Unfiltered Story #183962

, | Unfiltered | January 24, 2020

(I volunteer in a Church-run charity shop. We receive donations (clothing, homewares, home textiles) from the community which we sell to our customers for a 1€ cover fee per visit to our shop. Only people with a qualification certificate are allowed to buy anything in the shop, a policy we had to install after an epidemic of people grabbing excessive amounts of stuff for 1€ to sell it for higher prices via the internet or on flee markets. A qualification certificate is granted if the customer can prove that they are either a) unemployed b) below the poverty line or c) applicants for asylum.
With the recent increase of demand due to the refugee crisis, we were forced to implement a strict “you can buy once every other month”-rule to be able to meet the remaining “normal” demand plus the additional one.
I’m accompanying a customer in this story to help her find everything she needs. It’s policy to never let a customer rummage through the store alone, as that caused physical fights over merchandise in the past.)

Customer #1: “Yes, thank you. Could you show me the homewares next? I need a pot.”
Me: “Oh, of course. Right this way, please.”

We cross over to another aisle, where I catch a glimpse of a woman, hastily retreating behind a shelf.
A fellow volunteer is busy stacking shelves in an aisle close by, so I ask her to investigate, as I’m still busy with my customer.

Me: “Sorry about that. Now we have pots”-

Voice: “NOOOO! YOU NOT TAKE THAT! I BROUGHT FROM HOME!”
Volunteer #2: “I personally put this carpet on the shelf over there. And it was the only carpet we got in 2 months. Are you alone in our store? Who was helping you?”
Voice: “Young girl.”
Volunteer #2: “Ah. {My name} could you come over for a second?”

My customer has been shaking her head at the conversation and gives me a friendly nod and smile when I ask her to excuse me for a moment.

Volunteer #2: “Are you helping this lady?”
Me: “No, I’m still busy with another customer.”
The “Voice” turned out to be a young woman, who looks completely indignant. She is a regular and known for causing trouble.

Woman: “She just doesn’t remember. She lazy.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but we have a strict policy of only showing one customer around at a time. I’m already busy and this is the first time I’ve seen you today.”

Woman: “SHE LYER! I ALWAYS COME HERE! GIVE MY CARPET BACK!”
Volunteer #2: “So you always take your carpet with you in the stroller when you leave the house?”
Woman: “I TOOK IT FROM HERE! I FOUND FIRST! IT’S MINE!”
Volunteer #2: “Could I see your qualification card please? I’m pretty sure you’ve only been here last week.”
Woman: *thrusts card at my coworker*
Volunteer #2: “Yes, you’ve been here last week. You are aware that we had to adapt the rules to once every other month, right? I’m sure you were told that you can come back the month after the next.”

At this point, the customer grabs my arm and continues shouting.
Woman: “YOU NEVER GIVE ME ENOUGH! I WANT JACKET! I WANT CARPET! I WANT POT! WHY DOES SHE”- points at my customer who left the homewares’ aisle to look for me – “GET POT AND I DON’T? I WANT POT! I’M REFUGEE – YOU DISCRIMINATE!”

Me: “Ma’am, we didn’t have these pots yet, when you were in last week. We receive donations and can’t control or predict the merchandise we’ll have at a certain time. If you come back in (month) we can immediately go look for one. Now, would you please let go of my arm?”
Woman: “NO! I WANT POT! I HAVE CHILDREN! I NEED TO COOK!”
Customer #1, rounding the corner, completely fed up: “I have children too. And I need to cook as well. I came here 6 times until they had a pot, you just need to wait until you can get one. We all need jackets and pots. If people come here and grab everything they want, the others won’t get anything. This way I get half of what I need instead of nothing.”

Woman: “NO! NOT GOOD! I TAKE! GIVE ME POT, I TAKE IT!”
She let’s go of me and lunges towards my customer instead.
Volunteer #2: “STOP IT! GO! YOU ARE NOT ATTACKING ANYONE IN THIS SHOP!” She bodily pulls the woman back and tells her to leave.

Woman: “YOU ONLY HATE REFUGEES! YOU DISCRIMINATE! YOU GIVE EVERYTHING TO OTHER PEOPLE! SHE GOT POT! SHE GOT POT! I WANT POT– YOU MUST GIVE IT TO ME! I’M REFUGEE!”
Volunteer #2: “LEAVE. You’re leaving this store right now.”

They reach the door, my co-worker waits until she’s out of the door and goes back to stacking shelves. Just when I turn to my customer again, the door bangs open and the woman rushes in again. My coworker runs towards her, but before she can do anything, the woman has pushed over a shelf and thrown a display of toys and t-shirts all over the floor, just to spit on it.

Volunteer #2: “THAT’S IT. YOU’RE BANNED. Give me your card.”
Woman: “YOU CAN’T BAN ME! I’M REFUGEE!” *waves card in coworker’s face*
Volunteer #2: *snatches card”* “I can.” *rips up card* “And I did. Leave before I call the police.”
She leaves, looking quite shocked.

Half an hour later, she comes back, accompanied by another regular.
Regular: “Hello. Please excuse me, my neighbor here asked me to translate for her?”
Me: “Hello. Okay, please go ahead.”
Regular: “She is very sorry for her behavior and asks you not to ban her. She’s a refugee and here with her children. She really needs clothes for them.”
Me: “We understand that and we appreciate the apology. I can only offer to turn the ban into 3 month long one instead of a permanent one. We really can’t accept this kind of behavior in our shop.”
Regular: *nods and translates* *frowns at her neighbor’s response and seems to argue with her for a moment before turning to me with an embarrassed expression*
Regular: “She said she’ll come back to the shop if she gets a pot and the carpet now.”
Me: *speechless for a moment* “I can’t do that. She is currently banned from the shop, so I can’t and won’t give her anything.”
Regular: *translates and gets cut off*
Woman: “YOU ONLY DISCRIMINATE! I REPORT YOU! YOU HATE REFUGEE!” *stomps out the shop*
Regular: *obviously embarrassed* “I’m so sorry. I…she said there was a miscommunication and she wanted to apologize, I…”
Me: “Please don’t worry about it. Thank you for trying to help!”

We all thought this would be the last time we had to deal with this woman but lo-and-behold, we got a call from the asylum-seekers’ hostel a day later. A social worker demanded to know why we turned this lady away for being a refugee. Apparently, she told the social worker that we banned her from the store for no reason whatsoever after learning she was a refugee, which could have resulted in quite a lot of legal trouble for us.

(We have many very positive interactions with our customers, no matter where they were born or how they ended in financial problems. But because negative interactions are relatively rare, this one stuck out even more.)