Friday the 13th and the Customer Is NOT Always Right
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...