We have certain shops that we will frequent on a regular basis. One favorite haunt is in the town near where we keep a summer home. We open the house from May - October, so for half the year, we will pop in and out of this particular shop fairly regularly to see what they have and what's new. We've been going to this particular shop for over seven years, usually on a weekend, so the saleswoman (who is not the owner) knows us and knows we are regular customers. She'll ask us if we are back for the summer, and ask us as the summer progresses, how our summer is going, etc.
We have bought many items in this shop over the years: lamps, an antique radio, paintings and prints, silver, wonderful porcelain pieces (porcelain is a particular passion of ours). In other words, we have purchased quite a bit from this place and have given them a fair chunk of change.
Earlier this year, over Memorial Day Weekend in May, we went in for the first time this year, since the vacation home was finally open for the season. We saw quite a few items we liked, and ended up spending around roughly $200.
(ETA under cut, since it would take way to long to reply to individual comments.)
Flash forward to today. We went back in to check out what new pieces had come in since we were last there. I was in the process of picking up a splashbasin to check the markings, while my husband was checking out an antique radio. I put down the splashbasin to take a look at the radio with him, and we were trying to figure out if it worked. If we did, we were probably going to get it to add to our antique radio collection.
As we are doing this, the saleswoman comes over to us, and we figure she is coming over to say hello. Which she does, but she really should have quit while she was ahead and left it at that.
She then proceeds to tell us that when we were there in May, she had undercharged us the tax on the items we had purchased. Note: for whatever reason, they do all their figuring by hand/calculator, and do not use a register. She actually has a copy of our receipt in her hand from May. She then tells us that the tax was $7 more than what she had charged us on the slip, and she had to pay it out of her own pocket, and would we be willing to pay it back to her????? Mind you, we had paid the exact amount that was on the slip, so it wasn't like we short-changed them, she was the one who figured out the tax wrong and didn't put the right tax on the slip.
My husband and I are sitting there positively floored. I know what I wanted to say: something along the lines of "are you f-ing kidding me, you want me to pay for your mistake 3 months ago", but figured it wouldn't be the appropriate thing to say and waited to see what my husband would say. He looks at her in shock, stammers something like "I guess we'll pay it, maybe" and she walks off. She caught him completely off guard and I know that he didn't know what to say and that was probably not what he wanted to say. Mind you, she asked us this when other customers were nearby, and didn't say something like "could you come over to the counter for a sec so I can ask you something?"
Now we want to continue our browsing but I can tell my husband is getting more and more pissed about what happened and the way she confronted us as it has some time to sink in. So as I am looking around, I hear him over by the counter. And he says to her, without raising his voice and in a calmly polite manner, but in such a way that you know he is steaming: "You know we are good customers and you know how much money we have spent in here over the years. I just can't believe that you came over to us while we were browsing, in front of other customers, over a matter of 7 dollars from three months ago, rather than eat the cost." I forget what else he said to her, but he did tell her that was the last time we would be in and they had just lost a good customer. He came over to me, gave me a $10 bill, and told me to make sure that she got paid and he would wait for me in the car. My guess is that he left before he started getting really pissed and created a scene.
So I make my way over to the counter, and I hear her telling him as he is going out the door to have a nice day. And I have the $10 in my hand and tell her to take what she says is owed out of this. I also tell her that I too was a little annoyed that she would ask us, in front of other customers, to pay her back for her mistake of $7 from three months ago. I also told her that I couldn't believe she had been hanging on to the sales slip for these last three months and was she just waiting for us to come back in? (That will tell you how often we were in there that she was able to recognize us.) She refused to take the money. I told her that since she was the one that had asked for it, she should take it, and she said no, she wasn't taking it, and she wanted us to come back in because she knew we were good customers. I told her that after what had happened, we did not plan on coming back. She asked me to reconsider and I repeated after what had happened, we would not be back any time soon. I also told her that I was certain that if we informed the owner of what had just happened, they would not be happy about it or the fact that what she did had cost them a customer for many years. And then I left.
We've been debating whether or not we should contact the owner, but I really don't want to be responsible for making someone lose their job. We just couldn't believe that a) she would confront us over a $7 mistake from 3 months ago rather than eating the cost (which is what everyone we told the story to said most businesses/salespersons would have done) and b) do it while we browsing, contemplating a purchase, and in front of other customers.
ETA: I don't have the time to respond to each individual comment but did want to respond to some of them.
1) Had she pulled us over to the desk, and informed us of the situation discreetly, instead of choosing to do so in front of other customers who did overhear her, we would not have had an issue. I don't care how polite she was in her request, it was the fact that she did this in front of other customers, who did overhear the conversation, that we found inappropriate. In fact, after we left, we discussed how if she had just done so discreetly, we would have paid the money, no problem, no questions asked. It wasn't about the $7, it was about the way she did so in front of other customers.
2) We did offer to pay her what she said we owed. We had paid exactly what was written on the slip in May. We didn't know she undercalculated the tax but I don't think it's our responsiblility to check that her math is correct., especially if it's being done by hand instead of by machine. Maybe we should have done so, where it was being done by hand, but it never occurred to us it might be wrong.
3) Yes, we reminded her of the fact that we were good customers, and yes we reminded her of how often we had been in there over the years. She clearly knew this because she recognized us when we came back in three months later. Maybe we shouldn't have. But the reason we reminded her of this was not to act all entitled, as someone suggested, but to simply let her know that her actions cost the business a good customer.
4) We don't know that the owner was the one who asked her to collect the money from us.
5) For those who suggested my husband needs anger management classes, I think you missed the part where I said he spoke without raising his voice and in a calmly polite manner. He didn't yell at her, didn't raise his voice, didn't use profanity. In fact, he was very conscious about not embarassing her in front of customers, and waited until no one was around and no one could hear, unlike what she did to us. And although I didn't say it in my description, I did the same when I attempted to pay her. We didn't make a scene.
6) Please don't make assumptions about us or our financial status because we happen to have access to a vacation home that we can use during the summer. For all you know, it could be a two room shack that we rent for the season. In actuality, it is owned by another family member, who generously allows us the use of it during the summer.
7) Maybe it's just me, but I still don't think it's good business practice to blindside a frequent customer about a mistake made three months earlier. I just wonder what she would have done had we never gone back until next year.
8) We will not be contacting the owner. As I said in my original post, we were debating what to do, but I was extremely reluctant to do so because I really don't want to be responsible for anyone losing their job no matter what they did. So regardless how inappropriately we think she went about doing things, we won't be going any further with this, even though part of me does think the owner should know about why they lost a regular customer. If she made a mistake with us, did she do so with other customers, and did she approach them in the same way, possibly causing them to lose other customers?