Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tales From Behind the Counter

I've finally started my regular schedule at Crazy Wisdom, and I am not sure I could be happier. The whole vibe in the store is just so joyous! For me anyway. Books are sexy. And I'm surrounded by them for 20 hours a week! Oh yeah... Ahem. And the tea room is wonderfully delightful, too. I want to steal their couch, it is so darn comfy. 

I am continuously delighted by our customers. The other day, I discussed the art on our various tarot decks with a priestess of Diana, and helped a vampire who was looking for books on prophecy. How did I know he was a vampire? He had tattoos of blood dripping down out of the corners of his mouth, and talked like he had his mouth full of marbles. Turns out he just hadn't gotten used to talking with his fangs in. (I also think the fangs were a bit big for him.) I realize some people might find encounters like these frightening or disturbing, but I treasure them. I don't judge; I prefer to learn. And learning is done best when one is listening, and not criticizing, mentally or verbally.

Which makes me think of my other job at the grocery store. Usually, our customers are pretty groovy, easy-going people. Every once in a while, though, there is a bad apple that makes you want to punch them in the nose, or worse, cry. 

I have definitely had customers there that made me cry, like the man who insisted on coming back to harass me time and again, but shied away from the manager when she asked if she could help. The man was obviously a coward who had nothing better to do with his time than harass a cashier, and I was so angry and frustrated, I went to the break room and cried for ten minutes with the manager's blessing. This man is a repeat offender and has harassed one of my friends who also works at the store on a couple occasions now. He told her he was trying to teach her a lesson, though what that lesson was, I have no idea. Maybe it's that some people are just evil and mean. It's a lesson I've learned from other sources; I didn't need it from him.

Another vicious customer asked a girl if she thought that this is what her mother had envisioned for her life. The customer came back later and insisted she'd meant it as a joke, but the damage was done. She did not mean it as a simple joke, she meant to be cruel and mean because she thought it was funny to belittle someone who was unprepared and had no way to defend herself. If it had been me, I would have told her that with my double minimum wage salary, full health benefits, paid personal days, and 401k, it was probably better than my mother had envisioned for me! My mother is actually quite thrilled that I work at that store, and she is always happy to tell her friends about it. (We have that kind of reputation.) 

I did once have a man say to me out of the blue while I was ringing up his groceries, "You should really consider going back to school." I nodded pensively and answered, "I've thought about going back and picking up a third bachelor's, or going on and getting my master's, but I haven't decided yet." He blinked, stared, and stammered, "You have two bachelor's?" "Uh-huh!" I responded brightly. He didn't say another word as we finished the transaction. 

I also had a woman try to run me over with her car because she was angry that I hadn't come running over to return her cart for her to the cart corral (not my job, for the record). I genuinely hadn't heard her yelling at me, and I apologized when she angrily grabbed my attention, but she didn't believe me and decided she had to take action into her own hands. By trying to kill me. I almost wish she had managed to maim me so that I could have sued the panties off her, but my survival instinct is apparently stronger than my indignation.

Some customers aren't mean, though, and are just unwittingly rude. Perfect example, the man who complimented a coworker on her wig. She does not wear a wig. He tried to backpedal, but there was really no getting out of that one. There are also a number of people who joke that I spelled my name wrong on my name tag. I guess as a grocery clerk, I'm automatically too stupid to know how to spell my own name. I never laugh at these people, and rather delight in their red faces when they realize the incredible faux pas they've just made. I'm really glad that I don't wear a name tag at Crazy Wisdom. 

I once saw a T-shirt that read, "I used to be a people-person, but ten years in retail ruined that for me." It's kind of true. When you are repeatedly being belittled for absolutely no reason by complete assholes, it's difficult to maintain your faith in humanity. But we need retail people! Who else would sell us stuff? So please, be nice to your cashiers. Maybe being a cashier isn't what anyone envisions for her life, but that job could be what's keeping her afloat while she finishes her master's degree, or earns her doctorate. She might have been laid off from a failing law firm, and this job is the only thing keeping her and her kids from starving. It's a rough world out there. Why make it worse for people? 


  1. I think the thing that really sucks is that the horrible customers are probably only, like, 1-2% of your total encounters... but they're going to be the ones that stick with you. It's really, really difficult to keep that in mind and not become horribly bitter when you're in retail ^_^* (I'm currently really glad I got out of it. The stress was getting to be unbearable.)

  2. My theory is that people's reptile brains are intimidated by going into a new area with new people, so they overcompensate by belittling the staff. I find myself doing it, to be honest.