Canadian Rental Service

At Your Service: Managing Ms. Miserable

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence

I was standing in the return line at the customer service counter at a major retail store waiting patiently to return the microwave I had purchased only two hours prior. I couldn’t help but notice how unhappy the employee was that was serving our queue. To the side of the counter were three male employees joking around and doing absolutely nothing.

 When it was finally my turn to approach the counter, I waited for an invite but she just stared at me with the deer-in-the-headlights look. I decided to engage in this staring contest to see if she’d actually break down and smile and offer a cordial, “Hello, sorry for the wait, may I help you?” Her eyes reminded me of Clint Eastwood: cold and steely. Finally, she broke down: “Next!”

I approached and told her the brand new microwave was not working properly. Not looking at me she said, “Credit card.” Not even a question as to what was wrong with it or if I’d like to exchange it.

“Actually, I like this model so I’d like to exchange it, please,” I said.

She actually rolled her eyes and said, sarcastically, “Then you’ll have to bring another one up here.”


I replied, “Do you think one of those three guys over there could possibly bring one up for me?”

“No, they’re busy.”

 So off I went, retrieved another one, filled out the necessary paperwork, drove home, wrestled the new microwave into the kitchen, unpacked it, plugged it in, and…it didn’t work either. So now I’m thinking, “Maybe it’s me. Maybe I should read the instructions again.” (What is it with guys not reading instructions?)

Unfortunately, it still didn’t work. The next day, I returned to the store hoping Ms. Miserable wasn’t working.

To my dismay, she was. I had thought that maybe she was just having a bad day yesterday but when I approached her, it was evident that she was still in a foul mood. “This one isn’t working either. Could I please get a refund?”

She replied, “Credit card.”

I asked, “Have you had any other returns on this model, as it seems strange that two in a row are not working for me?”

“Yep, we’ve had several returns on that model this week.”

I must admit, this did elevate my temperature a bit. “Can you tell me why you wouldn’t have mentioned it when I was returning the other one last night?” Ms. Miserable just glared at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, “You never asked!”

I took my refund, went across the street to the competition, spoke with the department manager, who knew a lot about microwaves, picked one I liked, paid for it, went home, plugged it in, and it worked perfectly.

 There is so much that went wrong with this encounter. First, the customer service employee was rude, didn’t seem to care about her job and obviously didn’t want to be there. Your front-line employees should be happy, smiling, educated on how to deal with customers and trained to deliver top-notch customer service to anyone who walks into your business. Do you have a Ms. or Mr. Miserable working for you?

 The big question here is whether this is really the employees’ fault or the managers’ fault. I doubt Ms. Miserable had been trained properly. Employees should be observed from a distance to see how they engage with customers. Did they receive hands-on training from someone who is experienced in that area, or were they trained by someone who started three weeks prior to them and happened to be the most experienced person on shift at the time?

I was one person who took his business elsewhere. How many others have done the same? 

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. For more information, visit or email

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