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Does “Closed” Have No Meaning For ANYONE?

, , , , , , | Working | February 12, 2021

I’m about seventeen or eighteen and have just started my first “real” job in a supermarket deli. I have not yet experienced any rude or entitled customers. We have a sign-in and sign-out sheet in the deli as well as a machine in the employee break room to clock in and out; we are expected to use both. It is 10:00 pm and everything is shut down and closed; I go to sign out on the sign-out sheet but there isn’t a pen. No worries, I think to myself. I’ll go clock out, borrow a pen from the break room, and come back to sign the sheet. 

I come back and see a well-dressed customer standing in front of the deli counter, looking expectantly at me as I come through the deli gate. My hair is down, I have no apron or hat, and my handbag is slung over my shoulder. The lights in every deli case are off, half of our stock has been put away in the back room and everything else — the products, the slicers, you name it — is covered in large plastic sheets. By every indication, the deli has shut for the night.

Me: *Cheerfully* “Hi, just letting you know we are closed tonight! I’m just—”

Customer: “No, you’re not.”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the customer’s response comes from so far out of left field that I am honestly taken aback for a moment.

Me: “Er…”

Customer: “Are you not going to serve me?”

Me: “Um, I’ve already clocked off. It’s past 10:00. The deli closes at 10:00 pm—”

Customer: *Firmly* “No, it doesn’t. It closes when the rest of the store closes.”

I stare at him for a moment, not sure how to proceed with his complete denial. I open my mouth to suggest calling a manager over, but he beats me to it.

Customer: “I see how it is. That’s fine; I’ll go get your manager.”

Frowning, I go to the drawer to sign the sheet. As I’m leaving, the customer comes back with one of the night managers in tow. The customer complains to the manager that I won’t serve him, and the manager goes behind the counter, lifts the plastic sheet off the slicer I just spent twenty minutes cleaning, and starts slicing the customer’s ham for him.

Me: *Quietly, to the manager* “Just for future reference, can you tell me what the protocol is when a customer asks for something after the deli is closed and the usual deli workers are clocked out? Do you come into the deli to serve the late-night customers? Do you also clean the slicer afterward? Because [Deli Manager] gets upset when things aren’t clean in the morning.”

Manager: “Don’t worry about it.”

Me: “Well, I need to know because if this happens again, I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing. Is what you’re doing now standard procedure here?”

The manager just waves a hand dismissively.

I see I’m not going to get an answer, so I give up and go to walk away. The customer stops me on my way out and asks for my name. Without thinking, I give it to him. Like I said, this is my first Not Always Right customer in my first-ever job; I am not very smart yet. 

Customer: “Okay, [My Name]. I work for [My Supermarket] and I’m going to see what the head office thinks about your work ethic.”

I never got a proper answer — from anyone — on what store policy was if a customer wanted deli products after the deli was closed. Thankfully, there were no repeat incidents where the issue came up again, and I also never heard anything from that customer. I have no idea if he actually contacted anyone or not. But thanks to his parting words, I did spend a good few days anxiously stressing that I’d lost my job almost as soon as it had begun. What a jerk.