“I very rarely get complaints on me, and it has been more than two years since someone was so unsatisfied with my help that they actually called corporate on me. But, that all changed last week.
I had been going around the dog food section of the store facing the cans and smaller bags when an older man, maybe in his sixties, walked up and asked if he could get someone to help him get a thirty-pound bag of dog food up to the front. He did not have a cart with him, so I told him that I would be happy to help.
I grabbed his chosen bag and walked up to the front with him. Nothing really seemed amiss. I made small talk, asked about what kind of dog he had, chatted about the weather because anything below seventy in Florida is worth talking about. I helped him out to his car, thanked him for his patronage to our store, and went about my day. All seemed well.
Yesterday, however, I got called into the office where my general manager was waiting to speak to me. She told me we had a huge complaint about me and that it had gone up to our district manager and that I was to receive a write-up as per his orders.
Apparently, I was expected to have gone and gotten one of our male associates to help this guy. I ‘insulted and humiliated’ this customer by grabbing the bag myself. He said in his complaint that it was totally unacceptable for a ‘little girl’ to lift those bags and that I was obviously trying to make him look like a weak old man in front of other customers.
I was so mad about this because I got the write-up (which I refused to sign because all I was doing was my job) and had to have a ‘counseling session’ about how to properly respect our customers.
When I was hired, I had to prove that I could lift and carry fifty pounds if I wanted to work on the floor for this exact reason. Floor associates have to be able to help customers with bags and boxes that they would not be able to lift themselves.
I was never once rude to this man, never once mentioned anything about how he needed help with the bag. I did my utmost to provide the best customer service to him and followed the store’s stupid ‘Guest +’ model of customer service. I did everything right and I was still getting in trouble over it. My general manager never once said that it was a complaint. They just kept going over and over how I need to be more aware of customer sensitivities, and how it really is reasonable that an older man would not want lifting help from a five-foot-tall ‘little girl.’
So sorry, sir, that I did my job and even helped you out to your car.
I then made a call to my HR department. The moment the phrase ‘gender discrimination’ came into the conversation, I was transferred to a ‘supervisor.’ They seemed very sympathetic and more than a little bit worried about legal trouble over this. I have gotten a copy of the write-up that I now have at home.
Today, I got a call back into the office to speak with our district manager on the phone.
What had apparently happened, and was misinterpreted by my general manager, was that the complaint was forwarded to him and he just forwarded it to our store. He had never actually read what the complaint was outside of ‘customer was humiliated and insulted’ so he wanted immediate action taken. Still a really awful response, but it is what it is.
He apologized to me profusely for several minutes before telling me that the write-up was to be rescinded and that no disciplinary action would be on my employment file for this. I have to say I am still feeling all warm and fuzzy several hours after listening to him eat crow over this. He is normally so mean. It was lovely.
I did make a point to tell the district manager that my managers shouldn’t be punished for following his direction. This was me unashamedly covering my own butt. I needed this job, and I won’t have them thinking I was trying to get them in trouble despite the fact that if it hadn’t been handled the way it was, I would have done my best to crucify them. I will fully recognize and acknowledge that it was an act to mollify my managers.
My general manager apologized to me. Human Resources must have jumped right on this because I really wasn’t expecting to hear anything about it for a few weeks yet. I did tell them that I understood their need to write me up after a direct e-mail from the district manager, but that I was hurt that I was chastised for doing my job.
The assistant store manager told me that she understood how I felt and that she would feel the same way, though the general manager didn’t seem to have much to say about it at all outside of being sorry that all this happened. I still think they should have told me it was a stupid complaint when they talked to me the first time, but it has happened so I’m letting it go.
I will give my own apology to those who likely wanted me to fight this harder than I did and for leaving it at this. I got the outcome I really wanted. An admission of wrongdoing and an apology. I have a two-year-old who is growing faster than I can keep clothes on her and I need to be able to support her. As much as I hate my company, I need this job and I really can’t afford to peeve off the people who make my schedule.
They have backtracked so quickly and I am feeling some serious righteous vindication. This had actually turned out so much better than I thought it would.”