TUNDRANAUTICA

Bringing Home the Freshest Kill

The wife and I have experienced an inordinate amount of bad customer service in Portland lately.

The most glaring and recent example occurred at the REI store in Clackamas a couple weeks ago.

The skinny: I went to REI (a store I’m not terribly fond of to begin with; it’s mostly overpriced, urban backpacker/adventure-wear for well-to-do kayaking dullards).

REI is Horrible

Anyway, the only reason I went was to replace my stolen bike with one authorized by my home insurance adjuster. My intent was to get in and get the hell out so I could rest my aching head, as I was suffering from an awful cold.

Enter REI Bike Store Guy to “help” me with my purchase!

Do you need some help?” he labored to ask.

Yeah, I need to look at a bike. Is there a bike guy around?”

Yeah,” he said, not bothering to elaborate that he was “the bike guy.”

Umm…is that you then?” I said for clarification.

Yeah.”

Bike Store Guy was in many ways a typical Portland service industry person — zero social skills; totally aloof; monosyllabic…too cool to help. I should be thankful that I had the opportunity to buy a $600 bike from him.

What follows is a short list of his trangressions:

  • When my wife asked Bike Store Guy if the bike came in any different colors, he definitively said “no.”
  • When I requested to take the bike for a ride, his body language made it clear that I had crossed the line.
  • I told Bike Store Guy the handlebars on my old bike were slightly longer than the ones on the replacement bike. His response? “No, they’re the same.”
  • When it became obvious that I was going to purchase the bike, he asked…

Are you an REI member?”

Yes,” I said. “I think I became one when I bought the last bike. I don’t have my ID number or anything though.”

His response?

Well, if you go over to the customer service desk, they can help you.”

Even though I was astonished by the idiocy of this remark, I was deep in a Robitussin haze and didn’t really give a damn. Plus, I’ve come to expect so little from Portland service industry people that when they act like retards, it barely registers.

But finally, the goon dawdled back to the repair room with my bike to do some final tune-up work or whatever. When he re-emerged — maybe 3 seconds later — miraculously he had checked off the 10 or so items on the “pre-sale” checklist.

More Robitussin-tinged astonishment on my part.

You did all of this?” I politely asked.

Yeah,” he said.

Lastly, Bike Store Guy attempted to rush me through the sales paperwork. Since he was obviously in a hurry to do something — eat lunch, masturbate, take a piss — I pored over the paperwork like I was reading the Magna Carta.  I asked a clarifying question about the warranty, which rankled him.

He then spurted out the incredible line: “Just sign right there.”

Finally, when Bike Store Guy saw that I was dotting the last “i” on my John Hancock, he rapidly said something indecipherable and then raced upstairs to the bathroom or lunch room (or hopefully, nearest noose).

I stood motionless, perplexed. My wife, usually one to hold back her anger with customer service people, demanded we leave. My 5-year-old started crying.

Later that evening, as my cold improved, I experienced “retro-rage,” and I tweeted incessantly about the stupid ordeal.

As bad as it was, though, I’ve seen worse, namely Belmont Computers in Southeast Portland. Worst, most moronic service ever.

But that’s a tale for another day.

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  • Ricky Sprague

    June 22, 2010 at 9:06 UTC |

    All the clerks at REI (Readily Engendered Irritation) should get a good swift kick in the attitude. Metaphorically, of course. I do not encourage violence, not even against intangibles concepts.

    Then again, maybe he was so Really Enormously Intimidated by you that he reverted to a pre-verbal state.

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