It's My Crazy Retail Life!
I work retail as a cashier. But you already knew that. If you have read my first hub on this subject, “It’s My Retail Life” you are also especially aware that I generally enjoy what I do. Yes, yes I know. By now you are thinking that I am crazy for even saying such a thing and not just once even but twice. No, it’s not my calling in life or anything as egregious as that. It is however, (sadly though I might add) a way to pay the bills… most of the time anyway. That of course takes me back to the part about being crazy. One of the things that I do like about working retail is the fact that it often reminds me just how sane and normal I really am. (Despite the fact that I actually don’t mind working retail that is.) In the same vein of thought though it also points out rather glaringly just how many others are shall we say somewhat otherwise than sane?
This next experience I wanted to share with you illustrates that very well. While I do not wish to denigrate those who truly possess a mental illness I found it necessary (for the sake of self-preservation) to only find the humor in this story that is as bizarre as it is funny. This is a tale of an Umbrella and a Bus Pass with a pervert thrown in for good measure. This time I was working in the men’s clothing section of our store. It was pouring rain outside. I watched through the glass doors as the rain just pelted the parking lot. Needless to say the weather was rather nasty. People were huddled around the entrance waiting for the rain to let up. Many of them even opting to head back into the main mall after ringing up their purchases because the weather was so bad. What happened next reads like something scripted from a play in that the timing of it meshed together so perfectly…
Act 1: Of an Umbrella and a Bus Pass...
Appearances can be deceiving…and we all know the old cliché that we should never judge a book by its cover. Well this instance was no exception. As the crowd by the door gradually thinned out and finally dissipated altogether an older lady approached my register. She was heavily bundled up in a long winter type coat and hat and was carrying an Umbrella. Other than being so warmly dressed which could have been due to the chill of the rain she appeared quite normal. Her hair was even nicely cut and her coat and hat looked clean. She placed the long navy blue umbrella on the counter and I proceeded to ring her up for the purchase in the standard way. After all what could be more normal than buying an oversized umbrella on an unusually rainy day?
When I asked her for payment she opened her wallet and took out her card. She slid it through the machine and the computer screen immediately flashed up that the card was declined. As a cashier this is a delicate situation since you never want to embarrass someone by announcing to the world that their card was declined but you still need to tell them all the same. I quickly informed her of the computer’s message. She immediately responded saying “What do you mean my card is declined? My card is never declined!” So I politely asked if she would like to try again or if she had another form of payment. She quickly slid the card again and this time the message said it was an Invalid Card Type. At this point I asked if I could see the card so that perhaps I could explain to her why her card was not being accepted. She leaned forward and I received my first big clue that something about her might not be normal in the form of a strong odor emanating from her person. The second big clue was what she said to me next. Placing the card on the counter she told me with a straight face, “You touch it very nicely.” I hesitated at that but then picked it up. The card was all black and quite scratched up with no name on it and only a bunch of numbers running across its face. It also contained the words EZ Pass written in big letters along the top. There was no Visa or MasterCard logo or anything to indicate that it was an ATM card or even one that could be used to access cash at all. On the back it contained the words Star Card. By all appearances it seemed to be some sort of bus pass to me, albeit no type of bus pass that I had ever seen. Admittedly I have not ridden a bus in quite some time. I then attempted to inform her that this was not a card type that our store accepted. She quickly became adamant that I was wrong saying, “This is a Star Card for upper class people. My card is never declined! I want to speak to your manager.” Placing the card back on the counter I told her I could call a manager if she liked but it didn't seem necessary since we only accepted Visa, MasterCard and American Express. I again asked for another form of payment when with a dead pan face she very calmly said “You better not violate me! Anyone who violates me I’ll call the cops!”
Okay! ... So what do I do with that information? I made a snap decision and paged the manager. I figured it was better to let them deal with this one since I certainly didn't seem to be getting anywhere fast. Mind you now that I am completely alone with someone who is quickly exhibiting signs of instability and is still holding a long pointy umbrella. It didn't end there though. I was trying to keep her appeased and informed her that I had called a manager to come and they should be here in a few minutes. She immediately started to talk to someone over her shoulder when clearly there was no one there, saying “To come. What is this to come? I don’t know what she is saying. To come. She is not speaking English.” I quickly moved back from the counter and hopefully out of the reach of the long umbrella should she decide to use it as a weapon. Then she began questioning me as to where I was from and launched into a tirade about why people from my area (the east coast) where living and working out here (the west coast) and how she used to know everyone in this store but now she doesn't know anyone, and what was this world coming to anyway!
Act 2: Enter the Pervert!
About this time a young man walked up to the counter and grateful for a diversion I told her I was going to help the next customer while we waited for the manager. After announcing a second page for the manager I quickly greeted the young man. He greeted me back with a wink and visibly checked me out with his eyes. He then zeroed in on the ring on my left hand. Although I am married I don’t like to wear my wedding ring to work since I once damaged it by doing so. Retail can be hard on your . I do wear a cheap cubic zirconia ring that I bought as a place holder though and the only problem with this is that it is tighter than my real ring and often ends up on my pinkie finger so as to not cut off my circulation. Well the man standing before me quickly picked up on that trying to indicate that something must be wrong in my marriage if I was wearing my wedding ring on my pinkie. All the while winking at me again. I was tempted to ask if he had dirt in his eye but decided to be polite and quickly informed him that it was only because the ring was tight. precious jewelry
Our store offers a free rewards program like many of the grocery chains do to give a discount for our members. In the absence of a rewards card we can look it up with the customer’s phone number. So next I asked him for his number. That only elicited the response “Aren’t you being really forward asking for my number?” again accompanied by another wink. I assured him that I wasn’t and it was only for the rewards program. All this time I might add my other customer was still muttering to herself about who knows what and the Pervert continued to ogle me. Finally I was ready to complete the man’s transaction and still there was no sign of the manager. I told the man who I now thought of as the Perv that I was going to check if he had any rewards he could redeem for his purchase. Evidently this excited him because he said, “Yeah! Reward me baby! Reward me!” The disgusting Perv saved about $2.00 when he paid for his purchase and then he left. But not before telling me I was looking really fine today. (Wink wink)
Act 3: Exit the Pervert, Enter the Manager!
Brett my manager finally showed up as the Perv was leaving and I briefed him about the woman’s situation with her card (a.k.a. Bus Pass) that was declined. I did not however inform him that she was clearly a crazy homeless fruitcake. I mean how could I when she was standing right there? Besides some things are best discovered on your own as I soon learned by his reactions to her erratic questions and speech. As he tried to look at her card she again now informed him that he had better touch it very nicely. He then tried to explain to her that we don’t accept this type of card and did she have a different type of payment. This only brought on more rounds of “My card is never declined!” and “This is a star card for upper class people! I am an upper class person!” Brett responded “Okay…well I am sorry but we don’t accept this type of card.” Then she demanded to know if he was a manager. Which he indicated that he was and she immediately wanted to know how much money he made in a year. To this he quickly replied “That’s irrelevant.” Then she again launched into another tirade about something I don’t know what, complaining that he didn't want to let her buy this umbrella and accused him of discriminating against her because she was homeless! Next she asked him “If former President Bill Clinton came in here with this card would you tell him No?” Bewildered by her question Brett said “I don’t even know what you’re saying! I’m sorry but we don’t accept this type of card. Finally at that point the woman threw the umbrella down on the counter and stormed out into the now lessening rain saying “I’m going to get my lawyer! You’ll be hearing from me!”
And Now For The Grand Finale!
Rather than leave right away after the situation is resolved as most managers usually do Brett calmly leaned back against the counter and staring at the floor folded his arms. We were the only two people in that section of the store just then and when our eyes met we busted out in laughter. How could we not? It was just so bizarre that we couldn't help it. At this point between snickers and snorts of laughter he made me recount the whole situation to him. I thought he was going to fall over when I told him the part about the pervert I had to ring up while the crazy lady was waiting to meet him. When the story was done and the laughter had died down he shook his head and said “Did she really say she was going to call her lawyer? I still don’t know what that was all about!” Truth be told neither did I but I guess that’s all just par for the course in "my crazy retail life".