shifts and I’m Nigel Mansell, on the phone to Ron Dennis, and then I’m taking a bunch of schoolkids on a tour of London.

My subconscious really does love to process the day’s activities in bizarre and strange ways.

I don’t usually go too nuts about upcoming films. Yeah, there are a few I’ve been excited by (Star Trek 09, Star Trek into Darkness, Revenge of the Sith, The Avengers), but as a golden rule I don’t go nuts for films.

That said, there is one film I am very keen to see next year – and no, it’s not Star Wars.

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I can’t say I’ve been too much of a follower of Marvel comics. Sure, I was aware of most of the characters, but the whole saga was on the edge of my awareness.

Since seeing the first Iron Man film back in 2008, I’ve developed more of an interest in this little universe Marvel are building. Whilst not every film has been amazing, they have generally been good, and the ambitious project will reach eleven films when Age of Ultron comes out.

I am very much looking forward to this film, though first I need to get around to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy!

Goodbye Robin Williams

Robinwilliams

 

I awoke this morning to the shocking and sad news that comedic genius and all-round great actor Robin Williams had passed away. News outlets are reporting that he took his own life after a long battle with depression.

It’s such a shame. Williams was a naturally funny man who gave us the manic and dazzling Genie in Aladdin, the cross-dressing Mrs Doubtfire, and heartfelt performances in films like Patch Adams and What Dreams May Come. He was brilliant in Bicentennial Man and lets not forget Toys, Jumanji and The Birdcage.

I wish his family well, and hope they can somehow come to terms with this terrible loss. Rest in Peace Robin.

I am often prone to unusual dreams. I have what I called my ‘action adventure’ dreams (usually involving sci-fi references but also including ‘end of the world’ scenarios), and I have my work-related dreams (which usually happen when I’m feeling quite stressed).

Last night though, I dreamed that I was on my way to a house, and in this house lived someone I think I was supposed to know – but at the urging of the ghost of a woman I also knew, I killed them, violently, before turning on the gas and blowing up their house. Then I toodled off, without a care in the world.

I have absolutely no idea what prompted this dream. Last night my wife and I sat down and watched a spoof about police, and afterward caught some of a bad Syfy channel film about mutant spiders. Not exactly ghost material.

There can be no doubt about it – my mind is a dark and mysterious place!

angrymeerkat

I would like to consider myself to be a patient man. I don’t get angry easily, or often, and am quite easy-going. However, the customer who came into the store today was sorely trying my patience.

He bought a laptop from us over a year ago now, and at one stage ran into trouble with it. The laptop had to go away for repair (at this point it was under the jurisdiction of the manufacturer’s one year warranty – industry standard stuff), and he kicked up a huge fuss, insisting we, the retailer, were responsible, that we owed him a new laptop, blah blah blah. Heard it before, that’s not how it works, and no amount of foot-stomping or whining will change this.

After a time, his laptop came back, he collected it, and off he went. Case closed.

Or so I thought.

Today, he came into the store again. He wanted me to deal with a software issue. Being the easy-going person that I am, I began to have a quick look, thinking it might be something I could deal with easily. However, as I explained to him, store associates are not trained technicians and we are not qualified to fix serious errors.

After eventually overcoming the language barrier (he is eastern European and English is clearly not his first language), I realised that he wanted the icons and programs that kept booting up with the laptop to be turned off. He didn’t want them. I explained that some of them (such as anti-virus software, volume control, battery status) always come on at start-up and that, to be honest, that’s a good thing. The other stuff that he’d installed… well, given that half the info coming up on screen was in a foreign language, I had no idea, and nor did I have an option to disable them.

Cue the customer becoming irate. ‘You just want my money, you are no help’. ‘I have extended warranty, you should help me, you are not helpful’. Well, the extended warranty covers hardware, not software, and we are not responsible for user misuse creating problems. He wanted me to phone the manufacturer too (never going to happen, they would probably refuse to help, since almost no manufacturer deals with software problems, and certainly not ones that happen outside of warranty – at least not without charging a fortune).

After informing him thus, he stormed off, got into a van, ranting to his (presumably) wife, and drove away. He did not come back.

whatifItoldyou

Unfortunately this sort of thing is not uncommon. People often think they know more than we do about the operation of our shop and business than we do. They think that we, the store staff, have the power to make decisions about our own stock file – sorry, but the heads of the multi-national company I work for decide such things, not us.

We get similar grief over our opening hours. Our hours are 9am to 7pm, which is marked on our website and also by several signs both outside and inside the store. A few years ago, our hours were 8am to 8pm, and when they were due to change, we placed several signs at prominent locations around the store for a couple of months to make sure everyone was aware of the change. On the very first day our hours changed, the first customer in the door (who happened to be a regular who went to nearly every one of these locations) complained we hadn’t advertised the change very well.

We still get customers come up to the doors as we’re closing, reacting with shock that we’re closing. ‘But the site says 8pm!’ Actually, no, it doesn’t, and I know it doesn’t. Some third-party sites still give out the old hours, but we’re not responsible for those.

I can’t help but suspect the laptop guy will be back – or we’ll get a call from customer services about the whole sorry affair. He’s wrong, I think he knows he’s wrong, but I doubt that will stop him.

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Don’t we all just love the internet? It has given us access to everyone, everywhere, at any time. We can use it to get to the entire sum of human knowledge and history in an instant (and, with the arrival of smartphones and wi-fi, we can do this from a field in the middle of nowhere). We can instantly share new ideas and thoughts, from scientific breakthroughs to new songs and art. It is  truly a marvelous creation, the internet.

Unfortunately, with the internet comes the opportunity for previously shy and retiring souls to take altogether more unpleasant qualities. Across websites and forums, you get people who just love to stir up trouble, for no reason other than because they can.

These people might think themselves impressive. Armed with anonymity, they can freely express themselves – and sling mud – without fear of consequences. There is of course another way to regard these people – cowardly keyboard warriors, or ‘trolls’.

Now, making use of an internet pseudonym does not, in this author’s humble opinion, make someone a coward. Nearly everyone on the internet does so, and with good reason – there are plenty of people out there who, if they get hold of enough of your details, can and will use that information to steal funds from your bank account, commit fraud in your name, etc.  That being said, there are people out there who use the cover of a nickname to become incredibly belligerent. They know they cannot be traced back to their words, so they can get away with virtually anything.

I’ve had the misfortune of encountering such keyboard warriors. They sit behind their computer screens, prepared (for years in some cases) to rant and rave about the people or things they hate, often making hurtful remarks or vicious accusations. The mentality of these people is just baffling.

Why do they do it? I think the mentality is similar to that of the playground bully – they need to boost a failing ego by attacking others, which the only way they have of feeling better about themselves. It’s a desperate cry for attention, and if we ignore them, hopefully they’ll eventually go away.

A lot of people operate under the mistake idea that retail is easy. It really isn’t. For starters, in supermarkets like ASDA or Tesco, the staff never stop – the tills are always busy, and if the staff are not serving on the tills, they are dealing with the never-ending flow of deliveries and re-stocking shelves. Oh yes, then there’s the promotional material to put out and fill up.

In places like PC World (and my own employer), you’re not dealing with the tills and deliveries so much (though this is still an ongoing job), but rather, you’ve got promotions to do, and you need to be on a constant watch for possible customers (and thieves). You’re expected to be a jack of all trades (especially if, like me, you’re part of the management team).

Most customers to step into the store have absolutely no idea what goes on to keep the store running smoothly. We have price changes nearly every morning. Shelves to fill. Urgent collations, a print and copy centre that occupies a lot of our time, and stock control processes to complete.

We also have lots of daft questions to deal with. ‘Do you sell ink cartridges?’ You’re standing right in front of an entire wall of them. The phone rings, ‘good morning this is <store> in <town>, how can I help you?’ ‘Is that <store>? In <town>?’ Grrr!

There are people who insist on ripping open packets of paper to see what the paper is like – it’spaper! Unless you’ve lived under a rock since birth you’ll know what paper is! And if you reallyaren’t sure, actually ask us instead of tearing open something we’re hoping to sell!

Then you get the aggressive customers. The ones who think shouting and threatening staff is somehow going to result in a favourable outcome for them (such as the bloke who had clearly broken his laptop but demanded we change it for him because the physical damage to the unit ‘just happened’). Belligerence is not an acceptable substitute for good manners!

I could go on at length about this, but to be honest, it just makes my blood boil. I wish the general public could spend at least a week working in retail, and then, maybe, just maybe, they would have a better appreciation for the job they think is ‘easy’.

So, after a fair bit of time and effort, and patient coaching from my brother, I finally have Meerkat Musings up and running! This site will now take over the role of my Wix site, and it will incorporate my darthtimon.wordpress blog as well. The Wix site will remain up and running for the time being, whilst I harvest it for parts… err, material, and to advertise this site.

I hope to entertain and educate! Or at least amuse. We shall see…