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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Exhaust ‘Em

, , , , | Right | October 14, 2020

Many years ago, I owned a franchise tobacco shop. The one problem we had to handle almost daily were the prank phone calls.

You know the kind. Being a tobacco shop, we got literally hundreds of these crank calls, usually all the same. For the uninitiated, it goes like this:

Caller: “You got Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?”

For reference, Sir Walter Raleigh is the name of a tobacco.

Employee: “Yes, we do.”

Caller: “Well, you’d better let him out before he suffocates. HAW HAW!”

The callers are usually pubescent if not pre-pubescent and they always hang up before you can say anything in response. Now, this is before caller ID, so they feel rather bulletproof. 

Not in my store. 

My usual response is not to play along. We don’t, in fact, carry Sir Walter Raleigh Tobacco but just saying “No, sorry,” doesn’t seem enough. Sure, it shuts them down, and many times I try, “Oh, PUH-LEEEEZ! You are not really going with that tired joke, are you?” before hanging up.

We also have an import tobacco named Three Nuns which comes in a small tin of four ounces. So, every now and then I respond, “No, but we do have Three Nuns in a four-ounce tin..”

This usually gets us about fifteen seconds of dead phone before a click.

The best time we ever had with the little guys comes one lazy summer afternoon when there are no customers, there’s no work to be done, and our minds are alive with ideas. The phone rings.

Me: [Pipe Shop].”

The caller has a high, squeaky voice, a dead giveaway that this is NOT a serious call.

Caller: “Yes, sir. Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?”

Oh, no, you don’t, kid!

Me: “One moment.”

Before the kid can respond, I put the phone down and holler loudly across the store.

Me: “Hey, [Assistant Manager], we got Sir Walter Raleigh…” *dramatic pause* “…in a can?

Assistant Manager: “Does he want the three-ounce tin or the fourteen-ounce can?”

Me: *To the caller* “Do you want the three-ounce tin or the fourteen-ounce can?”

Caller: “The fourteen-ounce can. Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a fourteen-ounce can?”

He feels that he has to repeat the key phrase for this to work.

Me: “One moment.”

Again, I set the phone down.

Me: “[Assistant Manager], he wants the fourteen-ounce can.”

I repeat the phrase, so that the kid can hear.

Me: “We got Sir Walter Raleigh in the fourteen-ounce can?

Assistant Manager: “Aromatic or Regular?”

Me: *To the phone* “Did you want the Regular or the Aromatic?” *Playing the good salesman* “The Regular is the Red Label and comes in a fourteen-ounce tin, whereas the Aromatic is the blue label and has only twelve ounces of tobacco.”

The caller is becoming agitated now but strangely determined.

Caller: “Uhh. Regular. Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh regular in a fourteen-ounce can?

Me: “One moment.” *Puts down the phone* “[Assistant Manager], he wants the Regular; we got any Sir Walter Raleigh Regular in the fourteen-ounce can?

We are both stifling giggles now.

Assistant Manager: “Does he want the cross cut or the long cut?”

Aha, he’s getting creative…

Me: *To the phone* “Long cut or cross cut?”

The kid is nearing the end of his patience and is nearly shouting into the phone.


He’s like a broken record.

Me: “Okay, then let me get this right. You want the Sir Walter Raleigh, Regular — that’s with the Red Label — either long cut or cross cut, in the fourteen-ounce can, is that right?”


Me: “Nope.”

I hung up the phone.

We would have loved to have seen the kid’s face after all that. We both broke down laughing so hard that security guards from the mall passing by had to come in and find out what was so funny.

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