The Dull Eyes of the Consumer

Martin Mackay has a problem. That problem is that he works on retail, and the customers he has to deal with can't tell their backsides from their elbows...


1. Just Listen!

The dull grey eyes in front of him looked like they were trying to spark into some sort of life. Martin could see a process at work, wheels turning as they sought to grasp the words he had just spoken. Martin held a faint hope in the pit of his soul that the man in front of him might actually, finally understand his point at the third time of asking.

"But, it's under warranty!" The man demonstrated in four words that he had not managed to comprehend Martin's point. He ran a hand through his thick brown hair and questioned in his mind whether or not to ask for the general manager. As a team leader he had the authority to tell customers when they were out of luck, but if they were going to waste his time like this he was going to get annoyed. Plus, five more minutes and he was on lunch. He wanted to go on time (for once).

One more try, one more desperate attempt to make the balding, somewhat sweaty man in front of him see sense, so they could both move on with their lives, and Martin could escape the man's stale body odour.

"Look, sir, the laptop you bought has a manufacturer's guarantee for parts and labour. If it dies of its own accord, regardless of where the fault lies, they will gladly collect it and fix it. If it gets broken as the result of accidental damage, or neglect, or gets a virus... that's not covered by their terms."

The laptop whirring away on the service desk was displaying an image that Martin knew for a fact was in fact virus-related. 'SECURE YOUR PC FROM VIRUSES USING MEGA-DEFENDER PRO' was not the sign of a legitimate anti-virus program. Mega-Defender Pro didn't exist, and anything that asked for credit card details before you could use your laptop for anything else... a big no-no.

The chances were the man had been using his laptop inappropriately in some way shape or form and this had landed himself in trouble. Unfortunately for him this wasn't Martin's problem.

"If I send this laptop back to the manufacturers as it stands, I can promise you they'll either not repair it and send it right back to us, or deal with the virus and charge you for the privilege. Your cheapest option is to purchase some anti-virus software and give that a try."

The bald man looked worried. Did he have a wife or girlfriend at home that would be seriously angry with him should he return home without a new laptop, or without having gotten the current one fixed? Did this hypothetical (very hypothetical) partner know what he'd done to get a virus in the first place?

"Look mate, I know my rights..." Oh goody, he knows his rights. Thinks he knows anyway... "and under the Sale of Goods Act..."

Martin put a hand up. "Let me stop you right there. The Sale of Goods Act doesn't cover misuse. This laptop was sold to you in good condition. It was sealed, straight from the factory. There is no inherent hardware fault that I can find. They don't come with built-in viruses." He was being a touch snarky now, but he was getting fed up.

"I'm not going anywhere without a new laptop!" The man's voice started to rise and the veins on his wrinkled forehead began to bulge.

"Then sir, you will be here a very long time. I have done all I can do. I have given you all the advice I can. The options you have open to you now are the one's I've explained. It is not store policy to replace laptops that have been corrupted by viruses. It is not the policy of the manufacturers either. I can get the laptop sent away with the risk of them charging you for their time, or you can buy anti-virus software. Those are your choices. Nothing else." I hate dealing with these idiots.


"Hey Martin." Said the manager as he stepped into the office the following Monday for a briefing. "Got a bit of news for you. Remember that man last week, the one with the laptop virus?"

"Oh jeez, yeah, wanted us to hand him a replacement because of his mistake."

"The very same. Well..." The manager looked a tad resigned. "Head office rang. Apparently the customer got on to them and had a right moan. Threatened to make a formal complaint."

Martin's heart sank. He knew what was coming.

"We have to give him an exchange. Customer is coming in later on today. Sorry mate, I know it sucks."

That was an understatement. Once again rules and procedures were followed to the letter, only to mean nothing in the face of someone who stamped their feet like a petulant child. Martin sighed. Some things never changed.


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