Bed Bath and Beyond has definitely lost the business of the Armstrong family. Be fore-warned, this is a LONG post and a true, sadly-hilarious story.

It started when Stacy and I went in June before our wedding to the Fort Collins Bed Bath and Beyond to set up a registry. We had no idea what we were doing, but knew in general that you get a zappy gun and get to point it at things you like. What we got instead: loud, obnoxious, insensitive saleslady. We’ll call her Lois. As an aside, coming up with acronym names for snotty people you encounter is a great way to ward off Alzheimer’s.

While we waited for Lois to arrive to help us (she had to be paged), we looked around at the fancy stuff and unlike in the ADHD-optimized rows and rows of amazing kitchen gadgets, we didn’t see anything we liked. Lois arrived and took a bunch of personal info from us, including a password that could only be written in plain sight with no protection. In case you were wondering, the written copy is kept for years rather than shredded.

From what I could see, all that stood between my personal info and an identity thief is an unlocked file cabinet.

After all that, Lois informed us that she would help us shop. That’s right – she’d be playing with the zappy gun. Stacy and I might have been new at this registry stuff, but we knew what we wanted. And we wanted the zappy gun.

Lois suggested we start with our champagne flutes. I asked what two twenty-somethings would do with a set of champagne flutes. Lois scoffed and said, “You toast with them at the wedding, you can have them for your guests.”

Stacy found one she kind-of liked and Lois gushed, “Those are beautiful, how many do you want?” I shrugged. We’d just entered the “let’s find cute stuff for our future home together” phase, not the “we’ve got our wedding colors picked out” phase. Lois suggested one for each person in the wedding party. Stacy checked the price tag. “$40 for one?”

“Yup!” Lois cooed.

I shuffled my feet. “We don’t really care about champagne flutes, I think we wanted to focus on dishes and come back to the fancy stuff.”

Lois’s face contorted into a look of distain. “Well, this is the order people usually prefer to go in. But if you prefer, let’s look at some fine china.”

“We’re not really looking for fine china. That’s a down-the-road thing,” Stacy said.

“When we’re old enough to know which fork to use first,” I added. Lois didn’t laugh.

“But, if you put it in your registry, your guests will get it for you – you don’t have to buy it in the future,” Lois bee-lined toward the most expensive set. “Do you know how fine china is made?”

Stacy and I exchanged glances. “Not really – we were more interested in some of the other, not-so-fancy stuff.”

“Oh! That’s earthen-ware. You don’t want that, because-” and then proceeds on a ten-minute long torrent of information that resulted in me knowing far, far too much about plates. Lois left us alone to browse the selection – taking the zappy gun with her.

Like a quarterback and receiver on a do-or-die hail mary pass, Stacy and I orchestrated our escape to “check out Macy’s selection of fine china”. Lois shrugged and told us our registry would be waiting for us when we came back.

Sitting in the car outside, Stacy turned to me. “Holy crap.”

“I know, what the hell was that? We just wanted the zappy gun. Aren’t they supposed to give you the zappy gun?”

Our second trip to Bed Bath and Beyond went much the same – Lois’s odd obsession with champagne flutes and fine china, the same death-grip on the zappy gun. This time, though, we asked Lois for the zappy gun after pretending to look at the champagne flutes, reasoning that we knew which towels and sheets to get. It took three tries – I’m not kidding. Each time she’d point to a different element of fine china that we should be thinking about while ADDING TWO SETS TO THE REGISTRY.

After a quick bit of instruction, she handed over the zappy gun – which, by the way, runs a terminal emulator. No shiny user interface, only a black and tan mess of information similar to one of those computers in an ’80’s movie. I like Tron, so, I wasn’t bugged – but in comparison, Macy’s zappy gun had a great user interface – so, my only conclusion was that Bed Bath and Beyond just didn’t care about the bride’s registry experience.

A brief aside here to explain why that bothers me, as someone with a marketing degree. Bed Bath and Beyond advertises themselves as the place to register when you are getting married. Why wasn’t this a zappy gun that shows you a picture of what you just zapped, then recommends other things you might need to go with it? One that makes suggestions based on what other people with your items have also put on their registry? A tallied list of your items and their price ranges so you know you have a good spread for guests to choose from? A bright white, polished zappy gun instead of the dull, dirty, gray and yellow stock gun? The company that gets that right will happily siphon away Bed Bath and Beyond’s customers at an astonishing rate.

Back to the story. We left our second visit to Lois realizing that we only wanted to put nice silverware on our registry. Anything else was too complicated or frustrating (especially with Lois over our shoulders) to guess for. After our wedding, we returned to the store to finish off our “registry” – 10% off coupon in hand.

10%, by the way, is the worst coupon to complete a registry we’d received. Target offered better – and we hadn’t even registered.

We hoped and prayed that Lois wouldn’t be there, but like the rocky shore beneath a lighthouse, there she was. “Welcome back,” she said ominously. We showed her the silverware and asked for 12 sets. “I’ve got 3,” she replied.

“Oh, can we have ’em ordered in from somewhere else?” Stacy asked.

“We can’t ship-in from other stores, but you can just get them straight from the warehouse,” Lois answered. She handed us the three she had and entered in our order for nine more from the warehouse. “Yup, there’s 300+ at the warehouse and only one in Denver, one in Longmont. Coupon, please.”

“Will they be shipped here?” Stacy handed over the coupon.

Lois’s eyes never left her computer, “No, they’ll come straight to your door.”

“Is that free shipping?” I asked.

No – it’s $30. Here’s your completed order – it should arrive in about two weeks,” she handed us the receipt. We’d saved $45 and paid $30 back in shipping. The coupon had only applied to the warehouse part of the order.

“Hold on – why didn’t you tell us about the shipping cost before you completed the order?”

Lois shrugged, “Shipping is never included.”

Stacy and I exchanged a look, “I’m confused. You can’t ship-in store if you’re out of an item here, but you can get them from the warehouse?”

Lois’s look indicated that was a dumb question, “We can’t ship-in from the warehouse to the store.”

“What’s the purpose of a warehouse, then?” I smiled, this would be good.

Lois shrugged, “It’s for online orders. You can wait until we have more if you don’t want to pay for shipping, but it’ll be 4-6 weeks before we get more from the supplier – and you never know how many we’ll get.”

“You’re telling me that you have 300 in the warehouse and won’t ship them to the store; you wait for your stock to run out, then order a big batch from the supplier, and split a few among the stores and send the rest to the warehouse?” Still smiling.

“That’s how it’s done,” Lois condescended. “It’s a liability thing, we can’t have a ton of really expensive silverware lying around.”

“It doesn’t seem to be an issue for the warehouse,” Lois rolled her eyes at that while I continued, “If you go to Best Buy, Walmart, Target or anywhere else, and they don’t have something, you don’t get charged shipping for them to bring it in store.”

“You’d pay that cost in increased prices – we’d have to charge more for the products to cover the overhead,” said Lois.

“Ignoring the fact that almost every other business doesn’t charge for store-to-store shipping, if your margins are so tight that you can’t throw in shipping for out-of-stock items to come back to the store, how can you afford to constantly send out 20% off coupons in the mail?”

I’m fully aware that I was being a jerk. A smiley jerk, but a jerk nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe the ‘customer is always right’ or that employees should have to stand up for the nonsensical policies of their businesses.

What I do believe, though, is that the conversation never should have happened. Business policies that don’t make sense are up to managers to explain – and Lois should have handed us off right away. Better yet, Lois should have told us about the shipping first. Or maybe turned us loose with the zappy gun. But as Lois had been intent on being so condescendingly helpful on our last two visits, I was more than willing to debate Bed Bath and Beyond’s BS business policies.

Lois became angry after my question about the coupons. I guess I’d committed some sort of coupon blasphemy. She paged her manager, a 30-something hipster looking woman who arrived without ceremony and without introducing herself. “They don’t understand why they have to pay for shipping,” Lois growled.

“Actually,” I chimed in cheerfully, “I was disappointed that I had to ask three times for the zappy gun. I was confused when Lois rang up our order without telling us first that there was shipping. But what I don’t understand is why shipping from store-to-store or from the warehouse to the store isn’t an option when you have three and the warehouse has 300.”

The manager rose her voice, “Well, it’s just not our policy to ship store-to-store or from the warehouse to the store. You can always order online, or you can drive to the other stores and buy what they have.”

“You’re saying I should drive to each store if I want to avoid shipping?”

The manager nodded.

This was a tiff about fancy silverware and not something important like a baby or the space program, but it had left me stunned.

“Look – I’m not trying to be cheap here, I’m just saying if there was shipping, somebody should have told us before the order was placed. American Furniture Warehouse moves 300-pound couches without charging to ship from store to store, we’re just talking about silverware.”

“Would you like me to void the order?”

Stacy laughed. I shrugged, “I’d like you to set it right. We didn’t know about the shipping cost, and your policy doesn’t give us a fair way to buy more of these from you. Does every couple have this much trouble registering here?”

There was a visible change in the manager’s demeanor. She looked pensive, rather than combative. She asked for the paperwork and went back to the computer – cleared out the old order and put in a new one, sans shipping costs.

I thanked her for her unexpected shift, and she replied with a cool, “You’re welcome – but remember it’s a one-time thing. We won’t be able to waive the shipping in the future.”

I laughed, “I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”

To this day, we haven’t gone back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond – and I don’t think we will ever go back to the Fort Collins store.

(Header Photo: casamento expresso (explored!) By gui.tavares)