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If You Can’t Please Anybody, Please Nobody

, , , | Right | June 16, 2022

I work in a store where we sell handmade items from Africa — furniture, decorative items, porcelain, lamps, etc. The owners themselves go to Africa to buy products for the store and see the working conditions and such. It is very poor where they buy from, and they have happily seen how they and others with similar initiatives have been able to create more work for people.

I repeatedly have people complain that the prices are too expensive, and I have to explain that the products are handmade and shipped from southern Africa and that both the store and those making the products need to make a living. Some people want to get extra good prices if they buy two plates, for example, to which I know the answer is no. If they are to make a really big order, we can ask the owners, but that is significantly more than a few plates.

However, sometimes there comes a customer who complains that the prices are too low, that we can’t possibly pay them enough in Africa, and that we are using them, to which I have to explain that the owners themselves go down to see that everything is handled properly and that I have been along for one of those trips myself. It is true they are not paid as much as people are here, but it is a good salary for where they live and they are very happy being able to get a job.

Having these discussions over and over can make the head spin, especially as I try to make it so the customers are all feeling heard and try to take their opinions as valid points, even though I’ve heard them a hundred times over.

At one time, we had these handmade baskets that were made by women who were able to make them while caring for their families at home, which is important in their culture. It gave them the opportunity to get a salary while caring for their children. Together with that, we had a few pictures the owners had taken when visiting them. In a few cases, the children of these women also helped, wanting to do what their moms were doing. This, of course, caused a customer to accuse us of using child labor.

Customer #1: “This is horrible! It is child labor! I will never shop here again!”

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that. It is actually the women who do the work, but sometimes their children want to help, too. The owners visited them themselves and saw no signs of the children being forced to do it.”

Customer #1: “And these prices, they are far too low. Are you even paying them enough?”

I am just about to get into that when another customer interrupts us, showing me a bowl.

Customer #2: “This is really too expensive for a bowl. How can you take such high prices for this?”

Customer #1: “What? No, that is way too low a price. Don’t you care for the people making these things? It should cost a lot more!”

Customer #2: “Are you kidding me? No one can afford this!”

I tried to interrupt, but at this point, they were ignoring me, and since they were still keeping a civil tone, I actually let them have their discussion, excusing myself as customers were waiting to pay for their purchases. They continued for a while before they broke off. I thought for sure they would both leave, but they actually both made purchases in the end.

It was a very weird, yet satisfying day for me.

Must Be Here For The Secret Sales

, , , , , | Right | June 13, 2022

After college, I worked at a fabric store just outside of Washington, DC. One day, a member of the Secret Service came in and informed us that the wife of a foreign leader wanted to shop in our store. He needed to check out the layout and entrances to be sure there were no risks. He walked around and had us lock the loading dock door, but he said we could stay open for regular business while this VIP was shopping.

The lady showed up about an hour or so later with a couple more male agents. She spent a long time shopping (spending thousands of dollars) so a lot of customers came and went while she was there. A few of them asked why the Secret Service was there.

The lead agent came over to me at one point and said:

Agent: “Please don’t tell anyone we are with the Secret Service.”

Me: “Uh, sir, this is a fabric store and we don’t get many male customers in the first place. You are wearing earpieces and suits; it’s obvious who you are!”

The VIP had such a great time that she came back the next day to buy more fabric. This time, her security detail wore Hawaiian shirts. They didn’t look any less conspicuous!

Death By Twenty-Seven Cuts

, , , , | Right Working | June 7, 2022

A lady comes in five minutes before closing time at the fabric store I work in.

Customer: “I want twenty-seven cut lengths of this net curtain material.”

Me: “That is going to take over an hour, so we can’t do that so close to closing.”

Customer: “Manager.”

She spoke to my manager, and the manager gave me a written warning. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of injustice.

At Least You Can Catch Them Before They Bolt

, , , | Right | February 22, 2022

I work in a fabric store. Sometimes we encounter people that we call “bolt swappers”. They’ll unwrap a pricey fabric and wrap it on a cheaper bolt, thinking we won’t notice the embroidered satin ringing up as a cheap cotton. It’s not even rolled neatly. C’mon. I usually say:

Me: “Whoops! Looks like this was put on the wrong bolt! Let me get the correct one!”

I’ll go to the clearance table and, lo and behold, find the cheap cotton in a pile and a discarded satin bolt.

This Just Adds Up To Make The Customer Look Bad

, , , | Right | February 7, 2022

A couple of years back, I had a customer that wanted to purchase 1,5 meters of a fabric that had 2,8 meters width to split and make two pieces of curtain that he wanted to measure 1,50 by 1,80.

Me: “You’ll need more fabric; splitting the 2,80 in half as you’re requesting would leave two pieces of 1,40, and you would end up with even smaller curtains as sewing takes some fabric, too.”

He got offended and started screaming at me.

Customer: “I’m a math teacher! A r******d salesgirl like you couldn’t know better than me!”

He made a huge show for everyone in the shop to watch.

Customer: “This is why you’re just a retail worker. You don’t have enough brains for even this simple job, while I am a respected teacher!”

I was seriously considering quitting at that moment, as I don’t handle being yelled at by strangers well (especially with no warning signs), but something magical happened.

The man’s wife came in to see what was taking him so long! That saint of a woman asked what was going on.

Customer: “This fat r****d doesn’t understand me!”

I explained the problem. She got mad — used-his-full-name mad.

Wife: “Is this the math you’re teaching your students?! Multiply 1,8 by 2 for me.”

The guy was embarrassed as he realised he was indeed wrong and left without another word. His wife finished the transaction without a problem and my faith in humanity was restored — for now.