I ask to speak with a supervisor. The young woman assents and makes the call. After she hangs up the phone, she promptly picks up the broken gold chain and my receipt and disappears to another section of the jewellery department. We wait for a manager to appear. After some time we spot what appears to be a supervisory type of person approaching the department. This person walks right by us and heads toward the area to which the sales associate has absconded with our stuff. We wait some more until both impatience and curiosity nudge me over to where I believe the associate and supervisor might be located.
When I find them, I see the associate sitting on the floor behind a counter, crying, the manager hunched over her, apparently consoling her. The manager looks up at me as if I am Jack the Ripper, so I retreat to my original position. We wait some more.
Finally, the supervisor comes over to us, steps behind the counter, and immediately says to me, “First of all, I want to tell you that I do not appreciate the way you spoke to my associate.” Taken aback, I counter, “How do you know how I spoke to her? You were not here.” He says, “She told me.” “She told you.” “Yes, and she is normally a very stable person who never reacts like this, so there must be a good reason for her to be upset.”
I am beginning to seethe. I say, “First of all, I was extremely polite to her: I did not raise my voice, I did not use profanity. Second, I am a customer of this store and as such I have the right to disagree with your return or exchange policy. If your associate is unable to deal with such disagreement, she should not be in sales.” This “discussion” continues for a few more minutes and then the supervisor disappears again, going back in the direction of the distraught associate. We wait some more. I am angry, frustrated, and embarrassed (my partner has been watching this entire sordid drama), but above all I am in a state of open-mouthed, bug-eyed incredulity at what I am both witnessing and being forced to endure. And I am a customer!
Dear reader, it gets far worse.
The supervisor eventually returns and tells me that he is now ready to resolve the problem; he just needs to “check some video” and then we’ll get it done. In my naïveté I assume that by “checking some video” he means that he is going to look at the video feed of the store in which I purchased the chain in order to verify that I did indeed buy it at that store (rather than picking it up off the street, of which action there would likely be no video record). Again he goes in the direction of the apparently still distraught associate. We wait. Some moments later I see him disappear through a door in the back of the store. We wait some more. Finally, he emerges from the same door, now accompanied by another man, and approaches us.
By this time paranoia has been added to the list of emotions I am experiencing. I truly would not be surprised to see two large grim-faced police officers enter the store and arrest me for theft.
The manager says to me, “I looked at the video, and it is confirmed: you touched our employee. It is against the policy of the store for anyone to touch an employee.” I look at the other man as I am hearing this: obviously store security. By now I am in a state of complete disbelief at the escalating bizarreness of this entire episode.
I recall that when I assured the associate that I was not blaming her for the store’s return policy on jewellery, I had lightly touched her arm. The security guy is giving me the dead-eyed stare. I apologize, saying that I was not aware of the policy of the store; I am quickly told that this is the policy of any business. I reply that over the years I have touched dozens of waiters and waitresses, as well as salespeople, and not one of them has ever complained or reported me to a manager. I apologize again and then make a desperate, but ultimately futile, plea to be treated as a customer and for my issue to be resolved.
The manager then says, “You also verbally abused the associate.” How could I be more shocked than I already am by what has gone on so far? “I did?” “Yes, you called her a retail c-nt.” I protest vehemently that this accusation is a blatant lie, that I have never used such language against anyone. I ask the manager if he learned of this alleged verbal abuse from the video as well, but of course I am told that there is no audio on the system.
Clearly I have been defeated: I am no longer a valued customer of this famous Canadian department store (if ever I was considered to be such a creature) but am rather a scammer, an abuser, and very likely a thief.
The manager finally tells me that he is now prepared to exchange the chain for another but that in future I must adhere to the policies of the store. He again retreats in the direction of the “crying room” only to return seconds later to inform me that there are no chains of the type I purchased in stock.
I quietly ask for the chain and for my receipt and leave the store.