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An Alarming Miscommunication

, , , , | Working | July 21, 2021

I’m a minor. In my state and store, minors are not supposed to work past 9:30 pm. Our store usually closes anywhere from 10:00 pm to midnight during the week, so I’m never around during closing time. It was New Year’s Eve, which meant our store was closing slightly earlier than usual, and I was working until closing time along with the store manager, the shift manager, and several other employees. Once the last customer left the store, the managers told me to clock out, grab my things, and meet them up front to leave.

Every employee is assigned a small locker in the back of the store where the official break room is, so once I clocked out, I headed back to the lockers. I grabbed my things and went to the front to leave with everyone else…

…except there was nobody there. There are two regular exits: one by the florist and one by the bakery/pharmacy. We were supposed to meet by the florist, but I checked the bakery/pharmacy as well and they weren’t there either. I went up to the time clock where all the offices are. Nobody was there. I knocked on all the closed office doors and even tried opening the doors, but no such luck. I made my way back to the lockers and restrooms — perhaps they went back to find me? Nope. I went back to the front of the store and picked up the phone to try and use the pager system to call for anyone in the store, but I had no idea how it worked, so I put the phone back down. I walked around to the bakery, dairy, meat, produce, and deli departments, but I couldn’t find a single soul. I decided to try the exit door anyway; maybe it was locked from the outside, but I could still leave through it? It’s a two-door system where you walk through the first door, walk about twenty feet, and walk through the second door outside. I walked through the first door with no problem, but the second door was locked. Luckily, I was able to turn around and grab the first door before it shut completely, trapping me inside the vestibule. Panicking, I ran around the aisles shouting for anyone to hear me, choking back the inevitable tears that were on their way.

I finally used my cell phone to call my parents, who were wondering where I was. Through tears, I explained.

Me: “I’m trapped in the store alone! And I don’t know what to do.”

Mother: “Look around for an emergency exit.”

I find one.

Me: “I’ve found one, but I’m scared to set off the alarm!”

Mother: “Suck it up and push the door open.”

I pushed it open, the alarm rang REALLY loudly, and I ran and screamed all the way around the building to the parking lot and to my car.

At the time, my father had worked for over a decade for the town, and he knew several of the police officers in town. He called the non-emergency number and told them that his daughter set off the alarm at the grocery store so they had a heads-up as to what was going on. The police then passed on the story to the store manager, who had been called back to the store by the alarm company.

The next time I worked, my mother came in, found the store manager scanning a few things at self-checkout, furiously marched up to her, and ripped her a new one.

Mother: “How dare you leave an employee alone in the store?!”

Store Manager: *Sincerely* “I’m so sorry. Even if your daughter had remained in the store, the overnight stocking crew comes in around midnight, so they would have been able to let her out. But I agree that the situation should never have happened in the first place. The shift manager and I each thought the other had let [My Name] out of the store, so it was okay to leave.”

After a few more complaints from my mom, the store manager finished scanning her items — an “I’m sorry” card, a gift card, and a couple of movie tickets — and came to my register to apologize again and give me the gifts. My mom felt a little bad after that.

Looking back at it a decade later, I think the whole thing is somewhat humorous, but I really wish I’d taken the chance to explore more of the store; I’d always wanted to see what the bakery looked like. My mom still remembers hearing the alarm go off and me screaming through the phone and laughs about it to this day. That was probably my most memorable New Year’s Eve.

This story is part of our Best Of July 2021 roundup!

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