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Some Heavy-Duty Assumptions

, , , , | Right | November 4, 2020

I work at a popular big box retail store for items that are commonly sold in bulk. I have recently undergone some extensive abdominal surgery and have just been cleared to return to work. I am, however, on light duty as I cannot do any heavy lifting, squatting, or extensive bending. My bosses are incredibly understanding and have me doing light cleaning and organization throughout the store.

I am working in one of the seasonal sections when I’m approached by an elderly customer.

Customer: “Excuse me. Can you help me lift this item into my cart?”

The item that she wants is a large box of faux flooring that weighs upwards of fifty pounds. There would be no way for me to lift it, let alone bend and get it into her cart without seriously hurting myself due to my movement restrictions.

Me: “I’d be happy to help you, ma’am. But this item is too large for me to lift on my own. Give me one moment and I’ll find a coworker to help get it into the cart.”

We use walkie-talkies to communicate throughout the large warehouse. I have just pulled mine out to call for help when she interjects with this gem:

Customer: “You don’t need help to lift this! You’re just being lazy! I’m in a hurry, and I want you to put this into my cart right this instant!”

I’m stunned at how brazenly rude she’s being directly to my face.

Me: “Ma’am, I apologize for the delay, but I am recovering from abdominal surgery and I’m strictly forbidden from doing any heavy lifting, as per my doctor‘s instructions. If I attempted to lift that, I could seriously hurt myself.”

I use my walkie-talkie and call for an assistant to the seasonal section. I immediately get a response from a coworker saying he’s on his way.

Customer: “I don’t care what your excuse is! This thing couldn’t weigh more than fifty pounds. You’re young and fully capable of lifting it! I’m an elderly woman recovering from a knee replacement surgery. I demand that you put this into my cart right now so I can go about my business!”

Me: “Ma’am, you say you’re recovering for my knee surgery? Did your doctor tell you if you had any restrictions?”

Customer: “Of course he did. He told me I’m not to do any heavy lifting or stand for long periods of time.”

Me: “Ma’am, my doctor gave me restrictions for my surgical recovery, too. I also cannot do any heavy lifting; that is why I have called a coworker to come help.”

Customer: “Nonsense! You’re young. Young people don’t need surgery. You’re just lying to get out of doing work! You’re just being lazy!”

At this point, my coworker has approached and overheard her rant. I explain to him that she needs something lifted and he goes to pick up the item into her cart.

Customer: “No! You won’t lift anything for her; she’s just being lazy! Make her put it into my cart right now!”

Coworker: “Miss, she really is recovering from surgery. She’s been gone for a few weeks. She really can’t lift anything heavy like this. Let me just put it into your cart for you and then—”

Customer: “I demand she stop being lazy! She will put the item into my cart and you will bring a manager to me right away so I can tell them about how lazy your employees are!”

My coworker gives me a sympathetic look and attempts to lift the box into her cart anyway. She actually moves the cart so he cannot place the item into it. He sets it down on the floor in frustration and pulls out his walkie-talkie to call a manager.

At this point, I have had enough. I undo the bottom two buttons of my shirt and lift it enough to show her the area around my belly button. I have multiple suture sites covered in medical gauze and tape.

Me: “I am not being lazy, ma’am. These are my stitches from my recent surgery. If I was to try to lift that, I could possibly rip them and hurt myself even worse. My coworker is trying to help you by putting that item into your cart like you asked. If you’re in such a hurry, you’re only making it worse for yourself by not letting him help you!”

Her angry face relaxes and she has a complete and total personality change.

Customer: “Well, why didn’t you just say that in the first place?!”

She turns to my coworker:

Customer: “Would you be a dear and lift this into my cart for me? She really shouldn’t lift anything heavy after surgery.”

My coworker and I just stared at each other.