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A Complete Mess

, , , | Right | June 2, 2021

I work in a thrift store and mostly handle the toy and games department. It’s unfortunately very common to see game boxes strewn around where the tape around the lid has been peeled off by customers. Today, I catch one in the act; a man is peeling off the tape from a poker set.

Me: “Sir, please do not remove the tape. All the inside contents are checked by me personally and I can tell you, it’s a complete set.”

Customer #1: “But I put the tape back! See? So no harm done!”

He smiles as he presses the tape back, but it’s obvious it doesn’t really stick anymore.

Me: “Yes, harm is done. I have to take it to the back and re-tape that now, or else the lid gets loose and what’s inside will fall out easily.”

Customer #1: *Still smiling* “No, it doesn’t! I put the tape back! Just like that, see? I just wanted to check if it’s complete!”

Me: “It’s still policy to leave the boxes shut, if you please. Like I said, the items are checked before going on a shelf.”

The man grumbles and puts the set back. A woman approaches me with another game. The box is partially see-through and contains a plastic penguin figure. 

Customer #2: “Good thing I heard you talking to that man! So, can you open this box for me to see if it’s complete? There are supposed to be playing cards in here but I don’t see them!”

Me: “I will also assure you, it’s complete. I remember that game and also wondered where the cards were, but at the bottom of the penguin is a little drawer slot that contains the cards. If it weren’t complete, it wouldn’t be on the shelf.”

Customer #2: “Well, I really want to make sure! Can you please check for me?”

Me: “Ma’am, it is checked. It’s all there.”

Customer #2: “I don’t believe you! What if I take it to the register and check it there?”

Me: “If you plan to purchase it, you can do with it as you wish after.”

Customer #2: “No, I won’t buy it if I don’t know for sure if it’s complete!”

She threw the box back on the shelf and left in a huff.

How To Raise The Tone

, , , | Right | May 13, 2021

A woman comes into my thrift store with her young teen son with a whole bunch of stuff to buy.

Customer: “Hello, I’d like to buy these.”

She plops some items on the counter in front of me. I’m internally bracing myself because she sort of has an aggressive tone of voice. You know the kind: the one where a customer is TELLING you how they think things are going to BE, not how things are going to go according to reality. I’m a little surprised but I hope I can diffuse any anger involved.

Me: “Sure thing. Oh, hey, it looks like you got the color of the month! Any item with a yellow tag is 50% off!”

Customer: *Still very direct* “Oh, good. Let’s see what else we have.”

We find that most of the items she has selected are discounted.

Customer: “Ring these up, please, and tell me how much it will cost with all the discounts applied.”

I start to get the feeling that something is odd here. Her tone is still very abrupt, but she just said “please.”

I total her up and we find out that the unexpected discount means that she can afford a lot more than she thought.

She turns to her son and in the exact same direct tone of voice, tells him to run back and grab the comforter, a pair of pants, and a jacket that they had put back. He responds equally directly, flashes me a friendly smile, and goes sprinting off.

It’s at this moment that it clicks for me; she’s not an angry customer, she just doesn’t really “get” tone-of-voice or subtle suggestion. It’s all completely direct and to the point.

I relax internally, all at once. I help her sort through the stuff she’s buying, then begin to ring. 

Me: “[Item #1], this one is discounted. [Item #2], not discounted. [Item #3], discount. Okay, we’re up to [amount] now. Are we still within budget so far?”

Customer: *Still directly* “Yes. Can you tell me out loud what the cost of each item is as you ring, please? I’d like to keep track as we go.”

Me: “Sure. Is there a limit we want to try to keep under?”

Customer: “Thank you. I’d like to keep under [higher amount].”

We went item by item, checking in with the total after each item to make sure we didn’t go over her budget. She got a small number of very nice blankets and one thick comforter, and she was able to afford the jacket and pants for her kid. Then, she was happily surprised to find that she could just afford to buy a jacket for herself. 

She only missed out on one or two small, non-essential things, and I was complimented on how nice I was and got thanked several times for being so helpful.

I’m just glad that I was on-the-ball enough to catch on and realize that nobody was going to be angry or try to get someone fired out of spite, and that it was just the way she communicated.

Backpack Attack

, , , | Right | May 5, 2021

I’m walking toward our back room to grab some plastic bags for the registers when my coworker grabs me and pulls me aside. He noticed a customer shopping in the men’s clothing who has a backpack on. We don’t allow backpacks inside our store to prevent shoplifting, and we have clear signs letting customers know of our policy.

Me: “How are you doing today, sir?”

Customer: “I’m doing fine.”

Me: “That’s great to hear! I just want to let you know that our store doesn’t allow backpacks inside for security reasons. I don’t think you’re going to steal from us, but I have to follow store policy. If you want, I can take your backpack up front behind the register and bring you back a ticket for it so you can keep shopping.”

Customer: “No, that’s okay. I’ll just leave.”

Me: “Okay. I’m sorry to hear that.”

Customer: “So that’s gonna be your reaction?”

Me: “I’m sorry?”

Customer: “You’re just gonna let me walk out of here? You’re willing to lose a sale over my backpack?”

Me: “Unfortunately, sir, as I’ve already explained, we don’t allow backpacks in our store. I’d be happy to take it up front for you if you want to keep shopping, but if not, you will need to leave.”

Customer: “That’s f****** stupid! You’re willing to lose my money because of a f****** backpack?! That’s a stupid-a** policy!”

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, I am not the person who sets policy.”

I spot my manager, who is walking toward us carrying a stack of laptops.

Me: “If you would like to speak to a manager about this, my manager is coming toward us.” *To my manager* “This customer would like to speak with you.”

I take the laptops from her and carry them up front to our electronics case while she talks to the customer. I run back and grab the bags I need and bring them to the other cashiers. As I’m refilling the bag dispenser at my register nearest the entrance, the customer walks by me rather quickly. 

Customer: *Flipping me off* “F*** you, man! You’re an a**hole. I hope you’re happy now that you’ve lost my f****** business and I’m never coming back to this f****** s*** store ever again.”

He stormed out, still swearing up and down.

Putting The Ouch In Couch

, , , , | Right | April 24, 2021

It is late evening. The majority of the employees have gone home.

A woman catches a glimpse of a couch through the Employees Only doors to the back when it opens briefly. She opens said door and walks straight into the back area in order to look at the couch.

Coworker: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’re not allowed to be back here.”

Customer: “I want to look at that couch.”

Coworker: “Ma’am, that couch is not yet for sale and you still cannot be back here.”

He is now physically blocking her attempts to walk further in by stepping directly in front of her.

Customer: *Huffs* “Fine. Can you at least quote me a price on it?”

Coworker: “No, ma’am, I cannot. I work with electronics, and that couch has only come in today. Our furniture guy can inspect the couch in a day or so and we’ll be able to get you a price then.”

Customer: “You mean to say that there’s no one in the entire store who can price your furniture?!”

Coworker: “Correct. Our furniture guy has gone home for the day.”

The customer finally leaves the Employees Only area and comes storming up to the registers.

Customer: “Your employee in the back was very rude to me! He told me I couldn’t shop back there, and he wouldn’t give me a price on the couch I wanted.”

Me: “Well, it is policy not to let people shop in the areas marked Employees Only, and our furniture guy has gone home for the day.”

She huffs angrily again and demands the store phone number and the name of the “Furniture Guy,” which I give her. She storms out the door, and ten seconds later, the phone rings. It’s the same customer.

Customer: “I would like to speak to a manager!”

I roll my eyes and hand the phone over to the supervisor, as she is the only one of authority left at this hour. My supervisor spends several minutes reiterating that [Coworker] was following policy and that yes, she really does have to wait. She takes a message for the store manager. I talk to the store manager the next day.

Me: “Fair warning, the lady on that note is angry because [Coworker] wouldn’t let her go into the back or get a price on the couch back there.”

Store Manager: *Rolls her eyes* “Gotcha. Thanks for the warning.”

The store manager again reiterates that customers aren’t allowed in the back and that the furniture guy will be inspecting all the furniture in the back that afternoon. After she hangs up, the manager gives me an exasperated look.

Store Manager: “How many people told her the policy?”

Me: “[Coworker], me, [Supervisor], and now you.”

Store Manager: *Facepalming* “She acted like it was a complete surprise that she was not allowed past the Employees Only sign and that what she had done was considered trespassing.”

I don’t know if the lady ever came back for her all-important couch or not, though it did sell a few days later.

This Situation Will Just Snake Along, Part 3

, , , | Right | April 13, 2021

I take my very docile ball python along with me on a trip to the pet store. That goes fine, and on my way home, I remember some things I need at the local thrift store. Now, a reasonable person would go home, drop off the snake, and go back out. But, for brain-no-worky-right reasons, it’s very hard for me to get back out of the house once I’m home. So, I am left with a choice: go home and try to remember to go another day or take my three-foot snake into a retail location that’s not pet-friendly.

I wrap my snake around my neck and pray everyone thinks he’s a particularly chunky necklace. It’s a slow time of day in the off-season, so I make it to the section I need without issue and start browsing. Then, I hear a gasp. I turn around just in time to see a teenage girl run off and, thinking the jig is up, scurry my way deeper into the store to find what I’m looking for and hope they’ll let me buy it before kicking me out.

As I’m frantically searching, I hear a soft “excuse me” from behind me and turn slowly to see the same teenage girl standing about ten feet away, shifting nervously on her feet.

Me: “Yes?”

Teenager: “Is that a real snake?”

Me: “Yes?”

She goes on to tell me that she’s terrified of snakes, but she’s never seen one so relaxed and calm before, and she asks for a picture. Having nothing to lose, I extract my snake’s head, rest it in my palm, and pose. She snaps a photo and thanks me, and I ask her if she would like to try to touch him, which has her going wide-eyed and shaking her head quickly. We say our goodbyes and I find what I need and head to the checkout, my snake having snuggled himself back in around my neck.

I finish paying and the cashier is just handing me my bags when he does a double-take. Welp, you can’t dodge lightning twice, I fear.

Cashier: “Is that a snake?”

Me: “Yes.”

Cashier: “That’s awesome. Have a great day!”

Good thing I didn’t need to do anything else that day. I’m pretty sure I used up all my luck in those ten minutes!

This Situation Will Just Snake Along, Part 2
This Situation Will Just Snake Along