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When Everything Comes Crashing Down, Literally

, , , , , | Working | September 1, 2021

I used to work in a smoke shop. We had shelves sitting in the middle of the worker area, holding dip and chew and cigarettes. They went nearly to the ceiling. Those things were rickety, and a stiff breeze would have toppled them.

So, you can guess what had happened when I came in one day and saw that the shelves were all gone. Someone told me the details of what happened, and it was an “OMG!” moment, to be sure.

The shelf decided to let go at the least opportune moment and fell over onto [Coworker]. It slammed her into the register and actually pinned her head there.

Bless the customer she had been waiting on; he got a rush of adrenaline, jumped clean over the counter into the worker-only area, and lifted it off of her.

A couple of big, burly security officers had to come in, pull everything off the shelves, and drag those menaces out of the building one at a time.

This was decades ago before the world got more lawsuit-savvy. Sadly, not much else was done, not even to check out other displays to make sure they were safe. To this day, [Coworker] STILL has back problems from the incident. 

Management didn’t even close the store. They just kind of shrugged with a blank face and a “Meh. Oh, well,” attitude. Oh, wait. I nearly forgot. They did do something: they griped for weeks about losing a display and having to pay for another one.

I’m so very, very glad I don’t work there anymore.

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Exhaust ‘Em

, , , , | Right | October 14, 2020

Many years ago, I owned a franchise tobacco shop. The one problem we had to handle almost daily were the prank phone calls.

You know the kind. Being a tobacco shop, we got literally hundreds of these crank calls, usually all the same. For the uninitiated, it goes like this:

Caller: “You got Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?”

For reference, Sir Walter Raleigh is the name of a tobacco.

Employee: “Yes, we do.”

Caller: “Well, you’d better let him out before he suffocates. HAW HAW!”

The callers are usually pubescent if not pre-pubescent and they always hang up before you can say anything in response. Now, this is before caller ID, so they feel rather bulletproof. 

Not in my store. 

My usual response is not to play along. We don’t, in fact, carry Sir Walter Raleigh Tobacco but just saying “No, sorry,” doesn’t seem enough. Sure, it shuts them down, and many times I try, “Oh, PUH-LEEEEZ! You are not really going with that tired joke, are you?” before hanging up.

We also have an import tobacco named Three Nuns which comes in a small tin of four ounces. So, every now and then I respond, “No, but we do have Three Nuns in a four-ounce tin..”

This usually gets us about fifteen seconds of dead phone before a click.

The best time we ever had with the little guys comes one lazy summer afternoon when there are no customers, there’s no work to be done, and our minds are alive with ideas. The phone rings.

Me: [Pipe Shop].”

The caller has a high, squeaky voice, a dead giveaway that this is NOT a serious call.

Caller: “Yes, sir. Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a can?”

Oh, no, you don’t, kid!

Me: “One moment.”

Before the kid can respond, I put the phone down and holler loudly across the store.

Me: “Hey, [Assistant Manager], we got Sir Walter Raleigh…” *dramatic pause* “…in a can?

Assistant Manager: “Does he want the three-ounce tin or the fourteen-ounce can?”

Me: *To the caller* “Do you want the three-ounce tin or the fourteen-ounce can?”

Caller: “The fourteen-ounce can. Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh in a fourteen-ounce can?”

He feels that he has to repeat the key phrase for this to work.

Me: “One moment.”

Again, I set the phone down.

Me: “[Assistant Manager], he wants the fourteen-ounce can.”

I repeat the phrase, so that the kid can hear.

Me: “We got Sir Walter Raleigh in the fourteen-ounce can?

Assistant Manager: “Aromatic or Regular?”

Me: *To the phone* “Did you want the Regular or the Aromatic?” *Playing the good salesman* “The Regular is the Red Label and comes in a fourteen-ounce tin, whereas the Aromatic is the blue label and has only twelve ounces of tobacco.”

The caller is becoming agitated now but strangely determined.

Caller: “Uhh. Regular. Do you have Sir Walter Raleigh regular in a fourteen-ounce can?

Me: “One moment.” *Puts down the phone* “[Assistant Manager], he wants the Regular; we got any Sir Walter Raleigh Regular in the fourteen-ounce can?

We are both stifling giggles now.

Assistant Manager: “Does he want the cross cut or the long cut?”

Aha, he’s getting creative…

Me: *To the phone* “Long cut or cross cut?”

The kid is nearing the end of his patience and is nearly shouting into the phone.


He’s like a broken record.

Me: “Okay, then let me get this right. You want the Sir Walter Raleigh, Regular — that’s with the Red Label — either long cut or cross cut, in the fourteen-ounce can, is that right?”


Me: “Nope.”

I hung up the phone.

We would have loved to have seen the kid’s face after all that. We both broke down laughing so hard that security guards from the mall passing by had to come in and find out what was so funny.

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Close, But No Cigarillo

, , , , , | Right | July 17, 2019

(I am working in the drive-thru window at a cigarette store next to a good-sized casino. It is about an hour before shift change when a van drives up with about seven guys in it.)

Customer #1: “Hey, do you have money to break $100?”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve got a little bit. What can I get for you?”

Customer #1: “I’d like a [cigarillo].”

(I get the item and ring it up.)

Me: “Okay, that’s going to be [less than $1].”

(He pays and I give him his change when the next guy leans over, waving another $100.)

Customer #2: “Hey, I want one, too!”

(I pause and look into the van. I see them all digging through their wallets.)

Me: “Hey, guys, show of hands; how many of you are buying a single [cigarillo] before you go to the casino?”

(They indicate they all are.)

Me: “And are you all paying with a $100 each?”

(They again all indicate they are.)

Me: “Yeah, I don’t have enough for that. Unless your buddy here treats you all, you’ll need something smaller to pay with. The cage girls in the casino can break your bills easier than I can.”

(They grumbled but all ended up managing to pay with $1 bills.)

This story is part of the Drive-Thru roundup!

Read the next Drive Thru roundup story!

Read the Drive-Thru roundup!

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Suddenly Feeling Very Sorry For That Sister

, , , , | Right | May 14, 2019

(I work in a small cigar store that doesn’t have the space for a public restroom. The one we do have is for employees only because it is in the back with the rest of the stock. A customer comes up to the counter.)

Me: “Did you find everything all right?”

Customer: “No! I need to pee. Where is your bathroom?!”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry, sir, but the only one we have is for employees only.”

(The customer stands by quietly while I finish ringing up his purchase.)

Customer: *unintelligible grumbling* “…right here!”

Me: “Excuse me, sir?”

Customer: “I said, ‘What if I peed right here?’ I don’t know if I can hold it.”

Me:Please do not pee here, sir!”

Customer: *as he’s walking out* “I’ll call my sister! She’ll know what to do!”

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Not Going To Crack This Business

, , , | Right | October 21, 2018

(For those that don’t know, head shops sell products for “tobacco use only,” but are generally used for weed. This interaction starts with a man coming in my store, requesting that I “don’t judge him,” and telling me that the woman who is about to walk in is “crazy.” I oblige and say no judgments.)

Me: “Hey, how’s it going? Anything I can help you find today?”

Woman: “Yes, I’m looking for straight glass pipes.”

Me: “We sell glass blunts; every other glass item is either flared or a standard pipe.”

Woman: “No, like I’m looking for a pipe, like for crack cocaine.”

Me: *standing awkwardly* “Ma’am, we don’t sell those here.”


Me: “Ma’am, those are downstems, for water-pipes, and they are flared at the end, not straight.”

Woman: “Well, I need something like this.” *pulls out used and broken crack pipe*

Me: *wide-eyed and staring* “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to leave…”

(She returned ten minutes later, and another two times after that in the span of an hour, each time with more money falling out of her bra, and purchasing increasingly random combinations of items each time. No other mention or sight of illegal substances or devices.)

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