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Not Even Doing The Least You Could Do

, , , , , , , | Working | June 20, 2022

Twenty-odd years ago, I was in line at a major fast food chain located in a large mall. Suddenly, the woman in front of me in line fell to the floor, unconscious. At the time, I was in university preparing to apply to medical school, and I had taken some first aid classes. I checked on the woman, who had quickly regained consciousness, but she was confused and trembling after the fall. I asked the employees to hand me a cup of water and to call mall security about the medical issue.

After using my first aid training to determine that the woman didn’t seem to be in immediate danger, I turned around to ask the counter employee for the cup of water.

Employee: “That will be $1.08 for the water.”

Me: “What? There’s a person having a medical issue here. Please just give it to me.”

Employee: “We can’t. You need to pay for the water before we give it to you.”

It should be noted that the law in New York State at the time said that restaurants must give tap water to diners for free upon request.

Me: “I’ll pay in a sec. Please just give me the water.”

Employee: “No, and you need to get her out of the way; she’s blocking the register.”

I looked around, and every employee in the store was scrupulously looking away, and every customer in the area was staring at them. Luckily, at that moment, a security guard I knew from the mall passed by and came to help. 

Me: “Thank God you finally came. I told them to call for security over ten minutes ago.”

Guard: “No one called for security. I was just on my normal rounds.”

Thankfully, he was able to radio for help, and a first aid team was there inside of two minutes to help the woman. She ended up fine; she had just passed out.

As soon as she was in good hands, I turned to the counter. The employee who had refused me water was standing there with a bored look on her face. The manager was behind her tapping his foot and looking annoyed. I had worked retail, and I knew to treat workers as people worthy of respect, but I admit to losing my cool and yelling a bit. 

Me: “What the h***? Not only did you not supply water — as required by law and common decency — but you didn’t even call for security? And then you’re mad at me because I wouldn’t singlehandedly move someone who may have been sick or hurt?”

Manager: “It’s not our problem. If you wanted water, you should have paid for it. If you wanted security, you should have called them.”

Me: “Well, now it is your problem.”

I snatched a sign off the wall with the phone number for the franchise ownership and walked out, with the manager yelling at me as I left. As soon as I could, I contacted the owner, the corporate complaint number, and mall management. I asked them if it was store or franchise policy to allow people to die at the counter and to defy state law. 

By the weekend, when I came to the mall for my retail shift, the manager was gone and much of the staff was replaced. I later heard that that had been the last straw in a number of complaints against the manager, including at least one where they refused to call security when a customer was being assaulted. I don’t think anyone who worked or shopped at that mall shed a tear for them losing their jobs.

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