You Can’t Be Vilnius!

, , , , , | Right | January 30, 2018

(I work in the home department. A lady in her forties approaches me on the till.)

Customer: “I want to return this blender.”

(The receipt says it was bought a year ago and it has clearly been used.)

Me: “What’s wrong with the item?”

Customer: “Nothing. I just don’t use it anymore.”

Me: “I can’t process a refund for you because it’s been used and you’ve had it for a year now.”

Customer: “But the guarantee is for two years!”

Me: “The guarantee is for faulty or damaged items only. I am afraid I can’t do anything for you.”

(The customer looks confused, so I explain to her how a guarantee works. She looks a bit suspicious.)

Customer: “Where is your accent from?

Me: “I am from Lithuania, part of the Baltic States, neighbours with Latvia, Poland, and Belarus.”

(A lot of people have never heard of Lithuania, so I am used to it. But this lady is a real gem.)

Customer: “All right. One of my colleagues is Polish. You guys all speak the same language, don’t you?”

Me: “No, we have our own language.”

Customer: “Oh, I am sure you do.”

Me: “I assure you that we have different languages and different cultures.”

Customer: “Could you ask someone else about the blender, dear? I am concerned you might be wrong about the guarantee if you don’t know what language you guys speak.”

(I try to figure out if I have heard her correctly. After few moments of silence I assure her that I really know the how the guarantee works, but after few blank stares I just phone my manager. She confirms what I have said is correct. Unfortunately, the customer looks even more suspicious.)

Customer: “Are you here legally?”

Me: *even more shocked* “Yes, I definitely am!”

Customer: “Can I see your visa?”

(I am trying to hold myself back, and instead of saying this is not her d*** business, I just politely explain:)

Me: “I don’t have one, because I am from the EU, so I don’t need one.”

Customer: “I am sure you do!”

Me: “Well, if you are sure…”

(I end up explaining to her that travelling inside the EU doesn’t require a visa, and it works in both ways. When she’s traveling somewhere in the EU, she doesn’t need a visa, either.)

Customer: “Yes, I understand that, but England is not in the EU; it’s in the United Kingdom!”

(I can’t believe this, but I actually end up explaining that the UK is a part of the EU.)

Customer: “Dear, would you say America is a part of the EU?”

Me: “No, that is part of the USA.”

Customer: “You see? And England is a part of the UK! You really need to learn your geography, dear.” *smiles and leaves*

(My colleague is standing at the next till.)

Colleague: “All right! I always though Lithuania was a part of Russia!”

Me: “Yeah, sure. Why not?”

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Totally Uwabaki-Wacky

, , , , | Right | January 26, 2018

(This weirdness happens after the customer before this woman has purchased a large number of flip-flops.)

Customer: *leans conspiratorially toward me and whispers* “What do you think she was buying all those shoes for?”

Me: “Well, when I was in Japan for college, I know it was a practice to offer ‘house-shoes’ to guests so they could remove their ‘outside-shoes’ and keep from tracking dirt on the carpets. Maybe she wants to do something like that. I do it, too, as a matter of fact.”

Customer: “Oh! I see! That’s a good idea!”

(I’m happy I might have introduced her to a bit of new cultural knowledge, until…)

Customer: “Yes, that’s a very Oriental thing to do. It sounds like something they’d do in California. You know, I heard it’s illegal for the Orientals to wear shoes inside out there, to protect the hardwood floors!”

(I answered that I wasn’t aware of any such laws either in California or in Japan, and rushed her out of my till. I’m still trying to decide if she had dementia or was just trying to sound smarter than she obviously was. Seriously… “Orientals?”)

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Has Mixed Feelings About HR

, , , , , , , | Working | January 22, 2018

(I am of mixed race — my mom is black and my dad is white — but I have predominantly Caucasian features. I get called into HR after a verbal fight I had with another mixed coworker. She is accusing me of being racist towards her. I have a generic first and last name, so unless I choose to disclose my parentage, I can easily pass for white.)

Human Resources: “Hello, [My Name]. Thanks for coming. This is a safe space to share our feelings in, so no one feels attacked here.”

(My coworker sniffles and glares at me as I sit down.)

Me: “Okay.”

Human Resources: “So, let’s discuss what happened on Thursday, and how we can move forward. [Coworker] feels like you’re singling her out for being mixed and are purposely giving her easy work and putting her down in front of the boss due to her race.”

Me: “Now—”

Coworker: “I just feel so unsafe at work.”

Human Resources: “Don’t worry, [Coworker]; we are here to change that.”

Me: “Can I say something?”

Coworker: “You’ve said enough. It’s clear how you feel about black people.”

Human Resources: “Now, now, let’s stay calm. It’s a safe space. Now, [My Name], since is the first altercation, you won’t be fired.” *Yes, this is literally how she started the conversation* “But—”

Me: “Uh, excuse me? Aren’t you going to ask my side of the story?”

Human Resources: “Uh, well, sure, but—”

Me: “I hope you aren’t just taking her side because she’s more black than I am.”

Coworker: “YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD IT IS BEING MIXED!”

Me: “NEWSFLASH! I’m mixed, too!”

Coworker: “What?”

Me: “I look white, but my mom is black. So, let’s go back you accusing me of being racist towards you for being mixed. Now that it’s clear I’m mixed, too, please explain to me how I’ve been demeaning to you because of your lineage. I’m sure my parents want to know where they went wrong with me.”

Coworker: *rushed* “Maybe I overreacted.”

Human Resources: “Okay, due to this turn of events, maybe we can settle it.”

Me: “Yeah, thanks to you finding out I’m mixed, all of a sudden I’m not the bad guy, huh? What if I hadn’t been mixed? You weren’t even going to hear my side of the story! You would’ve just taken her at her word, and I might’ve been out of that supervisor promotion I applied for. You could’ve ruined my future at this company all because I ‘look white.’”

(I stormed out of the office and found the nearest office with the words supervisor on it. I was led to the supervisor of the HR rep, and he listened to me rant for at least an hour before, calmly, helping me find a solution. Neither the HR rep or my coworker were fired, but the HR rep was unofficially demoted and my coworker was moved to a different floor. I haven’t had any trouble since, and although I got passed over for supervisor, my current boss practically told me I have her position when she goes on maternity leave. After this altercation, my mom half-jokingly told me to leave a picture of all of us on my desk in case of future misunderstandings of my race.)

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Married To The Wrong Assumption

, , , , , | Friendly | January 19, 2018

(My brother is a high-ranking officer and is a very racially-mixed white man. His wife is a dark-skinned Filipino woman. When they go fancy military parties, other white military wives think my sister-in-law is a waitress, even when she’s wearing a fancy dress. The following interaction happens a lot.)

Woman: *goes up to my sister-in-law* “Excuse me, but what you’re doing is very inappropriate.”

Sister-In-Law: *confused* “What is?”

Woman: “You shouldn’t be flirting with the officers here. It’s unprofessional, and you shouldn’t risk a man’s career by getting pregnant.”

Sister-In-Law: “I am American, and he’s my husband.”

Woman: “I’m going to talk with your manager.”

(Later on the woman and her husband came up to my brother, introducing themselves. The woman stayed quiet after my brother introduced my sister-in-law as his wife.)

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Taking The Mystery Out Of It

, , , , , , , | Working | January 18, 2018

(I’m training to be a salesperson for a mattress store. After we finish training, my district manager says this:)

District Manager: “So, before you go out on the floor, I want you to go into one of our stores and pretend to be a shopper.”

Me: “Like a mystery shopper?”

District Manager: “Exactly! See if they’re following the sales module like they’re supposed to and write it down on this paper.” *gives me a sheet*

(I go and, to be honest, I’m pretty excited because I’ve never been a mystery shopper and it sounds fun. I pretend to be interested in a buying a bed. There’s an old man working there, watching TV at a desk in the corner. He looks up and smiles but doesn’t get up.)

Me: “Hi, I’m looking for a bed.”

Old Man: “Yeah, you can try out beds if you like.”

Me: “Okay.”

(I leave and he says nothing. On my sheet, I write that he didn’t try out the sales module with me, and that he didn’t seem very interested. Under the question: “Do you think he passed or failed in trying to sell?” I put “Failed.” Skip forward a week, I am assigned a store to work in: the very same one that I went into! And there’s the same old man, still sitting at the desk, except not watching TV.)

District Manager: “[Old Man], this is [My Name]. She’s new.”

Old Man: “Hello!” *shakes my hand*

District Manager: “She came in here about a week ago. Do you remember her?”

Old Man: *smile fades* “Oh… Yeah!”

District Manager: “She pretended to be a shopper. And she says you failed!”

(The man shoots a look at me and I cringe. I didn’t expect to be put on the spot like this!)

District Manager: *scolding* “Yeah. She said that you were very uninterested in making a sale with her while she played a shopper! Do we have to train you again?”

Old Man: “Uh, no! I was… um… I thought she was a Muslim, and they’re very hoity-toity… Uh…” *flails*

(That’s the story of how I got stuck working with someone I had failed in sales. Needless to say, he was very cold with me and didn’t bother to help me when I had a questions. Things were so bad after that, I quit. I’m also not sure why he thought I was Muslim.)

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