Be Nice, Get Beer… Why Can’t Everything Be This Simple?  

, , , , , , | Right | December 31, 2019

(My wife and I have found out about a music and local beer festival happening not far from us. We get in the car and find out we’re the first ones to show up for the day. As we get in line, the ladies working the admissions and beer ticket table — in the blowing, rainy weather that is typical of our area of Virginia during the late fall — are having technical issues. Namely, the device they’re using to try to run the debit/credit cards isn’t connecting to the Wi-Fi. As they trying to fix this, they keep apologizing profusely.)

Lady #1: “Hey, we’re really sorry about this! Normally, it doesn’t take this long! We don’t mean to keep you all out there in this weather.”

Me: “Oh, hey, it’s fine. I don’t mind. We’ve got plenty of time, and in a little while, I’m going to get some good beer, and I’m here with my favorite person ever, so it’s totally fine!”

Lady #2: “Most people wouldn’t be so calm about this, you know? Like, they’d be yelling at us.”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve worked in customer service for 19 years; trust me, I know. I always try not to be ‘that customer,’ you know? The one you tell stories about when you go home? Shoot, there’s no reason for that.”

Lady #1: *laughing* “Well, did you want to yell at us even a little bit? Just pretend or something? Might make you feel better!”

Me: “Oh, gods, no! I’d feel terrible. Besides, it wouldn’t even be believable.”

Wife: “Yeah, he’s a terrible actor. I always know when he’s on about something. He wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Lady #1: “You two are probably about the nicest people we’ll have all day. Tell you what. Go on in the bar and have them ring you up in there, and then go ahead and go right to the front of the beer line. They’ll take care of you in there.”

(I was able to get right to the front of the beer line and got a nice tall cup of the seasonal beer I’d been waiting most of a year for! Being nice to customer service folks can really pay off!)

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All I Want For Christmas Is Michelle Obama

, , , | Right | December 25, 2019

(My mom owns her own business, selling various kinds of bags: purses, backpacks, diaper bags, etc. One of her most popular lines that she’s carried for years now is a line of purses that have photos of Michelle Obama on them. Usually, it’s a collage of magazine covers featuring her, but there are a few that just have one portrait of her on the front. She sells a TON of these bags every year, to people from all different backgrounds, races, etc. This summer, I am helping her at one of the out-of-state festivals. I’m manning the tent by myself and showing a wallet to a middle-aged white woman when she looks at the back wall of the tent and scoffs. I’ll go ahead and note that my mom and I are white.)

Customer: “Why on earth would you carry those bags?” *points to the Michelle Obama bags*

(I’ve worked in retail before, so I put on my best fake smile.)

Me: “Oh, those! That line is one of our best sellers!”

Customer: “Oh, you mean…” *leans in and stage-whispers* “With the blacks?”

(I pause for a second. I want to take the wallet out of her hands and tell this lady to buzz off, but this is my mom’s business and I don’t want to do anything like that without consulting her.)

Me: “Actually, we sell them to all kinds of people. They’re quite popular. They were her number-one seller last Christmas.”

Customer: *backtracks a little* “Oh, well, I guess my Republican brain won’t let me like them.” *laughs and hands the wallet back to me* “I’ll think about the wallet.”

(The rest of the day, we’re so busy I don’t have time to mention the incident to my mom, but that evening at dinner I tell her about it.)

Mom: “Another one? That’s been happening a lot this year. People are so ignorant.”

Me: “I wanted to tell her point-blank that we didn’t want her business, but I decided to wait until I could talk to you about it.”

Mom: “That’s exactly what you should do, [My Name]! When it comes up I’ve been saying:’ Why would I not want to sell a bag that’s obviously so popular with people? If it offends you that much to buy a purse that’s sold next to one of my Michelle Obama bags, you can go find it somewhere else.’”

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Sadly, Some Adults Don’t Grow Out Of This

, , , | Right | November 15, 2019

(The non-profit that I volunteer for has recently begun getting booths at outdoor festivals during the summer to introduce our organization to the community, to educate people about our cause, and to do some fundraising. Our booth consists of an activity that costs a dollar and lasts about two minutes. The dollar is a suggested donation, and people will sometimes give more. It is this festival’s inaugural year, so not many people are aware of it. However, it is being held at a popular park, so the foot traffic is good. I’m working the front of the booth, taking donations and explaining the activity. I’m approached by some kids who appear to be about twelve years old. They’re dressed brightly for the festival’s theme and seem to be at the age where parents drop kids off at a location with a little money with the promise of being picked up at a later time.)

Me: “Hi. Would you like to do [activity]? It’s a dollar per person donation for two minutes.”

Tween #1: “That sounds awesome! Two, please.”

([Tween #1] hands me a five-dollar bill, and I give them back three dollars. They get in line behind a few others. After several minutes, [Tween #1] returns to the front of the booth with the three dollars change I gave them.)

Tween #1: “Can we give this to you as a donation?”

Me: “Absolutely! Thank you so much!”

(They return to the line, do the activity, and leave happy. I am still manning the donation station an hour or so later when they return. Our booth is popular, so repeat customers are not unusual.)

Me: “Hi there!”

Tween #1: “Hey. Um. So, we want to buy some fans, because it’s pretty warm out, but they cost two dollars.”

(There’s a pause here, and I’m left to figure out that they’ve run out of money and need a dollar each to get paper fans. I’ve observed that kids of this age are often aware of how money works, but not the myriad of faux pas that goes with it. I’m stuck trying to decide if I’m going to be the nice adult that returns part of their donation, or if I’m going to be the one that gives them a life lesson in not requesting refunds of money donated to nonprofits. In the end, I pull out the three dollars and hand them back.)

Tween #1: “We only need two; you can keep the third!”

(I murmur thanks and put the remaining dollar back in the jar. Later, the members of our group are sitting around after the festival, talking about the pros and cons of returning next year. I relay my story with the tweens. The executive director of our nonprofit nods.)

Executive Director: “Yeah, I saw part of that. What did you do?”

Me: “It was really awkward, but I ended up just giving them the two dollars back. I figured their parents could explain to them later. I’ve been doing education about our cause all day and wasn’t up to explaining money faux pas to them.”

Executive Director: *looking for the silver lining* “That’s okay. It’s three dollars we didn’t have before.”

Volunteer: “Oh, man. That sounds like something I might have done as a kid and looked back on as a mortified adult.”

(The others agree with this assessment, and I decide not to mention to them the number of adults I’d encountered while working retail who tried to demand refunds on charity donations.)

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Something Fishy About His Ticket  

, , , | Right | October 4, 2019

(I work at a reggae festival every year with some family and friends. We usually have our shift at the entrance, where we check if people wanting to get in have the correct wristband to be allowed in, or if they have a correct form of prepayment, scan that and give them a wristband before letting them in. Without a correct wristband or prepayment form, they are not allowed in. This happens during a rather quiet moment of few people coming through my lane at the entrance.)

Me: “Hi there.”

Customer: “Hi. Can I come in?”

Me: “I see you’re not wearing the wristband. Did you prepay online? Because if so, show me the form and I can give you a wristband.”

Customer: “Nope.”

(The customer just keeps staring at me for a moment.)

Me: “All right… You can go there to get your wristband, then. It will cost [amount] and I can let you through when you come back wearing it.”

(I point in the direction he needs to go. He, however, looks that way, turns back to me, stares for a moment, and speaks up again.)

Customer: “Can you let me in if I give you a fish?”

Me: “Sorry, what?”

Customer: “A fish!”

(The customer proceeds to open his backpack and take out a living goldfish in a small plastic bag filled with water.)

Me: *taken aback slightly* “Where did you even get that?”

(The customer doesn’t say anything; he just seems to point in a general direction.)

Me: “Sorry, man, no. Can’t let you in. You should go get a wristband there.”

Customer: “Bummer.”

(The customer then sat down next to the entrance, until a moment that one of the lanes was abandoned because the wristband checker there had to do something quickly and the guy just ran through. People like me are not allowed to physically stop or chase people; that’s what we have a security guard for. The security guard looked at the dude sprinting and followed him with his eyes running all the way out of sight around a corner, at which points he slowly got up, let out a loud sigh, and started walking in the direction the guy had run in. Fish dude got free entrance that day.)


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Clueless Is Contagious

, , , , | Friendly | September 27, 2019

(I am selling comics at an outdoor comic festival on a busy street in my city when an older man walks up to my booth.)

Man: “Hey, [My Name]! How are you?!”

Me: “I’m… good?”

(I have no clue who this man is, but he immediately starts talking to me in a way that implies he knows me personally. He also asks how my mother is doing and if her back pain is feeling any better yet, and asks that I tell her he said hi. It’s very common for me not to recognize or remember people, especially at conventions and book fairs. I deal with hundreds of customers in several events per year, but people still expect me to remember that time they bought a book from me three years ago and get offended if I don’t, so I always try to put on a warm smile and pretend like I remember them. I smile and nod, awkwardly sitting at my booth, listening to this guy have a rather one-sided conversation with me and feeling frustrated at all the potential sales I might be missing out on while he blocks my booth. Suddenly, an old woman walks up to him excitedly.)

Old Woman: “Oh, hey!

Man: “Oh! Hi!

(They excitedly greet each other and break into an energetic conversation as the woman tries to catch up with him, asking him how his family is doing and immediately telling him what’s new with hers. Meanwhile, I’m relieved that I don’t have to talk to him anymore, so I just play with my phone and wait for them to finish. After a nice, friendly conversation, they finally wrap it up and the woman leaves, as he waves her goodbye. Then, he leans over to me, covering his mouth and whispering out of the side of his mouth:)

Man: “That was all well and good, but I haven’t got a clue who that was!”

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