I spent a large portion of my life in one retail atmosphere or another, but it wasn’t until I came to Singapore that I realized what retail hell truly is. I thank my lucky stars that I am no longer on the front lines, dealing with customers like this:
To make a long story short, it’s one of those warehouse sales at the exhibition center, and an auntie has bought a pack of four plastic hooks that you stick on your wall with a suction cup, the kind of hook that locks, apparently. Why you need a hook that locks, I don’t know, but that’s not the point. The point is, the pack is four hooks for a dollar, and it seems that when she got home she discovered that one of the hooks was faulty. So she decides to take the MRT back to the warehouse sale and complain. Over 25 cents.
I’m not a mathemagician, but I’m pretty sure you can’t even step on a train for less than, what, 60 cents? And of course she will have to go back home again, so minimum, she is out $1.20 over a 25 cent plastic hook.
And then I heard it, and everything became clear to me. The Phrase:
"How are you going to compensate me for my TIME?"
Listen people, there is no compensation for time. When time is gone, it’s gone. There’s no getting it back. I know. I wrote to George Lucas after Episode I asking for my two hours back and he explained it all to me in that annoying jar jar binks voice. Meesa so sorry. You no getta time back, no, never.
How are you going to compensate me for my time? The phrase is trite, tired and frankly insulting. It translates directly to "I’m a greedy SOB and you need to give me a discount or some other form of compensation or else I’ll be very unpleasant in front of all these nice people who will then think you’re a big jerk and then you’ll get bad word of mouth and your sales will go down."
It’s a form of blackmail. If retailers give in, they get screwed. If they don’t, they get screwed. If Singapore is known for its lacklustre customer service, it’s in direct proportion to how much Singaporeans complain. Sometimes I think Singaporeans will complain that water is too wet. [redacted] does it, and it never ceases to amaze and embarrass me. When she goes off on some poor clueless pre-teen behind the counter in a fashion outlet or whatever, I just cringe and tiptoe away. I mean, it may make her feel better and she often gets some sort of voucher or whatever, but damn it’s rude where I come from. The technical phrase, actually, would be ‘showing your ass’.
Should anyone accept shoddy service or goods? Of course not. But try operating on the assumption that it’s a mistake and not some evil plot by the evil Retail Overlord designed to screw you personally. Your blood pressure will go down. You may live longer (compensate yourself!) And if you speak reasonably and rationally and get the problem resolved on the spot, you won’t have to go all kiasu and screech at people over the phone and wonder how you will be compensated for that time you wasted fuming.
And who knows? Maybe, in time, the poor retail wage slaves will start to care about their jobs instead of enduring them, and fewer problems will arise, and less precious units of our lives will be wasted on bickering about frigging plastic locking hooks.
Just a thought.