“I’m sorry, but the voucher isn’t intended to cover your whole purchase; these glasses cost more than the voucher provides for,” I heard Nika say for the nth time today.
“What do you mean it can’t cover my purchase? So what exactly is the voucher for? The advert stated clearly that a certain amount goes to the eye exam and I have a credit towards frames. Why won’t it cover this purchase?” Mr. Bobka, our 11:00 o’ clock appointment, is clearly upset. I know the answer to his question very well. Its one we have given repeatedly, in recent days. I feel like a broken record each time I hear myself repeat it, but thankfully, it isn’t my turn to respond this time. Nika gives me the silent “Oh my God, just kill me” look. I turn away; its the best I can do to avoid bursting out with laughter. Nika has clearly reached her limit for the day, as far as the promotional vouchers were concerned.
“Okay sir, but consider this; you have $150 only for the frames and …”
“No, it says complete eye-ware in the advert; what is eye-ware?” he asked.
“I can only answer one question at a time sir, so let me finish.” I wince. I see Mr. Bobka’s shoulders become tense and can tell he’s gearing up for a face-off. “Yes, it does say eye-ware, but lets do the math. You have $150 towards eye-ware, but you’ve selected a designer frame which costs $299, so there’s no way to avoid paying extra. You’ve already spent … where’s the calculator?” I watch Nika pick up the calculator to compute the the charges.
Mr Bobka is faster. “$149,” he says.
“Yes, $149.” Nika raises her head from the calculator. “See? You already know it, so what’s upsetting you?” Mr. Bobka ignores the question and piles on more complaints about the promotional voucher.
“So what you’re saying is I can’t get complete eye-ware for $150? Then this is false advertising!”
Nika simply sighs and stares wide-eyed at him. “I understand why you feel that way. I agree that the advert didn’t explain this fully. It could have been worded more concisely, but you must understand that we really cannot accept the voucher to cover all costs. You may want to take it up with the voucher issuer.” (Bomb head-office for screwing us up). Mr Bobka had contacted the issuers and was assured that it is possible to get a pair of full prescription glasses for $150. Nika smirks at that. “Well yes; it is possible, if you pick a frame from the section I showed you earlier.”
He turns toward the discounted section and then back to her. “But there’s nothing good in that section,” he says in exasperation.
“Well I’m sorry then, you’re going to have to pay the difference, if you insist on keeping this frame. Please understand that we didn’t offer to alter our pricing with this promotion.” Mr. Bobka isn’t having any of it; he’s here with a voucher in hand and intends to walk out with the glasses of his choice. Unfortunately, Nika is not quite the pick for a fight. If only the world had responded when Kosovo screamed for help! There’s such beauty in her character; I find her candor especially refreshing in this city. And she’s remarkably efficient at what she does, but you must avoid a fight over what is just, if you can help it. I almost feel sorry for Mr. Bobka.
Rafik steps in to enforce an immediate ceasation of hostilities. “Hi Mr. Bobka, I’m the manager, have a seat and lets talk.” He points to a chair and moves over to the other side of the counter. The counter forms an effective DMZ in such situations. Now what?
“I’m not interested in talking with you crooks anymore; I just want my money back.”
Rafik gives a nervous chuckle and affirms that we’re not crooks. He attempts to differentiate our job from the voucher issuers. Nice try. He launches into a spaghetti explanation of why Mr. Bobka can’t have a refund. He has already redeemed half of the voucher value with the eye exam and prescription from the doctor. Needless to say, Mr. Bobka isn’t happy. He feels tricked and trapped.
“No one explained this to me when I walked in here!” He sounds a decibel, or two higher than he did with Nika, so I reach for my protective helmet; the earphones in my pocket. I always keep my flak jacket in place, of course. Its the attitude, “Hey, the customer wants the best deal he can extract.”
Rafik negotiates a truce. “Look, I want to keep your custom and the frame does look good on you. Why don’t you keep it with a 15% discount? That’s not what we offer customers, but I’m willing to take the flak, to make certain you walk out of here satisfied.” I wince again; it is what we offer customers who spend more than $300. Mr. Bobka’s facial expression is on longer one of despair. He looks like a boy who has just received a loonie from the tooth fairy and I’m happy for him. I’m happy for us too. This truce will hold. The voucher stinks, but hey, don’t leave the client without a dignified exit; why ruin your day and his?