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We Really Hope She Doesn’t Have A Child

, , , , | Right | September 23, 2021

A woman comes into our store and stops by my service desk to check the balances on a few gift cards she has and to ask for directions to one of the departments. She appears to be alone and has apparently imbibed in some sort of pungent alcoholic beverage. She is walking okay, but her breath could send an elephant to rehab.

After I check the balance and point her in the right direction, I ask [Coworker #1] to watch the desk while I take my overflowing cart of defectives back to the compactor. By the time I’m on my way back, it has been about twenty-five minutes since the woman left the service desk. 

On my way back up to the front, I hear [code for a lost child] called over the store’s PA system. From halfway across the floor, I can clearly hear the woman screaming hysterically from the check lanes.

The procedure says that we all have to stop what we are doing to look for said child. Since I don’t have my own walkie and have missed the description of the child, I hurry back to the service desk and ask [Coworker #1] so I can join the search for the kid.

Meanwhile, the woman is pacing up and down the lanes, screaming the kid’s name, crying, and generally upsetting all the other guests.

Coworker #1: “We’re looking for a nine-year-old boy wearing a red shirt and khaki pants.”

Me: “Hair color? Eye color?”

Coworker #1: “Couldn’t get it out of her.”

Here is where I pause, trying to decide if this is a coincidence or if we are just getting trolled by this woman. No hair color, eye color, or any other physical features are available; just “a kid dressed like an employee”? I feel this is suspicious, but the woman seems genuinely upset, so I try to withhold judgment and leave to search for the kid all the same.

I search EVERYWHERE for this kid. In Toys, behind blankets and pillows, heck, even in the boxes for rugs. Everywhere.

Several members of staff report having checked the back rooms in case the kid wandered in and found a weird hiding place.

During this process, I run into [Coworker #2].

Coworker #2: “I’ve helped the lady twice tonight and she was alone both times. She smells like she’s just come from the local bar. I’ve told the manager.”

I ask if anyone has checked her car, and they have, with no results. We are under the code for almost half an hour before it finally gets canceled. I hurry back to the service desk to check in with [Coworker #1] who tells me that [Manager] is checking the video from the cameras in the store and has called down to tell us to cancel the code.

[Manager] does come back, and his expression is one that I recognize: he is angry but trying to be professional.

Manager: “Ma’am, I checked the cameras. You entered our store alone and did your shopping alone. At no time since you entered were you accompanied by a child.”

Customer: *Still in hysterics* “No! I came here with [Child]! He has to be somewhere! Why aren’t you looking for him?! Did your employees even try?! How can you not take it seriously when a child is missing?!”

My manager reiterates that she came in alone, and she insists that she came with a child. By now, the manager is completely fed up.

Manager: “All right, ma’am, since neither one of us is going to budge on this, I think it’s time that we call the police and file a report.”

The woman stops her hysterical behavior very suddenly. I can actually see that, whatever her game plan has been in this farce, she suddenly realizes that a line has been drawn that she doesn’t want to cross.

Customer: “Oh… wait… I forgot him at home. I guess I’d… um… better finish my shopping.”

Manager: “No, ma’am, I think you need to go home and calm down. And I don’t want you to return to my store.”

Customer: “What?! Why?”

Manager: “Because you left your kid at home, then ‘forgot’ that you left him at home, and then you caused a scene at our store and upset a bunch of our other guests. I have video evidence that you approached and harassed several guests and now, after wasting all of our time, you just want to go about your business as if nothing happened. I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I’m ending it right now. Leave my store.”

The woman opens her mouth like she is going to argue, sees the look on the manager’s face, and then leaves.

Manager: *To me* “The cops have already been called. They are waiting for her to get into her vehicle.”

She apparently did get picked up by the police for DUI, and one officer came in to talk to my manager for filing a trespass order against her.

As an ending note, the guests that this lady had harassed were all people of color. She had very aggressively harassed them about the location of her child, demanding to know, “What did you do to [Child]?! Where is he?! What have you done to him?!”

I’m still not sure whether it was a drunken “prank,” or just an excuse for her to harass non-white guests, or even if the child existed at all.

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What is the absolute most stupid thing you’ve heard a customer say?

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