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Customer service hits new low when store runs out of muscle

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By Linda Ireland

When a refrigerator croaks – when its compressor bleats its last breath – you have no choice.

You must get another one – pronto – or risk losing all those interesting things you have stored that probably should have been thrown out weeks earlier.

But that’s beside the point.

My husband Bud and I learned that wanting a new refrigerator, needing a new refrigerator, having the means to purchase a new refrigerator and even having a truck to haul a new refrigerator – does not mean you are going to walk out of a big-box store with a new refrigerator.

Here is a shortened version of our shopping trip.

Store One – “We don’t have that one in stock, but let me check” (Jeopardy music).

“I was right. We don’t have that one in stock but we will have one tomorrow.” (Us: “But we need one today.”)

“Let me go check on something” (more Jeopardy music). “We do have one refrigerator in that style but the person who ordered it was supposed to pick it up two weeks ago. Let me go call him and find out if he still wants it” (more Jeopardy music).

“He doesn’t answer his phone. How do you feel about the floor display? It’s the same thing.”
(We wait, thinking a large discount will be offered. None is offered.)

If I am paying several hundred dollars for a new refrigerator, I want a new one. I do not want one that has been abused by small children swinging on the doors.

“You’ll be back,” the salesperson said. “We have the best prices.”

She was wrong.

Store Two – Refrigerators were on sale here. None were in stock. “We can get you one on Wednesday – five days hence.”

Store Three – “We don’t have that one in stock but we can get it in tomorrow.”

We made a second choice. Bingo! This one was in stock. In fact, the salesperson said there were 18 “in the back.”

It must have been Refrigerator Day in Hardin County. Two other happy couples, accompanied by big, burly boys pushing their new refrigerators on carts, checked out in front of us.

There was no sight of our new Frigidaire, but we weren’t worried.

Twenty minutes later, we were still standing in front of the store, waiting for our refrigerator to arrive. The other couples had left, probably even stopped and grabbed lunch before going home.

I stepped inside and asked if there was a problem. “Oh,” said the cashier. “I forgot.”

She called and inquired of the whereabouts of our new purchase.

In the meantime, two healthy-looking men, wearing vests that signified their affiliation with the big-box store, walked outside twice – right beside where we are waiting. They appeared to be aimlessly moving shopping carts and adding a few more grills to the 20-or-so in front of the store. I caught them looking at us. But they didn’t offer to help.

After several more minutes, our refrigerator arrived, being pushed on a cart by a very small young woman.

I stood staring. Surely, one of those big, burly boys would run out to load that hefty object.
I was wrong.

The girl was cute-as-a-button and no doubt, more than willing to hoist the refrigerator to the best of her ability. I admire feistiness. What I doubted was her upper-body strength.

A man ran out from the store to help. Bud grabbed a corner of the box. Another man ran from the parking lot to give them a hand. All I could see were injuries and lawsuits –  and me going home with a busted refrigerator.

I didn’t touch it – one herniated disk is enough for me, thank you very much.

Fortunately, it was loaded without incident. But I wasn’t ready to leave.
“I want to talk to the manager,” I said.

The manager was a woman, apparently used to handling irritated customers. She listened politely to me gripe because the other customers were waited on promptly and their appliances were loaded by big ol’ boys.

The delay occurred because they could not find our refrigerator in the back – despite the great number of stock they thought they had.

And, apparently, it was not a new or unusual occurrence for a female to be in charge of lifting appliances.

I think that is messed up.

I support equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity. But not when it puts customers and employees alike in danger.

My thought: If it takes three men to help you load the refrigerator, then you didn’t really lift it yourself.

On the other hand, as long as the cuteness holds out, I suppose there will always be men willing to do the heavy lifting.