Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dumb Rules That Make Customers Mad

Tom Peters calls it "a failure to overcommunicate." I call it "dumb rules that make customers mad."

Here's the story: Last week I was in Half Price Books with a handful of books to resell. (Don't you just love Half Price Books? I feel so "green" shopping there.) When I dropped of my books at the resale (or is it resell?) counter the rep asked for my driver's license and told me she'd call my name when my books were ready. I told her I was going to walk next door and get lunch and would be back shortly which prompted her to say in a booming authoritative voice,


I explained that I would be back in a few minutes and that I would just be next door to which she repeated,


I then explained that I was on my lunch break and wouldn't have time to wait in the store and then get lunch. I needed to get lunch while I waited on the books. And again she said,


At this point I felt like a 3rd grader getting in trouble for talking in class (which I did get in trouble for in 3rd grade). The sales clerk was talking so loud in my face and other customers were staring. I picked up my books and left.

I'm a rule follower by nature. And I respect rules. This situation brings to light that it's important not just to train your employees on rules - but to train them on the reasons behind the rules and how to explain them to customers. Clearly, this clerk was doing the job the way she'd been trained. She was determined to follow what seemed to be a dumb rule to me. All this sales clerk had to do was communicate to me why it was necessary for me to remain in the store. Instead, she really made me mad.

Just so I could get closure on this dumb rule, when I got back to my office I called the corporate headquarters of Half Price Books and asked why it's a store policy for customers to wait in the store after dropping off books. Guess what I was told? "No, it's not a company policy. It must be something that particular store does." I'm still trying to get closure on this one.

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