Perhaps the most frustrating customers I encountered during my two months working at the supermarket fuel center were the ones who needed help but got pissy when I tried to remedy their situations.
The intercom that was supposed to allow me to communicate with the world on the other side of the bulletproof glass was a piece of crap. The sound cut in and out; sometimes there was no sound at all. The fuel center definitely needed new communication equipment.
One morning I pushed the button on the intercom and began speaking to a man on the other side of the window.
I can’t hear you, he smirked.
I put my mouth right next to the part of the intercom box that picked up sound. I kept my voice low, but since it was right next to the amplifier, it must have been loud outside.
What pump are you on? I asked the fellow.
You don’t have to yell, he chastised me.
I guess there was just no pleasing him.
Customers often had trouble getting the pay-at-the-pump feature to work. Strange, because 98% of the time when I went outside to help, I could get the pump to accept the troublesome debit and credit cards. Maybe I had the magic touch, or maybe I have the attention span, patience, and mental capacity to follow the step-by-step directions given on the pump’s computer screen. Customers often acted as if our pumps were the cause of their hardships, but if the pumps were at fault, I don’t think my success rate would have been so outstanding.
People are funny. I thought folks would be happy when I got the pump to accept their credit/debit cards so they could get their fuel. However, over the course of two months, more than one person (more than twenty people) seemed to get angrier when I got the pump going. Of course, these people couldn’t very well complain when they were able to pump their fuel, but I could tell when people got angrier after I’d gotten the pump to accept their card. I think those people wanted to be upset and they’d decided (subconsciously, probably) to be upset whether they got what they wanted or not.
Of course, some people were so invested in their anger, they didn’t even want me to try to help.
I do this all the time, customers said to dismiss me on more than one occasion after I’d gone outside and was trying to talk them through the steps necessary to get the pump to give up fuel. I knew the customers were having trouble because they’d come up to the kiosk and told me so, but when I went outside to help, I obviously wasn’t wanted.
I do this all the time, I was told, and I wanted to say, So what usually happens? Do you always fuck it up and have to ask for help, or can you usually muddle through?
Of course I kept those thoughts to myself. I also refrained from demanding to know why someone came up to the kiosk and reported a problem if they didn’t want my help. Do you just want to complain, or do you actually want to put gas in your car? I often wondered.
Sometimes when I was outside trying to help, the customer decided they’d had enough of my chipper personality. (Really, I was chipper when I went outside to offer assistance. I dare say I was friendly too, and pleasant.)
I’ve got it now, customers sometimes said pointedly, trying to get rid of me.
Uh, no, I’d say in my head while politely refusing to leave. I wasn’t going to walk back to the kiosk, unlock the door, and go inside only to have the same person up at the window again, complaining through the intercom that something was wrong with the pump. We were in this together now, and we’d see it through to the end, side-by-side, until the nozzle was in the gas tank and fuel flowed freely.