Thursday, August 14, 2008

Damn, People Are Stupid #3

Normally I like Nick Coleman's commentaries in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He tends to take the side of the underdog, usually in a case where that is necessary. Normally he makes sense. This time he doesn't.

Actually, I had overlooked this article until Michele started ranting about it over breakfast (she is her father's daughter--no doubt about it). Once I read it, though, my ranting matched hers.

Apparently a woman named Christina Brown bought some shirts at Target, paid for them with a check, and took them home. She discovered there that the shirts didn't fit and returned to the store the next day to get her money back. Once in the store she was told that--per company policy--she could have her money back immediately in the form of a gift card or she could wait six more days and get cash back. That wasn't good enough for Ms. Brown. She wanted cash and she wanted it now. Evidently her conversation with the manager of the store wasn't well-handled from either end, and Ms. Brown was taken away by stretcher to the hospital.

Here are the relevant points to the episode:

  • Ms. Brown wanted her money back and, according to Target's return policy, was entitled to it.
  • Ms. Brown was offered her money back in accord with Target's return policy.
  • Ms. Brown wanted Target to make an exception to their return policy.
  • Ms. Brown refused her refund and refused to leave unless an exception was made for her.
  • Ms. Brown called the police, who apparently decided she needed to go to the hospital.
Here are the irrelevant points to the episode (but Coleman included them anyway):

  • Ms. Brown is 79 years old.
  • Ms. Brown is an English-Irish immigrant.
  • Ms. Brown uses a wheelchair.
  • Ms. Brown wears a patch over her eye. (Arrrr.)
  • Ms. Brown's leg ached.
Emotional appeal is used effectively when supporting a conclusion already arrived at by reason, as any of my freshman Comp students have heard more times than they'd like. It doesn't, however, take the place of reason, which Coleman surely knows. He's a better columnist than this. Here's another gem:

Attention shoppers: You won't take a gift certificate? You must be nuts.
Nice distortion, Coleman.

Here are some questions Coleman didn't address, but that I'd find pertinent to the issue:

  • Why didn't Ms. Brown try on the shirts in the store?
  • Did Ms. Brown try to exchange the shirts for some that would fit?
  • Why was Ms. Brown so emphatic about getting cash back? If the shirts had fit she wouldn't have the money, so she clearly wasn't counting on having it. And since she "liked to shop" in that store--did she not think the gift card would be useful to her?
All of this is easy to come up with after the fact, but there's no hiding it: this is a shoddy commentary.

Sure, the manager could have defused the whole situation by just handing thirty dollars to Ms. Brown. And there's no harm in trying, right? I don't think Ms. Brown was out of line going to the store and making the attempt (though it seems that calling instead would have been more sensible since she *boo hoo* uses a wheelchair). But she's deluded if she expects people have an obligation to do her a favor, to make an exception for her.

And we have the usual fallout:

Christina Brown wants an apology, she wants her money (including getting her medical bills from the unexpected hospital trip paid), and she wants this: "I want the staff trained in how to treat customers."
Want, want, want. Wah-fucking-wah. I'm sure she'll get her money--in seven days, like the policy says (Correction--already has her money. This happened on July 31st). But money back for the hospital visit? Talk to the police, who actually made the call to send her there. Good luck with that. An apology? Yeah, here's an apology that Target should send her:

Dear Ms. Brown,

We're sorry you're a self-important, whiny bitch. Thanks for your previous business, but please take it elsewhere from here on out, because we'd rather spend our time and effort on reasonable people.

Thank you,


And as far as I can tell, everyone involved treated her as she should have been treated.



Anonymous said...

What? No compassion for a 79 year old lady?

Jason said...

Nope. If she were 78 or 80 I'd be full of sympathy. Or if she were a 79-year-old man.

It's just that particular combination of irrelevant facts that keeps me from sympathizing. Hehe.

bitchphd said...

The store's policy is crap. That's the salient point, and second-guessing whether she should have tried on the shirts--most adults know what size they are, after all, and trying on shirts in a wheelchair has got to be something of a chore--is irrelevant.

dchmielewski said...

Actually, I think in this case the policy seems reasonable.

She paid with a CHECK and wanted payment in CASH.

They told her that if she wanted cash, she could wait 6 days for the check to clear, just like Target has to. Or she could take alternate forms of payment. Its not unreasonable for Target to refuse to offer a cash refund for a check purchase. Target is not in the "check cashing" business. They have little stores in strip malls where migrant workers and transients cash checks for this purpose.

If she had paid by check card or credit card, she would have been credited on the spot. If she had paid by cash, she would have been given cash.

I am with Jason on this one. I feel for an older person in a bad situation, but the policy totally makes sense and the customer is not always right, though they almost always they think that the are.

Jason said...

The store's policy may be inconvenient, but it makes sense for that kind of business. But I'd argue that the quality of the policy is irrelevant--that the policy is what it is remains the only justification the store needs. She's not exactly "Rosa Parks"-ing it, there.

As for what most adults know--I think any adult who has worn garments from more than one manufacturer knows that size is relative. And if I was in a wheelchair, and if traveling was that big a chore, I'd be damned sure I was buying the right thing before I left the store.

But you're right, B. The second-guessing is irrelevant. I worded that part poorly. I only meant it was more interesting to me than the items of emotional appeal in the article.

Anonymous said...

She has two parents, why did I get blamed for her ranting. FIL

Jason said...

My wife has plenty of other traits for which I can blame the Cat Whisperer, but there's no debate on this one. Hehe.