Monday, December 12, 2005

From Good Global Citizen to Nasty American in 1 Hour and 52 Minutes!

I went to Galleria Inno (Brussels' version of Nordstrom's) to return a pair of pants I bought for Dan on Friday. During the 46 MINUTES I waited in line for the register, I was able to make several key observations. First, the cashier (as in, only one) was either paid in direct correlation to the number of customers in line, or she was the sole participant in some sort of gift wrapping competition in which she was required to spend 7 minutes wrapping a pair of socks, 11 minutes for a men's dress shirt, to use 2 types of ribbons on a scarf box, and 13 little round "Inno" stickers to close a bag with a robe (yes, I counted!). Second, you can find a lot of Belgians in the men's department at Inno around mid-morning on Mondays.

When I finally got to the cashier, I was told that I would have to fill out a form and wait for "the boss." The form was completed in less than 30 seconds; "the boss" appeared 21 minutes later. [Clock is now at 1 hour and 7 minutes and counting.] The boss told me that I could not get my money back, despite what I was told on Friday, and that I could have to accept a store credit. Still being the good global citizen, I say, "Fine, I'll take the credit." I then learn that taking the credit requires me to follow "the boss" upstairs.

Upstairs, I wait 16 minutes in line at the customer service department. [1 hour and 23 minutes and counting - during which time "the boss" leaves for lunch]. When I finally reach the front of the line, I verify with Customer Service Employee #1 (CSE1) that the store does not refund in cash, but only in store credit. CSE1 assures me that this is most definitely the case and I am entitled to a 99 euro credit. He then asks me for 1 euro, so that he can give me a store voucher in the amount of 100 euros. I count my change and realize that I only have 96 cents. I say, "I'm sorry, I don't have a Euro, I only have 96 cents." He refuses to believe me. "You have to have 4 cents", he tells me. Again, I assure him, "I only have 96 cents." "How is it possible you don't have 4 cents", he asks? "I don't know," I reply. "I have a 20 euro note, if that will help." "No, of course that won't help" he says. "I need 4 cents." To which I respond, "well, apparently so do I."

Enter Customer Service Employee #2. CSE2 steps up to the counter and wants to know if there is a problem. "No," I tell her, "I'm just waiting on a store credit." Discussion in French between CSE1 and CSE2. CSE2 then looks at me and asks, "Do you have 4 cents?" "No, I don't have 4 cents," I say. "Why do you not have 4 cents? We need 4 cents to make the credit," she tells me. (Apparently, the vouchers are only in denominations of fives.) "Yes, I understand your problem, but my problem is that I don't have 4 cents." She looks at my wallet, which is resting on the counter, in such a way that I know she clearly does not believe me. Determined not to lose my patience over something as silly as 4 cents, I clutch my wallet tight, look her in the eye, and say, "I really, really don't have 4 cents."

Enter Customer Service Employee #3. Even longer discussion in French, much hand gesturing (in my direction), concerted effort by CSE1 and CSE3 to count the change on the counter (yes, it is still only 96 cents). CSE3 then asks me, "Do you have 4 cents?"

At this point, [1 hour and 36 minutes and counting], I'm feeling a little testy, but I am still within the parameters of a good global citizen. I calmly say to CSE3, "I do not have 4 cents. I have 96 cents and a 20 euro note. I do not have 1 euro." To which she replies, "You need 4 cents." She then starts looking and pointing at my wallet. "You must have 4 cents." I then make a huge production of dumping the change portion of my wallet on the counter to show her that it is, in fact, empty and that I am not hiding 4 cents from her. She then wants me to check my pockets. We just stare at each other for what seemed like forever. Finally, I crack first, and tell her, very slowly, "I don't have 4 cents. Not in my wallet. Not in my pockets. Not in my purse."

Enter Customer Service Employee #4. She talks, at length, with CSE1, CSE2, CSE3 in French, and then turns to me and asks, "Do you have 4 cents?" To which, I reply, "Yes, I have 4 cents, but I just don't want to give it to you. I want to spend another 30 minutes in line and see how many people are employed by Inno in the Customer Service Department and if they will each ask me for 4 cents!" Her response: "Why didn't you just give the 4 cents to my colleagues when they asked for it?" Really, really, frustrated at this point, I say, "I don't have 4 cents!" CSE4 then asks, "Then, why did you just now tell me that you had 4 cents?"

I took a huge breath, and started looking all around me for the camera. When Peter Funt did not come to my rescue, I took another, deeper breath, apologized and told her that I was just being sarcastic and that I really, really didn't have 4 cents. "I know this thing, sarcasm," she tells me and then asks me for, you guessed it, 4 cents. Now, at 1 hour and 47 minutes, I'm starting to lose it. I say, in a much louder voice, "I DON'T HAVE 4 CENTS!" CSE4, looks at me and says, "If you scream your voice at me, I will have to call security." CSE4 obviously does not "know this thing, sarcasm," or else she would have appreciated my reply, which was, "Good, have them bring me 4 cents!"

We are at a stalemate. They are staring at me and my wallet, and I am staring at them. No one is saying anything. Finally, I ask CSE1, CSE2, CSE3 and CSE4 if one of them could possibly give me 4 cents. "Why would we give you 4 cents? You need to give us 4 cents," says CSE1.

At this point, I'm trying not to bang my head on the very counter where CSE2 is counting my change for the sixth time (yes, it is still 4 cents short of a euro!). All hopes of being a good global citizen have flown out the window and I ask the CSE's, "what do you want me to do? I would go get change, but I would have to wait in line for 46 minutes? Isn't there something you can do? Surely, this has happened before?" Blank stares in response.

CSE4 finally tells CSE1 to give me vouchers in the following amounts: 1x $25, 1x $50, and 2x $10. I'm resolved to going from 4 cents short, to being shorted by 4 euros! At this point, I just want to get out of Inno without going carnival freak crazy. Just as I am leaving the counter, CSE2 hands me 4 euros in coins from the cash register, and says "We don't like to give cash back - only store credits." AAARRGGHHHH!

© 2005 Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Anonymous Joni said...

Good God. How did not go berzerk on them? I was frustrated by just reading that!

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cindy, this is some great stuff. You're a pretty compelling writer!

I miss you guys! I never really read this when you gave me the link, but i'm about to read everything. Pretty funny stuff...

Hope to see you two soon,



... poo-but.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Sunshine in San Diego said...

How could you not have killed someone! If it had been me, I would have been put in jail for sure.


6:37 PM  
Blogger Mike Vest said...

Cindy, this reminded us of My Cousin Vinny "I shot the clerk?." Keep up the good work! Give those French Yankee's hell!

Mike & Linda

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Jason A said...

No wonder the European economy is so bad compared to ours.

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Rod Thome said...

Cindy, good thing you used training from the "Dan Bradley school of Anger Mangagement" to get you through the situation. After an hour, I would have went outside and panhandled the 4 cents.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous master said...

Danny would have went beserk. We went to Burger King once and he received the wrong sandwich.I didn't know he knew such words.We sped off and I told him, way to go Dan you really showed that BK window worker not to ever mess with you again.

9:31 PM  

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