Dealing With The Schoolmom-Three

, , , , | Right | June 17, 2021

I work in a bookstore in a state where parents have to buy some books and workbooks for school themselves; in other states, schools supply at least the books for free. They can either order them online or buy them in a local bookstore. This year, it’s a more difficult time because of the global health crisis. Our suppliers are having trouble shipping our orders on time, our customers are annoyed because they have to wear masks in our store, etc.

Customer #1: “You didn’t call me to tell me that my school books arrived!”

Me: “You didn’t leave a number to call with your order.”

Customer #1: “You could have sent an email!”

Me: “I did.”

Customer #1: “I didn’t get one.”

Me: “Maybe it’s in your spam file?”

Customer #1: *Checks* “Oh…”

Next customer:

Customer #2: “Why are school books so expensive?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I have no control over the prices of books.”

Customer #2: “But you sell them! You make the prices!”

Me: “No, I really don’t.”

[Customer #3] had ordered school books via our webshop and comes to collect them.

Customer #3: “There is a book missing.”

I check the books against the order she made online.

Me: “It looks to me as if all the books you ordered are here.”

Customer #3: “Yes, but I needed another one. It wasn’t available, so the homepage told me to send an extra order, to let you know that I need that book, too.”

Me: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t receive that order form.”

Customer #3: “Oh, I didn’t send it.”

Me: “You didn’t send the order?”

Customer #3: “No, I didn’t. You should have known that I needed this book, too. Why didn’t you order it?”

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“Yeah, I Guess,” And Its Sequel, “I Dunno”

, , , , , | Right | May 25, 2021

Two boys, around fourteen years old, walk in and just stand inside the door, hands in their pockets, not looking at anything. I walk over.

Me: “Hello. Can I help you?”

Boy #1: “Yeah, we need books.

Me: “What kind of books?

Boy #1: “Dunno. Books.

Me: “For yourself? Or as a gift for somebody?

Boy #1: “Ourselves.

Boy #2: “We’ve got detention and the teacher said to bring a book to read.”

Me: “Ah, I see. What kind of books do you like?”

Boy #1: “Dunno.”

Me: “Would you like to look around and see what we’ve got?

Boy #2: “Nah, you show us.”

I start at the nearest display.

Me: “Do you guys like to take pictures?

Boy #1: “Yeah, I guess.

Me: “Here are some books about photography. This one’s about cameras and lenses and so on, and this one shows how to take a great photo with just the right colours and lighting. Would you like to look at them?

Boy #1: “Nah, sounds boring.

Me: “No photography books, then. Do you like scary stories?”

Boy #1: “Yeah, I guess.

The two of them are “Yeah-I-guess” interested in adventure, technology, sci-fi, true crime, cars, animals, foreign countries, history, philosophy, whodunnits, superheroes, Norse mythology, politics, and romance.

Every book I suggest either “Nah-sounds-boring” or “Nah-looks-too-long.” They never take their hands out of their pockets. I wonder if I should send them to the library just to get them off my hands.

While I’m taking the two of them from display to shelf and from shelf to display, showing them everything except the preschool picture books, my coworker is helping other customers. The doorbell chimes and one of our regulars comes in.

Coworker: “Hello, Mrs. [Regular]! Over here.”

He pulls a book from a shelf and holds it out to her. 

Regular: “That’s the one. Thank you!”

She follows my coworker to the till, buys the book, and leaves. My two teenagers have been watching. 

Boy #2: “Why can’t you do what he does?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Boy #2: “He just looked at that lady and knew what book she wanted.”

Boy #1: “Yeah, why can’t you do the same thing for us?”

Boy #2: “Or maybe he should look at us and give us our books.”

I suppress a groan, turn a beginning facepalm into a hair-adjusting gesture, and switch my smile back on.

Me: “My coworker has a special gift. If you’d like, we can go over and ask him to find the books you want.”

I walk them over. My coworker must have heard what we said, because as we are approaching, he squints at [Boy #1], then closes his eyes, murmurs to himself, and says:

Coworker: “Yes, yes, I can see it. You want, you want—” *points in a random direction* “—that one!”

He’s pointing at the technology shelf. [Boy #1] walks over, pulls out a book about the history of cars, and says:

Boy #1: “Yeah, this one looks good.”

My coworker repeats the process with [Boy #2]. Both end up buying books that they didn’t want earlier when I suggested them. After they’re gone, I turn to my coworker.

Me: “Mrs. [Regular] called ahead, didn’t she?”

Coworker: *Grinning* “Yes, she did.”

Me: “Why do you always get the easy ones?”

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A Whole Continent Of Brotherly Disdain

, , , , | Right | January 10, 2021

An African dressed in a tribal dashiki comes in, speaking some form of African tribal language.

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, but we only speak German and English.”

After he gives me an order in barely intelligible English, I quote the price. He becomes irate.

Customer: “Why is it so much?!”

I go through each item and state its price.

Customer: “Why didn’t you tell me the food costs a lot here? I am your African brother! Why do you treat me like this? We are brothers! You are a black man! Give me a fair price!”

Me: “I do not set or negotiate prices at this fast food restaurant.”

He eventually dug the money up and slapped it forcefully on the counter. After eating, he arose, and as he was heading for the door, he waved to me and said something in an African language. Extremely annoyed with the scene he’d made, I simply nodded. This made him irate again, and he began screaming in whatever language it was until some customers pushed him out of the door.

He continued to stand in the window, staring directly at me with his fists clenched and his eyes wide, breathing heavily. After a solid fifteen minutes, he finally left.

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Talking Turkey, Literally

, , , , | Right | January 8, 2021

I’m an American ex-pat living in Berlin, Germany, where it is heavily multicultural with people from all different ethnic backgrounds. It’s almost a given here that the average person speaks one other language aside from German.

With that said, I have a customer come in and insist on giving his order in Turkish. After informing him three times that I speak English and German, he explodes.

Customer: “There are two million people from Turkey in Germany! It’s not my fault you are too lazy to learn Turkish!” 

Right. While I’m at it, I suppose I should brush up on Russian, Czech, Arabic, French, Spanish, Romanian, Italian…

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Christmas Tarts Never Tasted So Sweet

, , , , , , | Working | December 24, 2020

I’m training as a cook in a fine-dining restaurant. The head chef tells me on my first day to take home any leftovers I want that would otherwise get thrown out anyway; everyone in the kitchen does it, and many servers also pack little lunch bags for themselves every day.

I’m surprised, because any other food service place I worked at before was very strict with leftovers and meals for workers, sometimes even making us pay full price if we ate stuff that was going to be thrown out or could not be sold for some reason.

One day, the chefs miscalculate the savoury tarts they need for a special dinner and we end up with two whole trays left over. After everyone has had their pick, I begin stacking the last tarts — at least fifteen or so — in a to-go container.

Head Chef: “Woah, you really like those, don’t you? Are you going to be eating them for the whole week?”

I’m nervous, because I’m still fairly new at this place and wondering if I misjudged the situation and shouldn’t take more than maybe one or two for myself.

Me: “Actually, I had an idea. I walk past [Train Station that is a well-known hangout/sleeping place for many homeless people] on my way home, and I was gonna hand them out to anyone who wants some. They’re good to eat cold, right?”

Head Chef: “Absolutely. That’s a wonderful idea. Here, let’s pack some sweet tarts, too.”

I’m relieved he’s not actually mad, and many of the homeless people are happy about the free food. A few weeks later, I come into work after a big Christmas party booking the day before, and the head chef waves me over.

Head Chef: “So, we have about twenty leftover Christmas dinners in the walk-in fridge upstairs. I told the night crew to keep them for you for the train station. Make sure to tell me before you leave, so we can heat them up and pack ’em to go, okay?”

I was a bit flabbergasted. True to his word, I found several trays of roast goose, sauce, dumplings, veggies, and red cabbage in the fridge, and he helped me with reheating and packaging them after the dinner rush.

Thanks to the attention of a very conscientious head chef, a whole group of homeless people were treated to a first-class Christmas meal. That was the point at which I realised I was quite lucky to get a trainee position at his restaurant and learn from him.


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