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Automatically Outraged

, , , , , | Right | June 28, 2022

In early 2017, the store was relocated to a brand new modern construct, which is when they found themselves facing a problem I never would have considered: individuals putting their bags in the automatic sinks in the bathrooms and getting angry that their bags get wet or filled with water.

I am working at the customer service desk. Avery agitated woman comes up to my station and slams her purse down on the counter with as much physical force as she can muster, which causes several items to jump out of the bag and also sprays my plastic barricade with water.

Customer: “What do you intend to do about this?!”

I have not quite processed the situation yet.

Me: “What?”

Customer: “Don’t you play stupid with me, you f****** idiot! This is a [Brand] purse and you have ruined it!”

Me: “Ma’am, you need to take it down several notches or I’m going to have security escort you off the property.”

Customer: “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME THAT WAY, YOU—”

She punches the plexiglass barricade.

Me: “MA’AM!”

She jumps and stares at me as if I have grown a second head. I decide to try and defuse the situation as she is a regular, so I ignore the hurtful words she has spewed thus far and nod, speaking in a calm voice.

Me: “I need you to calmly explain to me what the issue is and we will try to work with you, okay?”

The customer huffs indignantly but clears her throat and speaks in a much softer tone.

Customer: “Your s***ty f****** sink filled my bag with water! I demand that you do something!”

Me: “I apologize for that. We do have numerous signs that state the sinks are automatic. I can call for a towel from the back and we can help you get everything dried off.”

I pick up the phone near me to page the back office.

Customer: “A towel! A f****** towel! I demand to speak to your manager, you incompetent smarta**!”

I sigh, a mixture of heartbroken and irritated that my attempt at calming her down has failed. I page my manager, but the line (a mobile flip phone) is picked up and hung up immediately. Before I can try again, my manager is at my side with our security guard.

Manager: “Ma’am, I can hear you from the back, that is totally unacceptable. I do not appreciate the way you have been speaking to my employee. In fact, I was already on the way, but I had to run off a copy of our trespass form.”

Customer: “YOU A—”

Manager:You are not going to yell at me, is that clear?! You are going to explain to me exactly what happened in a calm and respectful tone, or you will be shown the way outside! Is that understood?!”

I am shocked, she is shocked, and the security guard who has been standing by is shocked.

Customer: “I… Your sink filled my bag with water and ruined it.”

Manager: “Why was your bag in the sink?”

Customer: “I needed a place to put it and I wasn’t aware it was an automatic faucet.”

Manager: “There’s nothing I can do for you. You made the decision to put your bag in an automatic sink.”

Customer: “I—”

Manager: *Continuing without stopping* “There are signs on the bathroom corridor door, there is a sign on the bathroom door, there is a sign on the mirror above the sink, and there is a big yellow sticker on the sink stating that you should not place anything in the basin.”

Customer: “Well—”

Manager: “I’ve also spent my own money on the shelf on the wall and the hooks below the shelf, both of which are for bags. With signage that say so.”

Customer: “You—”

Manager: “No, you’ve said enough. Your behavior is abhorrent. We would have been more than happy to help you with this issue — despite our exemplary preventative measures — if you had decided to speak with my customer service representative calmly. Instead, you screamed at him, demeaned him, swore at him, and disrupted our entire store. You are done here.”

Customer: “What—”

As if timed, a beat cop walks off the street into the store.

Officer: “I got the call, [Manager]. What’s the issue here?”

My manager holds up the sheet of paper.

Manager: “Trespass, an official one this time.”

The customer is sputtering as the situation runs away from her.

Officer: “All right, what’s the reason for the trespass? Just a ‘no longer desired on property’ or…?”

Manager: “Verbal abuse to the staff.”

Officer: “All right, come with me, ma’am.”

The officer moves to escort the woman out, but she swings her bag at him, hits him in the chest, and screams:

Customer: “DO NOT TOUCH ME!”

There is a single beat during which all of us stand absolutely still and stare at her wordlessly, the officer looking down at the massive wet splotch on his uniform, blinking.

Manager: “Bad choice.”

Officer: “Very bad choice. Ma’am, please place your hands behind your back.”

I watch in amazement as a simple trespass turns into an arrest and trespass. The woman is made to sign our paperwork and a police trespass form brought by a patrol unit before being driven away.

Once everything settles down, my manager sighs sadly and pinches the bridge of his nose.

Manager: “I’m sorry you had to see me lose my temper, [My Name]. Are you okay?”

Me: “Yeah, and don’t worry about it. Thank you.”

Manager: “Don’t thank me for that. I was very far out of policy in the way I handled that customer. I never want you or anyone else taking those steps, do you understand me?”

Me: “Yes.”

Manager: “This is going to trigger an inquiry. I don’t want you lying about anything when you are asked about it, all right?”

Me: “All right.” 

I was indeed questioned about the event a few days later, and as instructed, I told the full truth. 

My manager got a “stern talking-to” by the owner, which I have discovered was actually a night out for free drinks and dinner.

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