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Friday the 13th and the Customer Is NOT Always Right

Updated on November 6, 2013

Okay, here's the thing: I work retail. I've done office jobs, professional jobs, career jobs... I've pretty much tried it all. But, the only thing that I've ever really wanted to do is write. I've been writing for so long that it's hard to remember when I started.

When people ask me what I do, I like to reply "I'm a writer." However, while it's true that I've had some limited success over the years-- I've published a few poems, short stories, and one full length non-fiction book-- I've never earned enough from my writing alone to quit my day job and write full time.

Enter my series of less-than-stellar jobs

I quit my last office job shortly before my first book was published. At the time, I had two day jobs in addition to my writing. The problem with the office job was that it was the type that dug into my free time. It was a time suck. I'd go home thinking about work projects, I'd work late a lot, and I'd sometimes be forced to spend my days "off" working from home. The job wasn't conducive to writing because it sucked up all of my energy. It's hard to feel inspired or creative when you're exhausted!

Retail, however, is different. It's the type of job where you clock in, do your time, and clock out. Plus, the work is redundant. While I'm ringing up sales or putting merchandise on shelves, my mind can be miles away plotting my next story or working out the details that I plan to put on paper as soon I get home. Besides, working retail ensures that I still have a steady income during the "leaner" writing months.


Enter Friday the 13th and the Guy-from-Hell

So, overall, working retail suits me and my writing needs. But, there are days when I'm tempted to throw in the towel, tilt my head back, and shout "I quit!" Friday, January 13th, 2012 was one of those days.

I'm not a superstitious person so I've never given things like "Friday the 13th" too much credence. For the most part, I usually file it in the same category as Halloween and full moons. It's an interesting concept that they might impact our lives but that's about it.

I worked the closing shift which is prime time for all the kooks and odd-balls to come shopping. Most of them are harmless-- like the guy with bright green hair and the lady that shops with her little black cat on a leash-- but the customer that I've since dubbed "the Guy-from-Hell" was another matter altogether.

He came into the store twice. The first time was about two hours before closing. He was rude from the beginning, but rude customers are pretty common so I remained polite and professional and didn't let it get to me. The Guy-from-Hell wanted to return a shirt without a receipt. He claimed that it was a gift. Store policy is that we can take a return with a receipt within 90 days of the purchase date. Without a receipt we need a picture ID, we can only give store credit, and if the item has been on sale the customer will receive credit for the lowest sale price.

When I explained the policy to the guy, he got angry, cursed at me about how "stupid" it was that he needed to have ID, then left. (For the record, the ID is to prevent shoplifting. The computer keeps track of how often people return items without receipts and flags them if they do so excessively. You'd be amazed how many people shove stuff under their shirts, go out into the parking lot, then come back in 5 minutes later and demand a refund!).

The second time the Guy-from-Hell came into the store was about an hour before closing. This time he had a passport with him (with an out of state address). Technically, we're only supposed to take state issued ID's (ie: driver's licenses) but I didn't want to make him mad so I tweaked the form on the computer to make it take his information. When I asked for an address and telephone number-- both required-- he got angrier. He said his address was "general delivery" and refused to give me a number. Once again, I remained polite.

Well, that's when things got really bad. I scanned the merchandise and the computer told me that I could only give him .01 cent credit for the shirt. Looking closer at the tag, I realized that the shirt was from the Fall 2009 collection. Being retail, they clearance out old merchandise to make room for the new stuff. The Fall 2011 stuff is already on sale for between 25-60% off-- and it's two years younger than the shirt be brought in!

Needless-to-say, the guy got really, really pissed. He yelled at me, "Fine, give me my d*** penny!"

Which is when I had to remind him that without a receipt the machine would only let me give him store credit-- not cash.

The Guy-from-Hell was livid! Yelling, cursing, calling me vulgar names (I'm ex-military and I've never heard such filthy language!). He picked up the shirt, tore it in half, and threw it at me before stomping out. I just stood there shell shocked. The worst part is that I was alone at the front of the store at the time. The rest of the staff was in the back unloading a truck full of merchandise. The guy was twice my size too. I'm lucky that, aside from ripping the shirt and throwing it at me, he didn't get violent.

The entire incident left me pretty shaken up. Once I recovered enough, I called the manager and asked him to cover the service desk so I could go take a quick break. Some deep breathing, a good cry, and a soda later (the sugar helped calm my shaking hands) I regained enough composure to finish my shift.

The moral of the story

Be nice to your cashiers, waitresses, cab drivers... they're just trying to keep a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and clothes on their backs. Just like the rest of us...

The customer is ALWAYS right?

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    • Suzie ONeill profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzie ONeill 

      8 years ago from Lost in La La Land

      Yes, it was really frightening! I guess it's the price I pay for working with the public. For every 5 nice people there's at least 1 grump (or worse!)...

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate the support!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, that must have been really frightening, I would have headed to the nearest bar for a stiff vodka! glad you are okay, and yes you got a good story! lol!

    • Suzie ONeill profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzie ONeill 

      8 years ago from Lost in La La Land

      Sunnie-- Thanks for the words of support!

      Kimberly-- I might take you up on that!

    • Kimberly Nelson profile image

      Kimberly Nelson 

      8 years ago

      It was an unfornunate situation but it DID provide a hub topic....just stay in bed on the next Friday the 13th; I'll work for you :)

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      8 years ago

      Oh Suzie this is terrible..I absolutely hate it when people belittle others such as waitresses and retailers..I have stood in line or sat at another table and listened as some "Better THAN you" person just went off..makes me so mad!...So let me start by saying Thank you for all you do...brush it off..he was a jerk and a sleeze ball...not worth your precious time..easier said than done when someone is in your face...



    • travelgurrl profile image


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      As B. said, it's unfortunate that you had to go through this, but it made for a great story! I have worked retail as well and it's just incredible how people can behave. I would never in a million years treat another human being the way that some people treated me when I worked retail. Be kind indeed!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      9 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      You handled the situation well. And it's a very good hub.

    • Suzie ONeill profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzie ONeill 

      9 years ago from Lost in La La Land

      Thanks for the comments! I've had a few days to recover, so I'm almost to the point where I can see the humor in the situation. I still think it's crazy that someone could be so rude when it was completely uncalled for...

      Does this hub count as "making lemonade from lemons"? After all, I did turn a negative experience into something productive, right?

      After re-reading this hub with "fresh eyes" this morning I caught a few embarrassing typos. Sorry about that! They should be fixed now, but please let me know if I missed any more!

    • DougBerry profile image


      9 years ago from Abilene, TX

      Don't you love customer service? Most of my life spent there until I finally had the sense to move into something technical.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      9 years ago

      And another Moral to this story is... that this made for a Good Hub Suzie, with Wit, and Humor, it made for a Fun read. Chin up my Friend, what we do just to be able to Write.. and Write you do oh so well! Come by my page for a Laugh or two too!


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