According to Tesco, one of Britain's number one supermarkets, "every little helps".
It seems, after my experience today, that every little bit of customer relations training helps should be the line instead.
There I was, casually mooching around my local High Street, grabbing the little bits and pieces for Mini's birthday tomorrow.I've been in a great mood, its the first birthday that Mini has actually been aware of, as well as excited about, and the excitement is infectious.
First stop was cards from an indie retailer, lovely guy, who was more than happy to find just the right colour birthday badge and balloons, even popping into the stock room for pink candles.
Next was Marks, not a store I venture into often, but after being told that they sell some lovely birthday cakes I popped in and found the perfect Hello Kitty cake, and reasonably priced too. The queues, being a busy Saturday, were long, but the staff sorted the sales quickly, and were smiley, packing my delicate cake in a bag for me.
Last stop was Wilkinsons, which can be a nightmare on Saturday with queues. But just as I got to them, a new till was opened and I was served pretty quickly there too.
Ready to go home, I remembered Elder asking me to pick up his tobacco for him.
Now, I don't condone smoking, but I'm not a smoking Police annoying person either. I used to smoke myself, some eleven years ago, but I decided at 18 it was daft to smoke so I gave up. I would prefer it if Elder didn't smoke, but its a personal choice.
Anyway, I was walking past my local Tesco, which I visit at least 4 times a week and have done for the past 4 odd years, so popped in and waited in the long queue.
Finally, after several minutes I was at the front- which was annoying as there were several staff members walking aimlessly around when they could have "jumped on" the till next to the girl serving. I know myself from my Retail management era that Saturdays are always busy due to the Lottery, so all hands on tills is usually the approach, even if you jump on for a few minutes while you serve people and get rid of queues its necessary on a busy "Lotto Madness Saturday" as we used to call it in the shop I worked at.
I know I look passable(!) but seriously I have saggy boobs and wrinkles on my forehead, as well as crows feet. I do not look under 21. I wish. I have bags under my eyes thanks to the Bratlings tag team "no sleep" method. I look 40.
I am of course nearly 30.
Age is a number, it doesn't bother me if I look older, its a fact of having kids. And what Botox is invented for.
Yes, I digress. I got to the front, asked for the tobacco that Elder smokes, which buy all the time in the store. And was refused as I look "18". Of course I do.
I laughed and told her she had to be kidding. As I said, I've shopped here for many years and she's clearly a Saturday Newbie, I know most of the till assistants in the store, and they are generally a lovely helpful bunch.
I said to her my age, my date of birth, that I have two kids. She again said no, asked me for ID.
By this point, the store being busy, everyone was watching- I'm not one to back down if I'm in the right, and, well, you don't get much more in the right than knowing when you were born.
I said "of course I don't have ID, I'm near on 30"!
The lady behind me in the queue stepped in, and laughed at this shop assistant, saying "jeeze love anyone can see she's old enough".
She then offered to get the tobacco for me, at which point this useless girl refused to serve her as well, and asked us both to leave.
Now, neither of us had been rude, aggressive or abusive. I had had enough though of being polite.
Going back to my history of retail, I explained (which all retail tobacco and alcohol sellers are told), most under age buyers will go for a well known brand of cigarette, such as B and H- I saw my fair share of under age buyers, and 9 times out of 10, that's what they asked for.
She told us to leave again.
By this time, the lady was fuming and demanded to see a manager to complain, and I quite agreed. Hoping for some sense from someone higher, we waited as the supervisor approached.
I tried to explain to her, yet she told me to shut up- using those exact words. She told the assistant to tell her side of the story first.
That's error numbers 1 and 2 in customer service. You always ask the customer what the issue or problem is, and you certainly never tell a customer to shut up. I wasn't loudly trying to explain, I turned my back on the useless shop assistant, and calmly tried to begin to explain. Her attitude immediately made me shocked.
After the shop assistant had lied through her teeth, accusing myself and the other customer of swearing at her (and other members of the queue spoke up saying that was rubbish), the supervisor, a frankly useless entity herself then turned to us and told us to leave again.
I refused and said she should hear our side of the story.
She said she didn't need to, and that I should find it a compliment that I was refused.
I told her that it was ridiculous as I shop in the store and have been sold tobacco and alcohol many, many times with no issue.
Clearly she wasn't listening, as she told me to "go get served in these other shops then". No attempt to diffuse the situation, but a continuation of rudeness.
I then told her that, as a Freelance journalist, I would be writing about my experience and telling people not to shop in Tesco, to which her reply was that I was a liar and obviously at school. So I gave her one of my cards with both the sites on, and then jokingly said "I suppose next you'll tell me the picture of my children in my wallet is fake too".
To which she delivered the final blow of "they may be your kids, maybe you had them really young".
In other words, if she believed I was under 18, she was basically calling me a slapper or a very young teen mum. Shocking behavior.
I told her that was it- there were gasps from other customers as the whole shop was listening at that final comment from this "supervisor", that Tesco had just lost a customer.
Her parting shot, whilst grinning inanely? "I'm sure Tesco's profits wont care love".
This, people, is what we pay ever increasing prices for. Is it any wonder the younger member of staff was rude and happy to lie in front of witnesses to cover her tracks when the supervisor herself was worse than useless and rude beyond belief.
I will never shop with Tesco again, nor will I ever work with them for Family Panel- I wouldn't want my name linked to a shop which has no concept of good customer service.
Regardless of rules and regs on sales of tobacco, which I agree are there for a reason, you never ever have an excuse to speak to a customer in that way. There are ways of handling that kind of situation which I know well from my retail days, but clearly Tesco don't tell their staff that.
They have lost a regular customer.