First up on my list of places to hit: Costco.
I figure, get the real madhouse out of the way and I could probably get all my other run-around errands done. I figure: 1.5 hours because of the crowd.
It took me 3 hours. And my day is completely shot.
Because a phone kiosk employee managed to hand over my new cell phone and paperwork containing all of my personal information to a complete stranger.
Here are the characters in our little passion play:
Me = The person who came >thisclose< to killing a phone kiosk employee
Employee 1 = Phone kiosk employee who is my hero, my white knight in shining armor, my customer service king, the guy who really deserves a raise for going above and beyond the call of duty
Employee 2 = Phone kiosk employee who is lucky he still has body parts
Costco Employee = Worker bee runner and chick who moved so fast to do her bit to help Employee 1 that it makes me feel warm and fuzzy about Costco and the reason why Asshat (see below) is in for a very nasty surprise when he comes back to shop
Costco Supervisor = Bearer of bad news, but I suspect she helped Costco Employee deal with the situation
Asshat = Male customer who walked off with my phone and personal information and then made life difficult for Employee 1 while Employee 1 galloped to my rescue
My tale of woe:
Part of my mission at Costco was switching my cell phone service. I've been wanting to get off of Cingular Wireless anyway. I was an AT&T account back before AT&T divested and sold us to Cingular.
It's not like I live and die by the ol' cell phone. I use it pretty much for emergencies and that's it. However, what little contact I've had with Cingular customer service pretty much convinced me I wanted out.
Also, some of you might recall that AT&T gave the NSA unfettered wiretap access to all communications crossing its network. Since my account was originally with AT&T, I don't know if my (now) Cingular account is part of that. I can't seem to get a satisfactory answer with Cingular on that question, so I figure, "That's it. I'm out."
I also wanted to upgrade to a camera phone, again, more for safety reasons because I can think of several situations I've been in (say, fender-benders when I've been rear-ended) where a camera phone would've been hella useful. I wasn't pleased with the options and expenses involved with upgrading my ancient cell phone that Cingular had, so that was just another prompt to get me to switch.
I decided, after some research, to go with Verizon. What the hell. I've got my phone and Internet service with them, so that translates into a little discount for me. And I get a camera phone on the cheap. It's all good.
So I trundle on over to the Costco Phone kiosk. Employee 1 walks me through my different options for a phone to go with my spiffy new Verizon service. We talk rebates. We talk plans. We talk contractural obligations. We settle on on something that works for me. The paperwork comes out for me to sign.
Now, I have to fill out a slip so they have the information they need to program my phone and send the new account on to Verizon while I'm doing the rest of my Costco-based errands. This slip includes my name, phone number, work phone number, address, and driver's license number. Employee 1, because he gets that I'm concerned about privacy, tells me not to fill out the SS number because he doesn't think it's a good idea to have that information on a slip of paper that could get misplaced (Employee 1, I think, is psychic). Instead, he types it in while I'm standing there and starts the registration process.
Off I go to do my errands.
I return when I'm done to find that Employee 1 is on break and Employee 2 is manning the kiosk by his lonesome. We go over all the paperwork and rebate slips. I sign off on what I need to sign off on. He hands me a slip of paper that I need to take up to the register and explains that he has to hold the phone until I pay. Once I pay, a Costco runner will come to pick up my phone and deliver it to me at check-out.
Fine and good. I leave phone, accessories, rebate slips, and paperwork in the bag which is (in theory) being guarded at the kiosk while I cheerfully trip my way up to the register to pay.
[Insert me waiting in line and paying here.]
Transaction complete, a Costco runner (this would be Costco Employee) is called to retrieve my phone.
I wait. And wait. And wait some more.
Costco Employee suddenly comes barrelling through the lines (without my phone) and grabs a blonde woman who is, it turns out, Costco Supervisor. They take off back into the store's interrior at top speed.
"Hunh," I figure. "An emergency probably came up that distracted her."
Annoying, but as a proud veteran of retail work, it's understandable. Shit happens that's sometimes just out of your control.
Soon, Costco Supervisor is back and she's looking for me. "You need to get to the phone kiosk right away," she says. "It turns out they gave your phone to someone else. Leave your carriage here and we'll keep an eye on it."
I take off for the phone kiosk. Admittedly, my first concern is: "Someone's got my brand new phone and my brand new account. What if they start making calls on it? Shit, shit, shit..."
I land at the phone kiosk where Employee 2 is signing off on some paperwork with a customer. "What happened?" I ask.
"This guy walked off with your phone," Employee 2 says.
"Unh, yeah. Was told that. I just want you to know that this is not inspiring any confidence in you guys. So what happens now? Can he make calls on the phone? Do I have to get a new account? Fill out more paperwork? What needs to get done?" I ask.
"I was busy with another cusotmer and he walked off with your phone," Employee 2 says.
Now I'm getting annoyed. He hasn't answered my questions. He's handing me excuses. I can already see that an apology is not in any danger of crossing his lips.
I smile (when I say "smile," I mean "grimace"). "Why was my phone on the counter where anyone could grab it? Why wasn't it safely behind the counter?"
"I was busy with another customer—" Employee 2 begins.
I hold up my hand. "Stop. Right there. I work retail. I've worked retail for years. You left a high-ticket item that was already paid for on top of the counter in full view of everyone. Someone came up to the kiosk and walked off with it. And you are not answering my questions. Can the person who has my phone start making international calls and run up my cell phone bill?"
Employee 2 finally hears what I'm actually saying. "Oh. No. He didn't grab it. A Costco employee did."
I blink at him.
"See, the other customer (Asshat) bought a headset. Everyone who buys from us gets a register slip. All the slips look the same. I thought the slip for the other customer was your slip and I gave the Costco employee your phone." Employee 2 holds up Asshat's register slip. There's printing on it indicating that the slip was for a headset, not a cell phone.
Now I'm getting angry. "You didn't even check to make sure the slip matched what was in the bag?"
"I was with another customer and I was busy," Employee 2 says defensively.
"It would have taken you 10 seconds to check," I point out. "Now, can this guy make calls on my cell phone."
"Oh. No. I can just make the switch to a new phone. He won't be able to call out on it when I'm done," Employee 2 says.
Costco Employee comes back to check on my progress, just in time to catch the tail end of the situation. "I'll put a flag on his account with us," she says. "We're working with the door checkers now to find out how he walked out of the store with a cell phone instead of a headset. I'll see if I can't get contact information for him so we can tell him he's got the wrong item. If we can't reach him, at least he'll be flagged for it at the registers when he comes back to shop."
Well, I figure, everyone's doing what they can. So, I tell Employee 2 to get started and thank the Costco Employee for letting me know what's going on.
Costco Employee scurries off. Employee 2 starts breaking out the new phone.
Keep in mind. Employee 2 has yet to apologize for his screw-up, but I'm letting it slide. The situation is getting fixed and there's no point in being a bitch about it.
That's when it hits me. The key thing I forgot in the whole mess. "Where's my paperwork?" I ask.
"You took it," Employee 2 tells me.
"Nooooo. You told me to leave it in the bag with my phone so everything would be together," I said.
"I can photocopy the copy of your contract we have on file," Employee 2 says.
"Unh, that paperwork has all my contact information on it," I point out.
In the meantime, Costco Employee is back, probably to tell me that Costco has done X, Y, and Z. She doesn't interrupt this time and instead listens to the conversation.
"I'm sure the customer will bring it back when he returns the phone," Employee 2 says.
Me and Costco Employee (who is female like myself) exchange a look. Employee 2 is just not getting it.
Now I'm getting pissed. "The contract that you have on file has my name, home address, and home phone number on it. The slip of paper I filled out so you could send my account information to Verizon has my name, home address, home phone number, work phone number, and my driver's license number on it. The rebate slips are filled out with my existing Verizon account information. A complete stranger has all that information in his possession. This is a very, very big problem."
"Do you want to fill out new paperwork?" clueless Employee 2 asks.
Now I get my bitch on. "Listen to me. Because you didn't take 10 second to check a slip, a complete stranger now has access to my personal and private information. He can track me down and find me. You have put me at potential risk."
Costco Employee is nodding right along with this.
I turn to her and say, "Look, I know 90% of the people out there won't give a rat's ass. It's the 10% that are lunatics you've got to worry about."
Costco Employee says, "You don't have to tell me that." She gives Employee 2 a look and says, "I'll be right back." And takes off.
I turn and give Employee 2 an evil glare. "I can promise you that I will be calling your boss to complain about this." I take out a pen and a piece of paper and write his name down, the date, and the time of this discussion.
"But I was busy—" he begins.
I put pen and paper in my purse. "My level of not caring cannot possibly get any higher," I snarl at him.
Personally, I'm amazed that I didn't start swearing, yelling, and jumping up and down. Probably because I know that the second I started doing that, I'd lose whatever allies I had in this mess.
Finally, the synapses in Employee 2's brain fire. "I'm really sorry."
The apology, issued only after I told him I was calling his boss, only pissed me off even more. "That really doesn't help me at all, does it?"
Costco Employee and Employee 1 (who was interrupted on break) come running back to the kiosk. Employee 1 looks pissed as all hell. "You let someone walk off with a cell phone?" he asks.
"I was busy with another customer," Employee 2 says.
"This is not the first time you've done this," Employee 1 snaps at him while he starts digging through the sales paperwork to figure out who walked off with my phone.
"I've never done this before. This is the first time," Employee 2 whines.
Employee 1 gives him that, "Yeah, right," look and pulls out a sheet of paper. Employee 1 tells me, "I've got a cell number for him and I'll call the customer right now to explain what happened."
While Employee 1 starts calling, Costco Employee tells me that the people who check the slips and purchases while people leave saw the Verizon bag and the slip, but no one checked the Verizon bag. They just assumed it was the headset. She apologizes.
Employee 1 finally gets Asshat on the phone and starts explaining the situation. He stops mid-sentence and listens while his shoulders sag. He looks at me and mouths, "He's a doctor." He then winces and tries explaining the situation again and gets cut off again.
Employee 1 finally gets a word in edgewise and asks if Asshat would mind coming back to the store to make the swap.
Nope. Asshat won't do it. He'll return the phone, and my paperwork, later and at his convenience. The way he sees it, it's not his problem because he's not the one who screwed up. He doesn't give a rat's ass that he's inconveniencing other people and that he's got paperwork with sensitive personal information on it. (Keep in mind: He didn't check his bag to make sure he had the right product — a headset — that was a hell of a lot cheaper than a cell phone.)
Employee 1 gets a brain blast and offers to meet Asshat wherever he is to make the trade. Asshat, as it turns out, is 10 minutes down the road at a Petsmart. Asshat agrees to stay put and make the trade.
Employee 1 hangs up and tells me the situation and asks me if I'm willing to hold tight. I tell him that I am and I thank him profusely for going out of his way.
Everything settled, Employee 1 and Costco Employee take off.
I turn to Employee 2 and tell him, "I'm walking away and will come back in 20 minutes. I'm pretty sure you don't want me standing here and glaring at you for that long."
"Twenty minutes is good," Employee 2 says.
I wander off into the book section to amuse myself and because it's got a clear line of sight to the phone kiosk.
It takes Employee 1 a half-hour to get back. Not surprising. There's a lot of traffic out there. When I see him, I head to the phone kiosk. We both go through the bag to make sure everything is there, including phone, auxiliary equipment, and paperwork. Employee 1 at my request checks the phone to make sure no calls were made on it and tests it to make sure it works.
Everything is a go.
I then ask for his supervisor's number. Employee 1 and Employee 2 exchange panicked looks because they both know that I'm going to tell the whole story.
I assure Employee 1 that I want to tell his boss that he really went above and beyond the call of duty in resolving a difficult situation and that I really appreciated all the time and effort he put into it to make me feel better about doing business with them. I stressed that I wanted to make sure that his boss knew that he did a terrific job and that I, as a customer really appreciated it.
I pointedly did not mention that I was going to complain a lot about Employee 2.
Employee 1 reluctantly turns over a business card and tells me that his supervisor will be in on Tuesday and I could call then.
So ends my tale of switching to Verizon.
And so begins me counting down to Tuesday because I sure as hell am going to be filing one hell of a complaint about Employee 2 (as well as heaping praise on Employee 1) when I call.