Dealing with incompetence

I’ve had a couple of days to simmer down about this, so I finally feel like I can blog about it.

On Little Tad’s birthday, we went to get his portraits taken at a local department store photo studio, which I used to work at several years ago. Because I used to work there, and I’ve started coming very regularly over the last two and a half years, ever since the Munchkin was born, I know how things work there and am usually very sympathetic to the job that these people do. Been there, done that, abused by customers myself… yup. I’ve also established myself as a loyal customer, and most of the regular employees (two who I used to work with) know that I am a former employee, and so they don’t bother feeding me the usual sales lines.

Believe it or not, the Christmas rush for portraits starts in early October, and so the studio starts actively hiring holiday help in August and September, so that everyone is trained properly by the time the flood hits. Weekends are also very crowded at the studio, and it can be insanely busy in there for a multitude of reasons. Most customers would like to blame the studio. Most of the time, the blame should belong to the customer who was late to their appointment, demanded extra time and shots by the photographer, had a cranky child who refused to cooperate, or took an extended period of time to decide which portraits to buy and in what sizes. So, on Tad’s birthday, the studio was running behind, as usual, but I just sent the Webmaster off with the Munchkin to ride the escalator, and Tad and I waited patiently for our turn. Once we were called back for the photos, Tad was a trooper, smiled wonderfully (though I think his 9 month pictures were a bit better), and the photographer (who I know) was very accomodating and shot him all from one side to hide a bruise on the other side of his face, which he had given himself earlier in the week while playing with a stick.

Once the photos are taken, the pressure is pretty much off. Now the kid can cry or get messy and you no longer care. So I felt comfortable in waiting to see the pictures. However, a new girl, who was obviously feeling rushed, tried to show three customers their pictures at the same time. And I was one of them.

I tried to move as quickly as possible, but she was rushing even faster than I was through the whole process. And once I thought I had everything solidified, she hit enter without allowing me to check it once more, and started ringing me up. Then I saw the proof sheet, which shows the order. I was one 5×7 short. I pointed this out to her, and asked her to add it on to the order – you see, since I worked there, I know that any associate can get into the system, even after an order is placed, and change it. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

She nearly had a panic attack. “But I’ve already rung you up, and you’ve written a check!” she hyperventilated. I told her that I would pay for the extra sheet in cash. “So I should ring you up for a sheet at full price,” she said. No, I firmly instructed her. I have a coupon, and you will honor that price. And she did. So I paid for my extra sheet, and walked out, still studying the proof sheet.

I walked back in three minutes later, because I realized that I’d picked the wrong pose for the extra 5×7 I wanted. So I got the girl’s attention, showed her the sheet and the correct frame the extra 5×7 was supposed to be on, and she corrected it on her notes, which she reassured me they would adjust at the end of the day.

As I left, I realized how that 5×7 had initially gotten deleted – I had had 2 5×7’s ordered on that pose, but decided to get only one and move the other one to a different picture. She, being too busy and distracted, had just deleted them both instead of just moving one.

I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I knew she was new, I knew that weekends are crazy, and I knew that she had other customers breathing down her neck. I certainly didn’t want to add to her stress, but I wanted to get my order straight. And I thought that was that.

Last Sunday, I picked up the portraits of Tad, which were adorable. The extra 5×7 that I had wanted was there, in the correct picture. I breathed a sigh of relief and brought them home. It wasn’t until later that evening, when I was showing the photos to Friend and Doc, that I realized what was now wrong.

The new girl had deleted two whole sheets from my order when she’d added the extra 5×7. I was now short on pictures, and totally furious. I didn’t have one of the poses I’d really wanted – the pose I had initially said to put the extra 5×7 on, but then figured out that it belonged on the deleted pose. She had not been listening to me at all when I had tried to get it fixed, and she had screwed it up by deleting pictures that I had paid for.

I called the studio and left a message for the manager (who I know by name), even though it was Sunday night. Then I called back the next morning to see if they had gotten my message, and my former co-worker and friend S. answered the phone. S. told me that the manager wouldn’t be in today, but that she had gotten my message and had been looking for my paperwork on her end.

The nice thing about dealing with someone who knows you well and you’ve worked with is that you can just get straight down to brass tacks. I told her what had happened, she didn’t question me, and she started getting a new order in motion to replace the missing sheets. I also told her who was responsible. I didn’t know her name, but I had her associate number on the receipt. When I told S. who had screwed up, she said, “Oh. Her. Yeah, I can believe that.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” I remarked.

“Yeah, well, we’ve been having problems with her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t last much longer,” S. replied as she filled out forms. “Oh, hang on, I’ve got another call coming in. You don’t mind, do you?”

I said no, I’d wait, and she answered the other line. It took her a while, and when she did get back, she was obviously flustered. “Hang on, I’ve just got to fix something,” she said, and set the phone down. I could hear snatches of conversation, including someone asking why S. didn’t just call me back. “Because she’s an old customer, and knows how things work around here,” S. replied. “Sorry about that,” she said when she got back to me. “Did you hear what happened while you were on hold?”

“Not really,” I said.

“Well, the girl who messed up your order called in and quit, so I had to start getting everyone re-scheduled to cover her shifts,” she told me. When I expressed my sympathy about having to cover her shifts, S. said, “Well, it’s a bad thing for us, but in the long run it’s probably a good thing, since we won’t have to keep fixing her mistakes anymore.”

I thanked S. for all her help, and she told me the pictures would be there in 2 to 3 weeks. I can deal with that.

Over the last few days, I’ve tried to process how I initially dealt with the new girl to see if I could have avoided this hassle. Other than becoming the kind of customer I loathed while I was working there, I really donn’t see how I could have changed it. Of course, she was incompetent and didn’t listen to do her job properly and tried to rush through it all, and while I had trouble with customers during my tenure there, I never was accused of incompetence. Oh, the stories I could tell… but that will be blog fodder for another day.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten my problems with pictures straightened out, and I won’t have to deal with Incompetent Girl the next time I’m in there. I’ll just have to deal with the Christmas rush.

5 Responses to “Dealing with incompetence”

  1. Dozeymagz
    August 31st, 2006 04:22

    Oh dear, glad you got it all sorted out in the end. It’s so frustrating when things like that happen! It’s sounds like you handled it very well though.

  2. cmhl
    August 31st, 2006 04:36

    I have always found the entire picture-taking-process to be very stressful, for some reason!

  3. Little Cousin's Mommy
    August 31st, 2006 07:39

    I really loved the Sears Portrait Studio in Lawton, Oklahoma and Little Cousin was very fond of one of the photographers. They had a big sign saying: “We run on Baby Time. Thank you for your patience.” I never felt rushed, even on weekends.

    Since we’ve moved I haven’t been to the local studio, so we’ll see how they measure up for her 18 month portraits. . . .

  4. L.
    September 4th, 2006 13:19

    I give you credit for not losing your temper on the spot, which often makes everything worse.

    On the other hand, there are rare times when anger is the best response to get what you want — I`m remembering my recent experience with Northwest, when they took away their offer of a business class upgrade and gave us a few free drink tickets instead…. I do wish I hadn`t been so damn POLITE.

  5. Deanna’s Corner » Blog Archive » Riding the escalator with panties on
    September 22nd, 2006 01:25

    […] I had to pick up the portrait reprints of Tad – they had finally come in, and were all there and correct (hallelujah!), and I’d been putting it off for a couple of days. So, after the kids woke up from their naps, I loaded them up and off we went, with the promise of an escalator ride in exchange for good behavior from the Munchkin. […]