|My kids' new shoes|
I have a really hard time finding shoes that fit me. I have freakishly large feet that are hard to find shoes for even in places like the US where there is a large number of women with feet my size, and even more so in a place like my current location where women generally have smaller feet on average than the women in the US. Nearly every store I enter that advertises "We have large sizes!" carries up until size 10... I need a size 11.5. In the 5 years I've lived in this country, I bought one pair of shoes for $110 dollars (!!!) because that was the cheapest I saw shoes that actually would fit me.
(That reminds me; I tend to not be emotionally involved in my wardrobe choices as well, but somehow shoe shopping almost always leaves me exasperated enough that I end up in tears... Like that time I went shoe shopping and found only one pair of shoes my size in the 10 stores I entered, and those shoes were not only dead ugly, they were 140 dollars, and I really didn't want to lay out 140 dollars for shoes I hated... and started crying at the frustration of it all, of having the choice to either buy and have no shoes, or pay top dollar for shoes I loathe. But I digress.)
A new branch of an American shoe company opened up in my area and I was really excited about checking it out, as they promised low prices and even carried large sizes! I couldn't wait to check it out. However, I do have one pair of shoes that do fit me and are in decent condition (those $110 dollar shoes), so I couldn't justify spending the money on a pair of new shoes at the moment, especially because we're a little tighter on money at the moment, even if I would have liked a pair of dressy shoes, so I pushed off a trip to the shoe store.
On Thursday, my mom took my little sister to that shoe store and called me up excitedly. "Penny! They have one last pair of shoes your size here and it's really cute and its not too expensive- only $38! Do you want me to buy it for you?"
My mind started working furiously. $38 for a pair of shoes? Ok, not the most terrific price for shoes, especially since I can find $10 shoes here in most sizes... but compared to the $110 or more dollars that the shoes my size here generally cost (when I can even find any!), it certainly was decent and my best bet.
But I don't need another pair of shoes now, even if I would like more.
"Mom, are you sure its the last pair of shoes my size? They really don't have anything else my size there?"
She double checked and found out that yes, it was indeed the last pair of shoes my size in the whole store, and they didn't expect to get more shoes in my size until March or later.
"Penny, why don't I just get you that last pair so you don't miss this rare opportunity to actually buy shoes your size for less than 50 dollars?"
See, if only it were that easy. Not only do I have large sized feet, my feet are also in between shoe sizes. Some shoes in size 11 fit me, and some in size 12 fit me, but for the most part, size 12 shoes fall off my feet every time I take a step, and size 11 presses uncomfortably on my feet. The last few times I asked relatives traveling to the US to pick up a pair of shoes for me, the shoes they came back with didn't fit me- they either hurt me or didn't stay on my feet.
So I had no reason to assume that just because those shoes "officially" were my size, that I'd be able to wear them. I own too many pairs of shoes that just don't fit me; money is tighter now, I didn't want to spend money on another pair of shoes to add to my collection of shoes that don't fit me. From the way my mother described the style of the shoes to me, they seemed destined to fall off my feet more than any other style. (Mostly open, ballet flats.)
I voiced my concern to my mom, who voiced her concern to the sales clerk, and asked if there is a possibility of returning the shoes if they don't fit. The sales clerk said that certainly, if I came to the store within 48 hours, I can return the shoes and get my money back. "That's great"" my mom answered, "But my daughter has no possibility of returning here over the weekend; the earliest she'd be able to get here with a return is Monday or Tuesday." "Absolutely no problem," the sales clerk promised her. "In that case, if the shoes don't fit, she can pop in by Monday or Tuesday and still get her money back."
With that assurance, I told my mom that I would appreciate her picking up the pair of shoes for me, and in the (very likely) chance that the shoes didn't fit, I'd return them to the store.
Well, what could I expect with my shoe fitting history? My mom brought me the pair of shoes, and they were cute and stylish and I liked them... but they didn't stay on my feet. Oh well. I guess a trip to the shoe store to return them was in the books.
This morning, Monday, I packed up the kids (despite the horrid weather conditions) and the shoes and headed by bus to the store, with the plan that as soon as I got my cash back for my shoes, I'd take that money to the really cheap kids shoe store in the area that I heard people raving about- quality leather shoes for only 12 dollars!
Before heading to the register with my shoes, I checked out the larger sizes available in the store; apparently the shoes my mom bought me were NOT the last pair of shoes in "my size" at the store. There were at least 15 other pairs there. I tried them all on, and felt like the women in the Cinderella story- most of the shoes were too small on me... and the ones that weren't, were too large to the extent that they were constantly falling off my feet. So unfortunately, exchanging those shoes for another pair apparently wasn't an option.
I took my shoes to the checkout counter, along with the receipt, and asked to return them.
"Sure ma'am, you can return them in exchange for store credit."
What? Store credit? Uh uh. No way.
"Store credit doesn't help me at all; you don't have any shoes that fit me and you said a new shipment of shoes is only arriving in the spring. When my mother was here Thursday, she was told she could return these for cash, not store credit. I don't want store credit for a store I can't shop in."
"Ma'am, in order to get cash when you return an item, you need to come back within 48 hours. More than 48 hours has elapsed, there's nothing more we can do for you other than give you store credit."
I tried explaining to the sales lady that my mother was promised by a sales clerk on Thursday that I'd be allowed to return those shoes by Monday or Tuesday for cash, that store credit is useless to me, and that if a sales person guarantees something to a customer, they should be true to their word.
The sales lady was adamant that there was nothing she could do, and pointed me to a sign written in the local language that mentioned something about the 48 hours, and how there's a new law in the country about cash returns within 48 hours. I don't read the local language well at all, and am not well versed on the new laws of the country, so I didn't read what the sign said because I knew I probably wouldn't understand it anyhow.
"Is there a manager I could speak to?"
"I'm the store manager."
*Head bang.* So there was no way to go above this unyielding lady to her superiors.
Once again, I tried speaking to her, explaining my case, and how when a sales clerk makes a guarantee, its only right that they stick to their words, because that's how a store gets a reputation for being honest and helpful. I pointed out that I've been a patron of their company for years (they were the company in the US from which I bought every single pair of shoes I ever owned aside for 3 pairs), but by making false promises and being unyielding and unhelpful, they would potentially be losing a loyal customer of theirs.
My words made no difference to her. Or wait, they did. Her response?
"I can promise you that not a single sales person here would ever tell you that you could make a return after 48 hours. We never would say such a thing. This is final; I can give you store credit and nothing else."
I tried explaining to the lady that yes, someone did promise me exactly that, and that's precisely why I agreed to have my mother buy those shoes for me in the first place. If I weren't given that guarantee, I would have told her to forget it.
But no, nothing moved her. She held steadfast that there is no way on earth anyone would have promised me such a thing; it obviously never happened.
By this point, I was nearly in tears from the frustration. I didn't have ~$40 to throw away. Money is tight for us at the moment. Not only was I promised something that wasn't being fulfilled, this sales lady was making it out like I was lying to her, when it clearly was the other way around.
On top of all that, I have a hard time in this country because of the mentality difference. I'm a born and bred Midwesterner, my mentality is purely American, despite the 5 years I've lived abroad, and I keep expecting to be treated as you would be in the US; I feel very out of my element here when interacting with wider society (and not just my American friends with whom I tend to socialize and spend the most time).
In the US, there's a concept of "The customer is always right, and even if they're not, lets try to please the customer so they'll stay loyal to our brand." But locally? Such a concept is so foreign to them; the standard here seems to be "The store is always right. We don't need customer loyalty" and the "customer service" here is pretty much non existent. (That said, I've heard customer service here has improved remarkably over the past 20 years or so, but it has a long way to go still.)
I feel so out of my element here at times, that I don't have what it takes to survive here. That the same strategies that work for living in the US fail completely here, and that you need something in your personality that I don't have to be able to succeed here and not be walked all over. This experience in the store just exemplified this issue so clearly, that it brought up all these feelings of homesickness to the US, and my feeling like a stranger in a strange land.
On top of it all, I knew I was right. Someone made me false guarantees, and instead of taking responsibility for that, the store manager insinuated, if not outright said, that I was lying to her. And I don't lie! Ever! And I didn't have money available now to be throwing away. My kids needed new shoes badly (Lee only has sandals now; he needs closed shoes now that winter is upon us) and I was planning on using the money I'd get back to use to buy both my kids their new shoes.
The situation felt hopeless. I just went to the back of the store, sat down on a bench, and texted my husband to vent my frustration, all the while trying to keep the tears out of my eyes.
I looked around to see if there really was anything I could purchase with store credit, and was even more frustrated. Yea, I could get shoes for Lee, but for the same price of one pair of shoes there, I could buy shoes for both my boys at the cheaper place, but really felt like I had no other option. Better get expensive shoes that Lee could wear than hold on to shoes that don't fit me. What other choice was there...
I would have 10 dollars left of store credit after getting those shoes, and since I never wanted to step a foot into that store again, I searched the store for something I could get for those 10 dollars and found a pair of cheap, tacky, made in China earrings, so that I'd have no store credit left over, and no reason to ever visit the store again.
Resigned, and trying to fight back the tears, I made the exchange- one pair of beautiful shoes that don't fit me, traded in for overpriced kids shoes and really tacky earrings.
I left the store biting my lip, but was so upset about the unfairness of it all that I stopped a few yards from the door and called my husband to tell him the story. By this point, tears were just flowing, and my husband could barely understand me through my blubbering, asking me to calm down and repeat myself, free of tears, so that he could understand what I was telling him. Bit by bit, I managed to get the story out.
Fortunately, my husband is a little more up to date on the goings on in our country, and was able to shed some light on the 48 hour return law.
"Penny, the law isn't that you're only allowed to return things for cash within 48 hours. The law was made to benefit the customer; its supposed to protect you. Should you want to return something within 48 hours, the store is legally obligated to give you back the money; after 48 hours it isn't against the law in any way for them to return you the money, its just that they're not legally obligated to. And because stores are upset about that law, they're tightening up their returns policy, but they're definitely allowed to take returns past 48 hours."
Well, that was good to know. The way the manager was talking, she was making it seem like I was asking her to break the law! Knowledge is power! Thanks Mike for shedding light on that!
After that, I called up my mother to find out exactly what happened when she was in the store, who she spoke to, what exactly they said, etc... Again, the more precise information I had, the more I had in my arsenal to help me out.
Once I knew details, I went back into the store once more to try to get this issue resolved once and for all.
Mom said the sales person was a man with a short beard; there was only one man working in the store, and yes, he had a short beard. I approached him and asked him if he was working there on Thursday. He said he was, and I told him I had a problem, and asked if he could help me out.
I tried explaining to him, as calmly and rationally as I could, from start to finish, what happened. But even though I was speaking in a relatively normal tone of voice (not crying too much anyhow), I was stumbling over the words I was saying, because when upset, its hard for me to speak in a language that's not my mother tongue.
This sales clerk said "That's fine, you can speak to me in English, I understand", which made things so much easier, because that way I didn't feel like an idiot who didn't know how to speak properly, I felt a little more in my element, and actually was able to articulate what I meant more clearly without being frustrated by the language barrier on top of everything else. It was such a relief.
After I explained everything, told the guy the whole story, he looks at me and says "I don't remember saying anything about returning something later than 48 hours. There's this law about returns for cash within 48 hours only."
Now that I had this information from my husband about the law (and the ability to actually converse in English and express myself better), I said "The law says nothing about not returning after 48 hours. The law is to protect the customer, not to cause him problems. The law is that if I want to return something within 48 hours, you must give me my money back, but after 48 hours, you aren't obligated to. However, that doesn't mean you're not allowed to give me the money back now, just that its not illegal not to. But there's the actual bottom line law, and then there's also doing the right thing. My mother certainly was promised that she could return it by Monday or Tuesday; that was the only reason she bought it. So even if you aren't legally obligated to return me the money, you still should, because its the right thing, and sometimes its worth doing something to make a customer satisfied, even if the law doesn't require you to, because you do want customer loyalty, don't you?"
The man looked at me understandingly, said "I see what you're saying; let's see how I can help you out."
Do you know how much of a relief that was? To finally be able to talk to someone who was trying to understand me and help me instead of just stubbornly insisting that "This is store policy, we won't budge, and you must be lying."
The sales clerk called up his manager, the head of the chain of stores, and told him what I had said. The manager said "Oh, I was in the store on Thursday. I remember that lady who bought those shoes. Yea, I promised her that she could return those shoes by today or tomorrow. Of course you should give her the money back."
Ding ding ding! I knew I wasn't lying! And I was able to prove it, just by not giving up.
Being persistent paid off.
I got my money back. I thanked the sales clerk tremendously, and now I'm not dead set against ever going back to that store again.
I'm one much happier, no longer blubbering customer.
See, it pays to try to keep customer loyalty.
With the money I got from the return, I went to the cheap shoe store, and bought 2 pairs of great, cute, good quality kids' shoes, and had 12 dollars change leftover.
I'm so happy it all worked out nicely in the end.
What did I learn from this, and what was the point in sharing it?
That when you're right, when you know what the truth is, and what justice is, it generally pays to be persistent. Usually, or anyhow a large percentage of the time, it pays off. Don't give up too soon, even if you think at first you're only engaged in an exercise in futility.
That being all emotional and blubbery in public is embarrassing, but sometimes it gets people to take you seriously enough because they empathize and see you as a human being like they are, and not just someone from whom they should be only trying to make a profit.
That you should always try to go to a manager when dealing with a store issue, and if the manager is being difficult, ask to speak to the manager's boss.
That its important to be armed with knowledge. In my case, this was who my mother spoke to, what exactly they said, and what the law regarding returns really was.
I'm glad I was persistent and went back to the store even though I thought at first that I was wasting my time. If I had just kept those expensive kids' shoes and tacky earrings, I would have felt resentful every time I'd see and use those (or at least I would at first). Now I feel powerful, capable, accomplished when I look at my kids' shoes, and that's a much better feeling.
I just need to say that in case you think I am stupid or crazy or immature or whatever to make a big deal over "just" 38 dollars, let me remind you that my husband works minimum wage, and that 38 dollars is pretty much 6 hours worth of wages. Not nothing. And that until we went gluten free, I could buy 1.5-2 weeks worth of food for 38 dollars. And that what may seem like "spare change" to someone is grocery money for someone else.
Oh, and that I'm 8 months pregnant and hormonal, and I think that justifies emotional blubberiness, at least one in a while....
And please, now's not the time or place for lectures on what is important. What's important to someone, isn't necessarily important to someone else. For me, not chucking 38 dollars in the drain was important, and it was important enough to make a big deal about. Don't judge someone else until you've walked a mile in their shoes.
So, have you ever had a story like mine? Where you were incredibly frustrated by how a store/company was treating you, and you were persistent and stood up for your rights, and it all worked out in the end? What happened?
Have you ever started getting all hormonal and emotional or start crying in a store or when dealing with a company? What happened? Were you mortified? Did you feel like you were treated worse or better once they observed you that visibly upset?
Linking up to Frugal Friday,