The Adventure of Alan – Keep Smiling!
Written By Alan Hancock
Illustration by Peter Clayton
Kevin looked at his receipt and frowned. Something didn’t add up. Literally.
He was a prudent shopper and a keen mental arithmatist. He didn’t need a list, he didn’t need a calculator. He’d done the sums as he’d gone around. Like a real man.
He thought he’d purchased promotional items but once the transaction had been completed, the total he was quoted and the total he held in his head didn’t match and it was clear to him that the advertised deduction had failed to be applied.
Well, Kevin was perturbed to say the least. He didn’t feel the need to double check himself so he went back to the cashier and loudly interrupted the transaction in progress to clarify the gravity of the situation that was quickly spiralling out of control inside his own head. He was owed at least fifty pence. Did they have any idea how many Freddo’s he might be able to purchase with that? It used to be five before the recession but now it was only two at the most depending on the newsagent.
The alarm was raised, calling for further assistance.
A chirpy assistant appeared, barrelling quickly down the aisle, wearing an infectious smile that suggested she was enjoying her work. She gave a little wave to another customer she recognised before laying eyes upon Kevin. She instantly recognised the grave expression plastered across his face with his white knuckle grip on his receipt and knew it was going to be a tough one.
She buckled herself in, steeled her smile and resolved to do the very best she could.
Meanwhile, Kevin began to simmer. He could see the assistant bouncing over to his aid, something about her joyful demeanour put him off. She was sunny side up and he was scrambled.
When she arrived, he explained in detail what his expectations were; furiously pointing back and forth at various pieces of information on the receipt; meticulously recounting his complex calculations like he was knee deep into his second numbers round on Countdown, speaking with such assertiveness as if his explanation was a mere formality with his refund already secure.
The assistant continued to smile and listen and nod, suspecting that whatever she was about to say next was likely to escalate the situation further but she was confident she had it covered. She calmly and politely pointed out that good ol’ Kev had, in fact, made an error. All he’d done was pick up an item not currently on promotion by mistake. She assured him that if he’d be prepared to wait just a moment, she would happily find the item that was on promotion and exchange the two.
Kevin went quiet as he realised what was happening here. He felt like an epic fool. He’d used his big voice and everything but rather than humbly accept his error and an exchange, he opted to launch into a tirade about the absurdity of the process. He wasn’t prepared to accept a correction from a mere shop assistant, especially a small one, regardless of how nice and reasonable she was being. He’d come this far, he couldn’t back down now.
Of course, he’d never worked in a retail environment but he thundered on about how he thought it should function; digging deep into his many years working as a quantity surveyor as if that experience was a valid enough qualification to educate a loyal employee of twenty five years or more about the intricacies of shop work. He drew on anecdotal recollections from his friends; recounting their vague stories about pricing in shillings from back in the day whilst the assistant stood there, still smiling resolutely, mentally collating all of this useful feedback so that when she did have her weekly one to one meeting with the CEO, she could relay the comprehensive reckonings of Kevin the surveyor.
He finished his rant and took a breather. He was still bristling and rustling his bags in annoyance.
The assistant resisted the urge to fight back. She knew that it wasn’t the way to deal with this situation. He was, if nothing else, still a customer. His behaviour was a reflection of him alone and she realised that to engage on his level would do herself and the business a disservice. She was a professional; she wasn’t serving Kevin alone but all of the other customers watching on. If it was simply a case of fifty pence and it mattered that much to him, she was confident in her ability to find a satisfactory resolution.
It was enough for her to know that Kevin was wrong and on this occasion she gave him what he wanted. She didn’t see it as giving in, it’s just that she knew that sometimes you simply have to keep smiling and let the little things wash over you. For her, it wasn’t personal, it was customer service.