This Is Why We Need Black History Month, Part 2

, , , , , , | Right | June 18, 2021

It’s 1988 and I have been with the library for not quite a year.

Black History Month is upon us and children of all shapes, sizes, colors, and cute smiles are looking for information on various famous people.

But they clearly do not know what or who they are looking for.

Child #1: “I am doing a report on a famous black singer. Her name is Martha.”

Me: “Oh, good choice. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were a great singing group!” 

Child #1: “There’s another Martha? My report is on Martha Luther and her Kings.”

Next child:

Child #2: “I need a book on a famous black man who got his leg shot off during the war.”

Me: “Um, I am going to need more information than that. Which war are we talking about?”

Child #2:The war.”

Me: “Honey, there have been lots of wars over the years. Was it the Civil War? The American Revolution? World War II?”

Child #2: “The Revolution! Yes, the revolution! When the people came here from England to fight the Americans to free the slaves.”

We finally figured out we were looking for Crispus Attucks, though I don’t remember him getting his leg “shot off,” only that he was among the first killed at the start of the Revolution.

And then there were the inventors. Not Lattimer or McCoy or Madame C.J. Walker. No, we are talking about the well-known John Doe. Mary Smith. Lotta Peeples. Who “invented” THE comb. The hairbrush. THE washing machine. And of course, the kids needed at least five books on each of these people.

No surprise, there were none. Cue child sobbing because they have to write an eight page paper on this person.  

We had to start writing a form letter to teachers (which soon became known as the Dear Dummy letter) explaining that back in the day, many, many, many people created and patented a new version of the hairbrush or the comb, or created and patented a different version of a wringer for a hand-cranked washing machine. Or new buttons. Or corsets. Shaving creams…

We had to explain that these people were black, white, Hispanic, or Asian background, and that the only reason we know they existed and what their race was is because the forms for the patent office included a little box for this. ALL we know about the inventor is his or her invention, their name, the number assigned their patent… and their race.

Regardless of their race, there are not five paragraphs, let alone five books on each person.

Imagine having to send that out daily with an extra line scrawled at the bottom saying, “Please allow [Student] to choose a new topic so he won’t flunk your class.”

Every year for closing in on ten years, the head of the tech department where patents were kept would contact teachers and explain that we could not supply five books on the life of a citizen who happened to try making something new for an already existing device, so please don’t ask kids to write a ten-page paper on them. Every year, the teachers would say they understood… and then send the kids in to research the same obscure people anyway.

And of course, my favorite kid was the one who came in with his dad. The child darted across the floor to the desk, leaned against it, and crowed, “Hey! Where your dead black people at?” His father — both were African American — did a facepalm and shook his head. He said, “Son, they aren’t keeping the bodies on ice out back. Tell the lady who you want to read about.”

That exchange had the dad and I laughing for most of the exchange. I miss those days, as the demand for writing reports has fallen off. I just hope I never have to explain to another child that the singer she wants to report on is actually a Civil Rights Leader.

This Is Why We Need Black History Month

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This Is One Heck Of A Yarn

, , , | Right | CREDIT: SomeSonance | June 18, 2021

I work at a craft store chain with several stores in the area. I’m a cashier, but since we have so many cashiers, I often work on the floor when we aren’t as busy. Thanks to the health crisis, we’ve been having slow incomes of stock, piled on top of customers buying more supplies than usual since they are stuck at home having to do crafts.

I am returning items to the shelves when I get stopped by an interesting customer.

Customer: “Hello, do you have this style of yarn in stock?”

Me: “Let me check!”

The customer shows me her phone and I find the item that’s on our app. There’s a SKU there, which I look up, and it shows that we are out.

Me: “I’m sorry, it looks like we are out of that yarn.”

Customer: “Do you have any in overstock?”

Me: “No, we do not. Our list of stock details all stock, including overstock.”

Customer: *Sighs* “When will you be getting more?!”

I need to emphasize that processing is not my field of study in this job, as I am normally a cashier. I do know that we get new shipments in on Mondays, but yarn has been coming in increasingly sparingly and we haven’t gotten many new shipments in a while due to low supply.

Me: “Due to delays and low stock thanks to the health crisis, we are not able to tell when any new shipments of that yarn will arrive.”

Customer: *Beginning to look frustrated* “Are you sure there isn’t any in overstock?!”

Me: “I’m positive. We do not even have an overstock location set for this type of yarn, as we haven’t had overstock for it yet.”

The customer’s kids pop up out of nowhere.

Kid #1: “Mommmmm, I need to go to the bathroom.”

Customer: “Have [Kid #2] take you!”

Kid #2: “But I don’t know where the bathroom is.”

These two children are young. [Kid #2] looks to be maybe five years old, while [Kid #1] is about three years old or so.

Me: “The bathroom is right around this corner!” *Points*

Customer: *Shooing her kids off* “Yeah, yeah, go.” *To me* “Are there any other stores that may have the yarn?!”

Me: “I can check. Can you please give me a moment?”

I check my scan gun for other store availability.

Me: “It looks like nearly every single store in the nearby vicinity is out, as well. Though there is [Location] across the city which may have a few—”

Customer: “But that’s so far! I don’t want to drive out that far!”

I’m trying to stay as silent as I can. I’m not very confrontational at all and try to let the situation calm down as much as I can. The customer is beginning to look really infuriated from such a small thing, and I’m not one to fuel the flames.

Me: “I understand your frustrations, but I’ve checked every single store that could possibly be nearby, and every single one is out of stock except for [Location].”

Customer: “Fiiiiine, but I’m going to call them to make sure they have it.”

I help her set up a call with the other store. She insists that I stay and help her call, even though I have many other things I could do instead. During this time, her children return and are clearly desperate for their mother’s attention, but the customer physically shoos them off because this call is apparently more important. Eventually, she gets on the phone with the other store after calling three times.

Customer: “Hello. Can you check if you have this specific yarn in stock? I have the SKU number here.”

Employee: “Sorry, we aren’t able to do that since we are busy right now and don’t have anyone available on the floor to check.”

Customer: “But I need to see if you have this yarn before I drive all the way out there!”

Employee: “There isn’t anyone available to check for you right now.”

Customer: *Frustrated* “Can I speak to the manager?!”

Employee: “I’m gonna put you on hold.”

While she’s on hold, the customer addresses me.

Customer: “[Craft Store] has terrible customer service!”

I am baffled. This customer has now just addressed me, a customer service member of said craft store, complaining about the customer service of said craft store. I have no clue how to respond and simply awkwardly nod. What kind of response am I supposed to give?! I want nothing more than to get out of this. For five agonizing minutes on hold, I sit with the customer and her energetic children begging for attention. Eventually, though, the other location’s manager picks up the call.

Manager: “Hello?”

Customer: “Hi there. Can you check if you have this item in stock?”

Manager: *Checks* “I’m sorry, we do not have any of that yarn in stock.”

Customer: “But I’m at a different store and it says you do have it in stock!”

Manager: “Sometimes the system incorrectly puts in the number in stock when mixing up returns. Our apologizes.”

Customer: “Are you sure?!

Manager: “Yes, I’m sure.”

The customer hangs up and turns back to me. I manage to negotiate and look at other yarn she may also need for her project and see if she can get that yarn first. It takes many more grueling minutes of sifting through every single aisle of yarn we have, but I eventually help her get a cart full of yarn for her project. As soon as we finish, I am called up to the register to assist with the line. It is extremely hard to hide the visible relief on my face.

This is not of this [Customer]’s story. Even though we have three cashiers at the registers, I am (un)lucky enough to get [Customer] back at my register when she comes up to pay. Her kids are still running around but she doesn’t even look in their direction. I am desperate never to see her face again, so I quickly ring her up.

Near the end of the transaction, she shows me a coupon.

Me: “I’m sorry, we no longer accept competitors’ coupons.”

Customer: “Since when?!”

Me: “Since last March. There are several signs placed around the registers.” *Points*

Customer: “Do you have any other coupons?”

Me: “We have a 20%-off coupon on our website!”

Customer: “Do you have anything better than that?!”

I explain all the possible options we have for discounts at our store.

Customer: “Can I just… Can I… AUGH!” *Grabs her purse and kids* “Can you put it on hold?”

Me: “Uh… sure… Wait—”

Before I could stop her, the customer nearly ran out of the store with her kids in tow. I tried to stop her to let her know that I needed a name and phone number to put her order on hold, but she was gone before I knew it.

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The Biggest Pests Are The Callers

, , , , | Right | June 17, 2021

There is a realtor who has service with our pest control company and occasionally orders inspections through us for her clients. She is rude, entitled, and snooty, and none of us can stand her. Oftentimes she will call in and demand things that we can’t provide, often legally speaking, like information about other people’s accounts. For a while, we would just tell her no and hang up, but now we’ve all made a point to waste her time as much as she wastes ours.

Realtor: “Hi. I’m calling about a mutual client of ours, [Client].”

Me: “Yes, ma’am?”

Realtor: “When was the last time you serviced his lawn?”

Me: “Do you pay for his lawn service?”

Realtor: *Indignant* “No!”

Me: “Then, I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you that.”

Realtor: *Huffing* “Look, he’s got lots of little purple flowers in his yard and I just want to know what you’re going to do about it!”

What she’s describing is a common weed in this part of Florida, colloquially called “Florida snow.” I’ve been almost manically pleasant with her up to this point, but now I really dial up the innocent sweetness in my voice.

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m not familiar with your client’s landscaping situation or preferences. I would hate to send someone out and have them ruin his yard.”

Realtor: *Screeching* “Well, you’re no help at all!”

Then, she hung up. She’s right, though; we definitely can’t help her at all. Stop calling.

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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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Nursing A Dealing-With-Customers Hangover

, , , , | Working | June 17, 2021

During the health crisis, I receive a request through [Booking Platform] to book my house for one person, for three nights.

Booker: “Hi. We would like to book your lovely accommodation for one of our Filipino nurses coming over on Monday for three nights. She is coming over for some training at [nearby location]. Let me know if it is available!”

This is unusual because, normally, the guest makes the booking themselves.

Me: “Hi. Can you ask the nurse to make the booking directly?”

Booker: “She is already very stressed about the training. Normally, we book on their behalf.”

Me: “I’m going to need more details about how this works, please.”

She explains that she works for a recruitment agency. They hire nurses in the Philippines and hire them to hospitals in the UK. Seems legitimate.

Me: “Thank you. I need to speak to the nurse directly to vet her.”

Booker: “She is called [Guest]; you can reach her on [number]. She flew in yesterday from Manila.”

I phone her. She confirms the details of her stay and is grateful for somewhere within walking distance. A nurse travelling on work seems low risk, so I authorise the booking.

Then, I do more research. I discover that this is called a “third-party booking” and, in short, it is inviting a lot of trouble. It’s against the booking platform’s rules, for good reason. Neither party is protected. If she sets my house on fire, tough. If I kick her out at 3:00 am, tough luck for her.  

However, there seems to be a way to increase my protection: amend the booking to list the additional guests, so it says, “[Booker] and [Guest]”. Since this should be easy to do, I backtrack on the already confirmed booking. Meanwhile, I get a text.

Guest: “I’m bringing my husband, too.”

Me: “The booking is only for one person.”

Guest: “But I’ve read your profile! You have two guest bedrooms. I need him to show me where shops are. Also, I told [Recruitment Agency] I would bring my husband.”

Me: “Right, but I charge extra for additional guests. Anyway, these details need to be included in the original booking. I am also not responsible for communication between you and [Recruitment Agency].”

Guest: “I’ll pay you the extra in cash.”

Me: “Payment has to go through [Booking Platform] to protect both parties. I will amend the booking now to list you and your partner and send it to [Booker] to approve.”

Guest: “But [Booker] is on annual leave!”

Why on earth would someone start a project like this right before they go on leave?

Me: “There will be someone covering for her in the office. I will sort it out quickly and let you know. Just text me when you’re coming, so I can meet you at my house and let you in, okay?”

I amend the booking and send it [Booker] to be approved. There is no reply. I message her on a separate app and state that I won’t let the guest check in unless the amendments are approved. She finally gives me the email address of a director at [Recruitment Agency] based in the Philippines. The director is a doctor and has an MBA. I ask her to contact me immediately. At 2:00 am, my phone rings.

Me: “I need the booking amended for two reasons. First, so the actual guests are listed on the booking. Second, to include my extra fee for [Guest’s Husband] for three nights.”

Director: “I don’t understand what the problem is. We’ve booked thousands of nurses like this and had no problem.”

Me: “That is not how [Booking Platform] works; the guest has to make the booking. In any case, you agreed to those terms when you set up an [Booking Platform] account. It will literally take you twenty seconds to approve this.”

Director: “This higher fee is going to screw up my accounting books! Questions are going to be asked about this. Can’t you just take it in cash? And [Guest’s Husband] is only coming for the first night.”

Me: “Fine, I’ll take it cash and send you a new booking amendment for the same price, with the guests listed.”

I send a new booking, which she finally approves.

Director: “I still don’t see what the problem is!”

Me: “There is no way I’m letting an uninsured guest into my house. It’s pretty important that you understand this, because it affects every single host who you deal with. Would you like me to put it in an email?”

Director: “Yes, please.”

I email her and explain how [Booking Platform] works: the guest makes the booking and lists everyone in their party, only those people are insured, and third-party bookings are bad for the guest and the host. I felt disrespected when they asked me to host an uninsured guest. It’s also really confusing for me. I need a consistent point of contact, and bookings shouldn’t be made the day before someone goes on annual leave.

Finally, check-in day comes. [Guest] doesn’t arrive. She doesn’t contact me or reply to my many calls and messages. In my years of hosting, this has never happened. By 21:00, I’m concerned for her safety. A young, female migrant worker who has just arrived in my country seems like a vulnerable person. I know she is probably sitting in a hotel room somewhere, but I would rather overreact than take the chance that she has come to harm. I call the police and report her missing.

The next morning, I receive an email.

Director: “Please call off the police. [Guest] is safe at training. She is commuting from elsewhere, instead. Since she hasn’t availed of the booking, please refund us in full.”

You have got to be kidding. I am furious.

Me: “Do you mean to say that I spent the entire weekend cleaning my home and waited all of yesterday for [Guest]? She could not find ten seconds to tell me she wasn’t coming? Here is my policy on refunds: cancellation up to five days before check-in. You are one day after check-in, so you are not eligible for a refund. In any case, I am not a hotel. You cannot expect to no-show at a [Booking Platform] accommodation and still get a refund, especially where the house is shared with the host. You’ve been disrespectful to me from the get-go and your attitude has been appalling. Never contact me again.”

I have since amended my house rules. I do not reply to requests for third-party bookings. Any unauthorised overnight guests will result in everyone being removed from the property and the booking cancelled. I learned a hard lesson about reading the warning signs early on.

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