In what is to become the first of a regular series of stories from the front lines of customer service, I take myself back to what I refer to as the dark times, when I worked in office supplies and electronics retail, for a well-known, if incompetently run, multi-national company. My colleagues and I had to deal with a lot of crap from head office, and as if this didn’t make the job tough enough, we were also treated to various problems from that most wonderful of sources – the customer.

(there may have been a touch of sarcasm in that last sentence).

To begin, I offer up the tale of the ‘Sickly Child!’

It was a Sunday. Actually, I have no idea what day it was, but my mind is telling me Sunday, so we’ll run with that. I was in the warehouse, and over at the tills my colleagues were busy serving people. The next thing I know, I’m getting a call on the tanoy to head over to the tills – ho hum, the queue might have gotten bigger and they need extra manpower out there. If only it had been that simple.

So I arrive at the till, and my face does this:


The reason being? A kid has been sick – violently sick – all over the till, over the card machine, and over a bin filled with batteries. We’re not talking a slight puking here – we’re talking thunder chunder. To make matters worse, it was milky, and therefore stank like stale cheese, and it was quite runny, so it was seeping into everything.

The mother had (I learned later) tried to ‘help’ her child by shaking her around a little, which ensured maximum vomit coverage. Gee, thanks lady! I ought to mention she did offer to help clean up, but the damage was pretty immense by this point, and I just wanted her and her offspring gone, in case of a repeat.

Up next was the clean up, which took forever, especially from the nooks and crannies of the card machine. To make this job even better, there was a glass frame over the desk that residue had managed to creep under. All of this had to come up.

I wish I could forget the sight, and I really wish I could forget the stench. When it comes to the dark times, this is a ‘highlight’, for all the wrong reasons!

The batteries – well, they all had to be written off under health and safety rules. Can you imagine sticking one into your kid’s remote controlled car, only for little Timmy to ask ‘daddy, why does my car smell like eggs?’ First though, they had to be counted so we knew just how many we were throwing away – and guess which lucky meerkat got that job?

Work in retail they said, meet people, they said. Well, I’ve certainly met people. Can I please now unmeet them?