How duty free rage can cause tunnel vision

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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Now we all have bad days in the office. Or, in the case of duty free shop staff, in the store.

But I’ve heard of few days quite as bad as that of a one-time Nuance Australia employee at Sydney Airport, reported today on Aussie website Mail Online.

The website describes how young shop assistant Patrick Lenton tweeted that he had “faked my own death” to avoid dealing with an overbearing British customer.

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Mr Lenton* told his story on Twitter, describing the bizarre set of events after “this real angry looking British man strides up to the counter and thrusts his boarding pass at me without saying a word”.

The clearly intimidated assistant informed the customer – there to pick up his pre-ordered duty free goods – that his products would arrive at the collections desk in approximately ten minutes time, via a runner.

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That, it is alleged, prompted a furious customer reaction, even though Mr Lenton claims “his flight was six hours away and he only had to wait for 10 minutes”.

“This isn’t good enough, I expect better service, I want a full refund, I have a plane to catch,” came the angry reply.

“What I’m not seeing is you making my parcel arrive any quicker; can you make the conveyor belt go any faster?”

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Despite the fact that the goods were being brought by a human ‘runner’, not by any form of automated mechanism, the irate shopper apparently “leans over the desk, jabs his hairy knuckle into my collar bone and says ‘if you want to keep your job, get in the sodding tunnel!’.”

“I’m not getting in the tunnel,” an increasingly desperate employee responded.

“Get in the tunnel and get my parcel!!!!”

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Despite the fact that no such thing existed, Mr Lenton then decided to enter the ‘tunnel’ anyway – perhaps hoping for some light at the end of it.

In fact, he simply went out the back of the store and “hid behind a cupboard”.

The story gets even better. Half an hour later, a beauty advisor enters the back room.

“Hello, hello, there’s a man who is worried that someone is stuck in a tunnel!!”

The story has a happy ending. The customer, we’re glad to say, duly received his duty free, then “stayed around for about 20 minutes looking concerned, before I visibly saw him shrug, resign himself to my hypothetical death and leave”.

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Mr Lenton tweets: “Next day, we received a memo from HR that we are ‘not to go into the tunnel and leave the desk unattended due to customer complaints’.”

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Footnote (1): *Patrick Lenton no longer works at Sydney Airport – he is free of duty, so to speak. And Nuance Australia is no longer the duty free retailer at Sydney. It was replaced last year by Heinemann Tax & Duty Free which will celebrate the Grand Opening of its main offer next month. No tunnels, we are assured, were built during the otherwise highly ambitious shop construction.

 Footnote (2): Mr Lenton’s Twitter account continues to entertain. On his Twitter biography he tweets, “Once I sneezed and a dog looked at me.” There is no suggestion that he is in any way barking…

Footnote (3 – courtesy of Cognac Prunier’s Clive Carpenter): If all retailers had such a tunnel in the duty free channel, would it be known as the Channel Tunnel?

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