FAIL: Petty managerial power games at Carmax
I've never used Carmax.com before, but I tried it as another means besides KBB and NADA to get a ballpark value on my mom's car which needed to be sold off, as she couldn't drive anymore. [Discussion over the effects of *that* on quality-of-life left for another time...] Anyway, Carmax is not only an appraisal mechanism, they also buy and sell cars. So I went to the website and put in all the particulars of the car, VIN, low mileage, totally clean, no collisions, etc ... and the website came up with a dollar offer, saying "we can buy your car right now!". After arranging some logistics, I made an appointment, and collected all the relevant paperwork. My case was made slightly more complex with the need for a power-of-attorney document, so that I could sell the car and sign things on behalf of my mom who didn't want to come along for the (longish) ride to the place. They emailed me a PDF for her to fill out and sign at home. As it's Florida, they probably deal with this sort of situation rather often.
So I got all of that stuff together, and drove out to the Carmax office in Bradenton to do the deal in good faith. I didn't bring any footwear, of course. I couldn't foresee any need to, as all of my other interactions in the area of auto transactions had been worry-free to date.
The folks at the counter waved me over and were friendly, and some of the staff seemed to be helping train other newer ones, so my PoA add-on would be someone's first experience handling that, with supervision. So there were several people milling around in front of me, including the ones helping other people at the next counter opening, and everything seemed to be going as well as anyone could have intended.
Then the moving mass of people parted, revealing one guy who had sort of stopped everything to ask me "excuse me, sir, do you have any shoes you can put on?" And of course my answer is "I don't wear them". And that's when things suddenly went seriously downhill. This guy, "Gary", was apparently the main manager of the store. He said "well, I can't have you in here with no shoes, we have to have our standards of professionalism", or some such meaningless muck. I immediately shot back, "Of course you can. *Professional* is you serving the customers' best interests, without taking issue with their appearance. Where are you getting this idea?"
So then the vague and standard series of excuses started, with mumbles about "sanitation" and "liability" and "safety" and more misguided attempts to use "professionalism" in a sentence. Already pretty pissed off by the fact that this had even come up at all, I snapped "'Professional' is who we are from the neck up, and evidently you don't qualify. Look, I've come all the way up here today in good faith with all my paperwork after researching all the things I needed, and I can't *believe* that you are so obsessed with such petty nonsense." Or something to that effect. The more facts I laid on him, the less he was about to listen.
It should be pointed out that almost nobody in the place was wearing a mask to help prevent Covid spread, in a pandemic that was still quite active at the time.
Continuing to ride his dumb little power game, he started in with the threats, e.g. "we are not moving forward with this today. You can come back another day with shoes on and complete this transaction..." I said "look, if this *so* important to you, find someone to simply come outside with me and complete the paperwork and get it done. Does it really matter where the wall of the building happens to sit?" By then he likely *knew* he was factually in the wrong, but as the manager of the facility, felt that he had to stick to his guns and save face instead of simply accept, apologize, and walk away like he should have.
Meanwhile, almost all movement in the place had ceased, especially around the main counter where I was, and everyone was looking at us. After a little more back-and-forth, in which this arrogant little shit continued to try and humiliate me and had the temerity to accuse *me* of starting an argument and making a scene, we both walked outside, where he finally relented just enough to send one of his people out to work with me and proceed on the paperwork. In the exterior Florida heat and humidity, but so what. "Joe" who was assigned to me was fine with that, and once away from Gary's ignorant spew, was businesslike and efficient. But nonetheless, and as a testament to how deeply ingrained the mythology is, he had always believed that it was somehow "illegal" to be inside a place of business barefoot. I think I planted a little seed, however; he did accept my suggestion to look up the facts at his leisure.
So I was basically moved to the back of the bus, to complete the deal on top of the facility's tool locker next to the inspection bay instead of at a normal desk inside. This apparently satisfied Gary's petty power-trip enough that he didn't interfere any further, thinking that he had prevailed over this barefoot freakazoid who showed up just to ruin his day. Despite his earlier statement, we were bloody well going to "move forward" on this today in spite of him. Longer story short, the deal got done, and I finally had a check and the old plate from the car in my hands. And a full head of angry steam which if I had any say in the matter, would spell the end of this clown's career with Carmax. His inexcusable behavior was in direct conflict with the values stated all over the CarMax webpages and corporate-governance documents about diversity, inclusion, and "put people first". With an attitude like his, Gary needs to be cleaning toilets for a living, or in some other role that keeps him insulated away from the general public and without any authority.
In other words, this little slice of CarMax needed a good dose of karma.
My ride back home had shown up in the meantime, so off we went. On the way home, as a passenger, I had the leisure to call Carmax local customer service and lay this whole sorry episode on them, asserting that this "Gary" guy was not qualified to be management material and optimally, needed to be fired by that day's close of business. The customer-service rep was quite sympathetic, said she would have felt the same way in my position, and carefully took down all the details. She didn't flinch when I asked for the case/incident/ticket number, as it's always important to get those for future quick reference. She said that it would all be escalated to "upper management" above Gary's head, and someone would get back to me later that afternoon.
Which didn't happen, of course. This is the 21st century, corporations *never* make good on their promises to return phone calls. Yep, that's how "put people first" works now. I gave it another day-plus to percolate, since I was busy with other stuff, and then called in to inquire as to the status of my ticket. "Customer relations" could not find anything supposedly generated by "customer service" a day or two before -- they're different departments, their disparate roles are unclear, and basically they lost [or wilfully dumped?] my original complaint. So, I started over and described the whole incident *again*. This person also agreed that it was well outside the guidelines on how Carmax is supposed to treat its customers and should never have happened, so now it was presumably "under investigation" at a higher corporate level. And she said they'd try to find out who fielded my original call.
About another week later, no surprise, no callback had come. I waited a couple more days and poked them again. Different customer-relations rep, but he found the case details. I asked for Gary's full name, but was denied my right to know exactly who my accuser was. This rep actually tried to start down the "well, with covid and monkeypox, we have to ..." path with me. I interrupted him right there and said, "Almost *nobody* in that shop was wearing a mask. We don't transmit diseases like that through our *feet*. Don't even go there."
The guy was clearly fishing for excuses based on his own personal prejudice, as often happens, and I told him flat-out to knock that off. I asserted that whether or not there's some "policy" or dress code, which I doubt exists or has any reason to, it would be a matter of five minutes for genuinely senior management to blast a bulk email out to all regional/local managers, with a directive that customer appearance is no excuse for treating anyone like a second-class citizen. Did someone think the parking lot I was relegated to was somehow "safer" or more appropriate than the front room I was kicked out of?
As I had with a couple of other people in the loop, I also pointed out how my own last car *buying* experience, over $40K cash on the barrelhead right in the front room of a dealership, elicited exactly *zero* comments about my feet the entire time I was there. There was no reason Carmax could not operate in a similarly efficient and professional [the *real* definition] manner, no matter if a customer is buying or selling. In other words, they needed to have senior management address all their constituents and lay down reinforcement of the corporate commitment to D&I, "put people first", and all that rhetoric on their website. I think the rep didn't even know how to respond, other than offer a sort of generalized mumble of "I understand", and by the end of that call I had an updated case number and yet another promise of "followup", over a nonspecific timeframe.
What's hilarious is how this rep also mentioned "oh, I used to run around barefoot all the time as a kid!" To which I answered "...and you stopped ONLY because of social pressure." He didn't deny that.
[Still in process, will continue once any real results are in hand]